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    Archive for the ‘wild salmon’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Nuts & Cholesterol

    nuts1240705690Are there any nuts that help lower cholesterol, or are they all bad?

    They are high in fat, right?

    — Greg (Last name withheld)
    Los Angeles, CA

    When it comes to lowering cholesterol with food, there are three particular nutrients to keep in mind:

    • Soluble fiber
    • Omega-3 fatty acids
    • Monounsaturated fats

    The above nutrients are ones you want to consume more of.  Ideally, you don’t want to simply add them to what you are already eating, but rather eat them in place of less-healthy foods (i.e.: refined carbohydrates, foods made with corn and cottonseed oil, etc.).

    In regards to your question: nuts are an absolutely wonderful food that I encourage everyone to have a serving of every single day.

    Almonds and Brazil nuts are the nuts with highest amounts of soluble fiber per ounce.  Walnuts, meanwhile, have more omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of Alpha-Linolenic Acid) than any other nut.  The monounsaturated fat category is dominated by peanuts.

    This is not to say other nuts are inferior; others have certain phytonutrients and compounds that have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels.

    While we’re discussing these three nutrients, check out this list of best sources (which includes some foods not mentioned above):

    • Soluble fiber: barley, figs, kidney beans, oat bran, oatmeal, pears, psyllium husk
    • Omega-3 fatty acids: chia seeds, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, halibut, sea vegetables, scallops, walnuts, wild-caught salmon
    • Monounsaturated fatty acids: almonds, avocado, macadamia nuts, peanuts olive oil

    Great news about soluble fiber — every gram of soluble fiber (when consumed in a consistent, daily basis) is linked to a 1 or 2 point reduction in total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

    Above all, please undo the “fat is bad” mantra that has pervaded the American dietary landscape for the past two decades.  Omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats not only lower total and LDL cholesterol, they also increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Wild Salmon

    If I don’t eat canned salmon (which I know is usually wild and not farmed), are there any ways to help me determine if the fresh salmon I am eating is farm-raised or not?

    — Elizabeth Isaacson
    Portland, OR

    Although some supermarkets label their fish accordingly (“farmed” or “wild-caught”), those descriptions are not always accurate.

    There are, however, certain clues you can keep in mind.

    Anytime you see the term “Atlantic salmon”, you are dealing with farm-raised fish. Anyone who tries to sell you Atlantic salmon as “wild-caught” is most likely lying through their teeth.

    On the flip side, “Pacific salmon” encompasses a variety of species (including chinook/king, chum, coho, sockeye, and pink) that are wild-caught.

    Texture can sometimes be a giveaway, too. Wild-caught salmon tends to have a thicker, meatier mouthfeel.

    I don’t consider price to be much of an indicator.

    Although you will never see wild-caught salmon at $5 a pound, some dishonest stores will sell farm-raised salmon at $14 a pound in an attempt to make consumers think they are paying for something wild-caught.

    On another disturbing note, the numbers of wild salmon are drastically reducing with each passing year. Please visit “Save Our (Wild) Salmon” for more information.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    I’m pregnant and my OB/GYN has suggested that I eat a lot of wild salmon for the health and nutritional benefits of the Omega-3’s.

    Only problem is, I gag at the smell and sight of fish right now.

    So I’ve been trying to use ground flax seed sprinkled in other foods I can manage, like yogurt, fruit salad, toaster waffles and cereal.

    I know the flax seed needs to be ground in order to be absorbed, but how much do I need to consume each day in order to get the same benefits as eating a serving of fish?

    Are there other good sources of omega-3’s that I should try?

    — “My Eggo is Preggo”
    White Plains, NY

    First of all — congratulations!

    Your question is a great one, since it deals with the different varieties of Omega-3 fatty acids.

    Although we often refer to “Omega 3 fats” as one general category, there are three different types — Alpha-Linolenic Acid (ALA), EicosoPentaenoic Acid (EPA), and DocosaHexaenoic Acid (DHA).

    ALA is found exclusively in vegetable sources, including walnuts and flaxseeds.

    EPA and DHA, meanwhile, are found in large quantities in cold water fish. Grass-fed beef also contains a little.

    One concern with getting Omega-3’s solely from vegetable sources is that many people are unable to convert ALA to EPA and DHA.

    Fetuses are absolutely unable to make this conversion, so they must get EPA and DHA directly from the mother (DHA is particularly necessary for eye and brain development.)

    Even if you, as the mother, are able to convert ALA to EPA and DHA, you need approximately 10 grams of ALA just to make 600 milligrams of EPA and 400 of DHA.

    To put that into perspective, 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed contains slightly less than 2 grams of ALA.

    One tablespoon of flax oil, meanwhile, delivers 7 grams (one good way to incorporate that into your diet is by adding it into a smoothie).

    It’s also important to realize that as good for us as Omega 3 fats are, they do not work alone. Vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium are involved in the conversion of ALA to EPA and DHA.

    If you are not consuming enough of those nutrients, your will not convert quite as efficiently (so, say, you might need 15 or 17 grams of ALA to make the quantities of EPA and DHA mentioned above.)

    In your situation, I suggest taking an EPA/DHA supplement.

    That doesn’t mean you should stop eating ground flaxseeds, though — they are a nutrition all-star!

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    You Ask, I Answer: Farmed Salmon/PCBs

    I read on your blog that farmed salmon are fed grains and get their color by eating dye pellets. Yuck.

    I have also heard that farmed salmon isn’t good for you because of PCBs. What is that all about?

    — (Name withheld)
    San Francisco, CA

    Although salmon is universally touted as a healthy food, its environmentally — and nutritionally — toxic profile differs depending on whether that fillet you are eating comes from a wild–caught or farmed specimen.

    Whereas wild salmon freely roam ocean waters, farmed salmon share open-water netted pens (pictured at left) with thousands of other cohorts.

    I suppose you could call them the “Manhattan”-ites of marine animals — happily (or seemingly so) living in a shoebox.

    Salmon farms are the equivalent of cattle feedlots — they produce enormous volumes of waste (think nitrogen and fecal matter) that usually end up contaminating surrounding waters.

    Where do polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) come in?

    Well, you can thank the human species for that. PCBs were mainly used as lubricants, adhesives, and coverings for electrical wirings several decades ago.

    They were banned in 1976 due to health and environmental concerns.

    What concerns, you ask?

    From a health standpoint, PCBs have specifically been linked to a variety of cancers, nervous system damage, and fetal abnormalities.

    Mother Earth doesn’t fare much better. Turns out PCBs accumulate in the environment very quickly, since they disintegrate at a snail’s pace.

    No, make that a snail moving through cement’s pace.

    Since, literally, hundreds of tons of PCBs were dumped into various waterways by companies and treatment plants in the 50s and 60s, the damage has certainly been done.

    But if this affects many waterways, how come farmed salmon have higher PCB levels than their wild counterparts?

    First, their diet is different.

    As you said, farmed salmon are fed large quantities of grains. Ah, but that’s not all — they are also provided hydrolyzed chicken feathers (yes, REALLY!) and plenty of fish oil to snack on.

    See, PCB’s accumulate in the fatty deposits and oils of fish. Farmed salmon have that freely available to them; wild salmon don’t.

    Since farmed salmon are overfed, they weigh more (have more fat) than their wild counterparts. In other words, more deposits for PCBs.

    We’re not just talking twice as many PCBs, either. Studies by a variety of environmental groups have concluded that the levels of PCBs in farmed salmon are anywhere from 12 to 18 times higher than wild salmon!

    It is for this reason that farmed salmon intake is recommended to not surpass one meal a month.

    It doesn’t help that wild salmon is more expensive and, as Marian Burros of the New York Times discovered a few years ago, a lot of “wild salmon” is actually farmed.

    What is a health conscious shopper to do? Besides realize that humans have been treating the planet like absolute crap for the past few decades?

    Well, I suggest buying canned sockeye salmon or, if your budget permits, frozen Alaskan salmon, both of which are always wild.

    That’s right — canned salmon labeled “Atlantic salmon” is often farmed.

    In any case, salmon is not the only fish in the sea.

    Many other delicious species offer plentiful Omega-3 fatty acids, including black cod, halibut, catfish, pollock, and mackerel.

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