Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fish Safety

I believe that human beings were meant to consume large amounts of fish and other seafood, considering that it is one of the best sources of many of the essential vitamins and minerals.  Fish is one of the few foods on earth that requires little (if any) work on the part of humans to grow and is abundant pretty much anywhere (minus the desert, of course). 

The problem is that modern life has contaminated many of the world's bodies of water, leaving the fish living there unsafe for human consumption.  The main source of contamination that people are aware of in seafood is mercury, but that is only one concern.  Many other toxins are common, including: flame retardants, PCBs, chlorinated dioxins, pesticides, oil, arsenic and melamine, just to name a few.  These toxins are either present in the water in which the fish live, or in the food they are given.

Living in Ohio, there are many streams and lakes nearby for fishing, but after speaking with an ichthyologist at a local university who has tested toxicity, I don't feel safe eating anything that lives in them.*  Since I try very hard to only eat local and ethically-raised meat sources, this leaves me with very few options.

But as the mother of a dairy-allergic child, I realize how important the calcium and vitamin D that seafood provides is for my son.  His options for foods high in these two nutrients are more limited simply because he cannot drink milk.

I have found that the Environmental Defense Fund has some excellent resources for seafood safety.

Here is a complete list of Seafood Eco-Ratings.  According to this chart, you shouldn't consume any of the following items due to high mercury or PCB content:

All bluefish
Chilean sea bass
Blue crab
Summer flounder
All lingcod
All marlin
All opah
All orange roughy
Yellow Perch from Lakes Huron and Ontario
All rockfish
All salmon (except wild Alaskan)
Mutton snapper
Summer flounder
Atlantic sturgeon
Imported wild sturgeon
All swordfish
All tilefish
Canned white/albacore tuna
Bluefin tuna
All wahoo
All walleye

Some people choose to take a fish oil supplement in order to get their nutrients.  The Environmental Defense Fund also has a list of the safest supplements to take.  Never take the following brands of fish oil:

Kmart brand
Omega Protein
Rite Aid

To learn about the best sushi choices (both for your health and the environment) check out this list.

So it looks like for me and my family, with a very limited selection of seafood in the grocery store, our safest bet is to stick with wild Alaskan salmon, shrimp from Oregon, U.S. tilapia, and U.S. or Canada albacore tuna. 


* Except for the fish from one river about 45 minutes away that he said had been tested as clean.  This stream runs from a mountain at a high elevation and if you catch fish from higher up, they are less toxic.  This ichthyologist said that is a good rule of thumb for eating fish that you have caught - the higher the elevation (so long as it is upstream from any potential pollution sources), the safer the fish.

Source - Environmental Defense Fund.

I'm Back

Hello, everyone!  It has been a while since I've posted on this blog.  If you aren't a follower of my personal blog you're probably not aware of what has happened in my family since I was posting frequently over here.

Around the time that I stopped posting (May/June 2010) I became pregnant with our third child.  Between morning sickness, caring for two energetic little boys, and everything else, this blog sort of got put on the back burner.  I had a wonderful pregnancy with Gracie (our little girl born one year ago last Friday) under the care of some great midwives.  Gracie was my first homebirth and I learned a lot about my body and a more holistic, natural approach to pregnancy and childbirth during the process.  I followed a very strict diet, provided by my midwives, during the pregnancy that I hope to share with anyone interested.

Since I was posting here frequently my husband, Adam, also decided to have a back surgery to correct some of the sources of his chronic pain.  Over the last five to seven years he has tried everything - chiropractic care, stretching, diet, exercise, inversion tables, special shoes, etc. - to alleviate his pain, but in the spring of 2011 it became too much to handle and surgery was necessary.  I am happy to report that he is now about nine to ten months out from the surgery and many of the pain issues have since resolved.  He still isn't at one hundred percent, but we keep praying that relief will eventually come.

After everything that has happened in our lives over the last few years, I finally feel like I have a handle on life with three children and can prioritize my time to return to sharing what we are learning about our health and wellness.  I feel like we have grown a lot in the last two years and have a lot of information to share!