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    Archive for the ‘tuna’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Canned vs. Fresh Tuna

    tuna-sushiAll the mercury warnings I read about tuna mention albacore canned tuna.

    What about sushi, though?  Are certain cuts, like toro, higher in mercury?

    — Ralph Darpilo
    (Location Withheld)

    Unless you frequent top-dollar sushi restaurants that offer exotic varieties of tuna, the type you’re eating is bluefin tuna.

    Toro, by the way, is simply the underbelly of tuna fish.  It is not a separate species of fish.

    Bluefin tuna are just as large as albacore varieties.  Translation: they both offer very high levels of mercury.

    As far as figures go, consider one small six-piece tuna roll (or three pieces of tuna nigiri/sashimi) equivalent to a half can of albacore tuna.

    With that in mind, use this handy-dandy “tuna calculator”(courtesy of the folks at the Environmental Working Group) to determine — based on your sex and weight — what your safe weekly limit is.


    You Ask, I Answer: Farmed Seafood

    shrimpThanks for all the information about farmed salmon.  I had no idea Atlantic salmon was grown in such nasty conditions.

    The other day at a restaurant, I had the following grilled seafood choices to add to a salad: squid, shrimp, tuna, and lobsters.

    Are any of these farmed, or can I order them knowing they are all wild?  I already know about mercury in tuna; in this instance I am only interested in the farming vs. wild issue.

    — Steve Wilmott
    (Location withheld)

    Seafood opens up Pandora’s box.  Frankly, the more I read about the fishing and farming of many marine animals, the more turned off I am.

    There’s the mercury issue with tuna, the salmon farming hot topic, concerns regarding overfishing and completely unsustainable catching methods that threaten to render certain species extinct and practically destroy ecosystems, and then… there’s the issue of Country of Origin Labeling.

    Let’s start at the beginning.

    In regards to your question: tuna and squid are not farmed.  Roughly half of all shrimp in the world are farmed.  The vast majority of lobsters, meanwhile, are wild-caught.

    The shrimp issue is interesting.  Whereas shrimp farms in the United States are subject to certain regulations (mainly relating to waste treatment and antibiotic use), the overwhelming majority of the world’s farmed shrimp — mainly housed in China, India, and Thailand — are harvested in awful conditions.  Their water is laden with copious amounts of chemicals, antibiotics, and pesticides that are strictly illegal in the United States by the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Since more than three quarters of the shrimp sold in the United States is imported from those countries (and is very rarely inspected for those substances upon arriving to these shores), chances are the shrimp you eat has not been raised in the most pristine conditions.

    Making matters more complicated?  Depending on the species, farmed shrimp (the US kind) is a more environmentally-friendly choice than some wild-caught species that are obtained through methods that pose very negative consequences on ecosystems.  This is where personal choice and priorities come into play.  Do you value health over environment?  Environment over health?  Both equally?

    Of course, this would all be much easier to navigate if Country of Origin Labeling were implemented more effectively.

    Currently, United States law mandates that unprocessed seafood served at supermarkets be labeled with the country of origin as well as a “farmed” or “wild-caught” status.  For whatever reason, restaurants and specialty stores are exempt from this requirement.

    One of my absolute favorite resources is the Seafood Watch Pocket Guide, tailored to various different regions.


    You Ask, I Answer: Chunk Light Tuna

    I generally eat about 4 cans of chunk light tuna a week. Reasoning: Omega-3’s are good and mercury is low in chunk light tuna.

    However, I just read an article saying that mercury was high even in canned tuna, although previous sources have said that mercury levels in canned tuna are low enough to be safe.

    The same sources state that only the larger predatory fish such as shark and albacore tuna need be avoided.

    What’s your take?

    — Corey Clark
    [Location unknown]

    Chunk light tuna contains approximately one third of the mercury found in the same amount of albacore (“white”) tuna.

    According to current recommendations, adults can safely eat up to three cans of chunk light tuna a week (the suggestion for albacore tuna caps off weekly consumption at one can for adults).

    Don’t get too comfortable, though. You still need to glance at the ingredient list since some varieties of canned light tuna contain yellowfin tuna, which contains higher amounts of mercury.


    You Ask, I Answer/In The News: Vitamin D requirements

    I read today that the recommended amount of vitamin D has doubled due to a new study.

    I thought most people get enough of it.

    How much vitamin D do we get from dairy as compared to being out in the sun?

    –Hemi  W.
    Via the blog

    Vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide problem; most people certainly do not get enough (especially in the United States).

    The issue of Vitamin D requirements being too low has actually been a hot topic in some nutrition circles for years.

    According to current recommendations, children and adults up to the age of 50 should get at least 200 International Units, adults 50 to 71 years of age should aim for 400 IUs, and anyone above the age of 71 should be taking in 600.

    The new guidelines you are referring to bump up the 200 IUs figure to 400 IUs.

    Even so, many researchers think everyone should aim for at least 1,000 IUs a day!  Others go further and think the minimum daily intake from supplement should be 2,000 IUs (there is plenty of research to back that up, by the way).

    Our bodies can produce up to 10,000 IUs from sun exposure.  After 10,000 IUs, the body stops producing vitamin D.  So, really, you can consider 10,000 IUs the Upper Tolerable Intake.

    The best source of Vitamin D is the sun, but this can get complicated.

    After all, we get this vitamin from exposure to UVB rays, which are not as powerful in winter months and have a harder time getting through on cloud-covered days.  In fact, anyone who lives north of Atlanta, Georgia (regardless where in the world that may be) is unable to produce vitamin D from the sun between the months of October and April due to the sun’s rays not being powerful enough.

    Additionally, the massive use of moisturizers and creams that block out UVB rays prevents many people from absorbing a good deal of “solar powered” vitamin D.

    Some fortified foods (i.e.: cereals, soy milks, and dairy milk) provide vitamin D, while others (tuna, salmon, and… ugh, cod liver oil) do so naturally.

    Despite this, it can be very difficult to meet the Vitamin D recommended intakes without some sort of supplementation.

    For example, a cup of fortified dairy milk provides a quarter of a day’s worth of Vitamin D (using 400 IUs as the goal).

    Not bad, but unless you’re planning on downing four glasses of milk a day, you will come up short.  And, even then, the new recommendations are not possible to meet through food alone.

    Keep in mind, too, that many dairy products (like yogurt, cottage cheese, and ice cream) are NOT fortified with vitamin D.


    Perfect Pickings: Tuna

    It may surprise you to learn that not all canned tuna is created equally.

    First up: packed in water or oil?

    Water is preferrable – for two reasons.

    It results in less calories (60 calories per 2 ounce serving, rather than 110 or 120) and, since water and oil don’t mix, the Omega-3 fatty acids present in tuna are not lost when water is drained.

    The two more important issues surrounding canned tuna are sodium and mercury levels.

    A standard 6 ounce can of tuna provides 750 – 850 milligrams of sodium (approximately a third of a day’s needs) — quite a bit for its low calorie contribution (roughly 150, if canned in water).

    Look for low-sodium varieties that slash sodium by half, like Starkist’s “low sodium tuna”.

    You will barely tell the difference, especially if you are eating canned tuna as part of a salad or sandwich.

    Albacore tuna — the white, meatier, less fishy tasting of the bunch — happens to be one of the largest fish.

    Therefore, its mercury content is approximately 3 times higher than that of smaller fish — mainly skipjack — used for chunk light varieties.

    Some companies, like King of the Sea, sell authentic low-mercury — chunk light is “lower mercury”– tuna . The secret? Using yellowfin tuna!

    Here’s a tidbit that surprises many people.

    Those of you with a milk protein (casein) allergy must read canned tuna labels carefully, since some of them are processed by adding hydrolyzed casein!

    Lastly, be mindful of what you’re putting on your tuna. If it’s a few tablespoons of mayo, it’s time to do some modifying.

    I find, for instance, that hummus — especially a red pepper variety — is a wonderfully tasty replacement for mayonnaise when making tuna salad.


    In The News: Tricky Tuna

    How coincidental.

    Slightly over 24 hours ago I posted a link to an online calculator that helps you determine how much mercury you are taking in when consuming certain fish.

    Now, an article in The New York Times reveals that abnormally high levels of mercury have been found in tuna sushi.

    Recent laboratory tests found so much mercury in tuna sushi from 20 Manhattan stores and restaurants that at most of them, a regular diet of six pieces a week would exceed the levels considered acceptable by the Environmental Protection Agency,” renowned journalist Marian Burros reports.

    In fact, fresh tuna sushi appears to contain a higher level of mercury than its canned counterpart, which is already high in the toxic mineral.

    This is one situation in which higher-priced sushi isn’t worth the extra dollars.

    More expensive tuna usually contains more mercury because it is more likely to come from a larger species, which accumulates mercury from the fish it eats.

    Excessive intake of mercury can result in skin rashes, speech impairment, and temporary memory loss.

    It is especially dangerous to pregnant women, who can detrimentally effect the neurological development of their future children.

    This increased mercury content in our waters is partially due to the government not enforcing stricter policies against coal burning plants emitting toxic minerals into the air, which ultimately end up in our waters.

    In fact, the coal lobby is such a powerful presence that initial proposals to set a limit on mercury emissions were discarded from the Clean Air Act.


    THE Handy Dandy Calculator

    The issue of mercury contamination in our aquatic food supply is a consistently hot topic in nutrition.

    Unfortunately, it is often marred by wishy-washy recommendations and unclear figures.

    Lucky for us, the folks at Got Mercury offer a great tool.

    Punch in your weight, select the seafood of choice from the drop-down menu, plug in the amount you think you will eat in a given week, and find out how high — or low — your mercury intake is.

    It bears saying that the benefits of eating fish and mollusks far outweigh the risks.

    For the most part, those needing to be mindful of their intake are people who scarf down canned tuna every day (not as uncommon as you might think) and pregnant women.

    High amounts of mercury can be dangerous to the developing fetus (particularly its nervous system, ocular development, and kidneys) and the expecting mother.

    Still, knowledge never hurts, and if seafood is a staple of your diet, it is worth paying the site a visit.


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