Fish … such a polarizing food, am I right?! To some seafood is the smelly, mealy texture of food they’ll never eat. So, some just don’t like it, others avoid fish and seafood due to allergies. Still others such as pregnant and lactating woman, have previously been told to avoid fish for fear of mercury toxicity.
With all of that, fish are really swimming up creek without a paddle (silent giggle to myself).
However, I want to tell you why you should be consuming fish (assuming you don’t have any allergies or intolerances).
NUTRITION Since fish live in water, they absorb, and consume many different nutrients than our land animal protein sources. And variety is a good thing!
- Fish are some of your best sources of selenium, iodine, iron and Vitamin D.
- Fish is also a great source of protein, and if the fish you’re consuming is skin-on and bone-in, you also get a dose of calcium and vitamin A.
- If you’re selecting fatty fish, you’ll also get a dose of omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA which have anti-inflammatory properties (these nutrients affect pathways of inflammation and oxidation, maybe even helping one live longer)!
Did you know? Fish are the best source of DHA and EPA! Plant sources of omega 3’s (ALA) can convert to DHA and EPA, but the conversion rate is rather inefficient. There are many factors that play a role, but this conversion is anywhere from 5-10% in most populations. The exception is in younger women who have a much greater capacity (up to 35%) because of the importance of long chain fatty acids in child development. Those at particular risk of for omega 3 deficiencies are those populations whose ancestors ate a lot of fish, for example if someone from Asia were to move to the states and their offspring consume a diet with less fish.
A number of studies aren’t able to substantiate the benefits of fish oil supplements long term. It seems the benefits really come from eating the fish itself.
With that said, for those who don’t consume fish, or who are vegan, a fish oil supplement may still be a good idea for you. Generally, a safe dose is 2 grams of fish oil per day, but you should always speak with your health care provider to see what’s right for you. A well sourced supplement is very important to ensure they aren’t adulterated or that they don’t contain metals and other toxicants. Due to fish oils high susceptibly to rancidity, high quality supplements that are properly stored is of utmost importance! I like Nordic Naturals, check out this link for 15% off: https://us.fullscript.com/welcome/cultivate-nutrition.
For those with thyroid conditions, fish is excellent because it provides nearly all of the nutrients required to improve thyroid function. Namely, selenium, iodine, iron, Vitamin D, Vitamin A and omega 3 fatty acids. Each of these nutrients assists in the thyroid’s ability to produce the active form of thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine.
Omega 3 fatty acids alone may improve a host of mood conditions such as depression and anxiety. Although this one is not conclusive yet, studies look promising, and no doubt nutrition has a role in mood disorders. Therefore, there’s no harm in suggesting someone increase their fish intake to see how it works for that individual.
One of the omega 3 fatty acids in particular, DHA, is a well-known nutrient required for brain development of fetus and young children. New recommendations come from FDA for pregnant women; it is recommended that this population consume at least 8 – 12 ounces of fish weekly.
New research suggests that DHA is not only protective in young, but may be protective in neurological conditions that develop in adults, such as dementia and multiple sclerosis. These fats help to cushion and protect our nerves, myelin sheath and synapses. (Remember the phone cords that allow different body systems to “talk” to each other)? Those are better supported with omega 3’s.
Fish are some of the best sources of Vitamin D; cod, trout, salmon and sardines top the list! There is no lack of research when it comes to Vitamin D’s benefits. Having adequate vitamin D is shown to reduce your risk of cancer, including breast and colon, improve your body’s insulin sensitivity and improve our microbiome. Remember the microbiome is home to over 70% of your immune system!
HOW TO SHOP
Now I know you’re asking, what about mercury and PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls, highly toxic industrial compounds), right? Well two things. First, mercury is highest in the fish who live the longest, and who are the largest, so choose wisely.
Although diversity is always a good thing, you should opt for these five fish the most. These are the richest in omega 3 fatty acids with the least amount of toxins; Salmon, Mackerel, Anchovies, Sardines and Herring. More often larger fish, and bottom feeders have more PCB’s, opting for Wild Caught is best whenever possible. Which is also a more sustainable approach (did you know that if we continue at the rate we’re going with farmed fish that by 2050 we may be all fished out!). SEAFOOD WATCH is a great resource to use, you can go online, or load the app.
CULINARY A couple ways to try fish:
• An easy lunch option is tuna + sardine salad. Mixing these two boosts the omega 3’s with sardines but makes the taste more tolerable with the milder tuna. Just mash together with avocado, or mayonnaise, celery, onions, lots of dill, garlic and some salt & pepper!
• We love fish tacos- BONOS it’s a great way to introduce your kids to fish because tacos are a familiar food. Try this rendition: https://www.livingplate.org/recipes/white-fish-lime-tacos/
Spring Clean Your Cooking Routine
Anyone else have spring cleaning on their mind? Or has that shipped sailed since we’ve been stuck in our homes for months now!? Just like it’s important to periodically deep clean and purge unnecessary clutter around the house, it’s helpful to reevaluate your meal planning, shopping and food prep routine also. Here are a few simple steps for spring cleaning your cooking routine as we head into this new season.
Step 1: Take inventory of your fridge, pantry & freezer Did you know that according to the United States Department of Agriculture, Americans waste more than $161 billion dollars of food annually? That’s $1,600 a year for a family of four! To avoid this you should routinely take inventory of your food supply.
Let’s begin with your refrigerator, this cleaning process should be done at least once a week. For those fresh foods that are nearing the end of their shelf life, consider putting them in a soup, stew or smoothie. Throw out foods that have been "hibernating" in the fridge too long.
Next let’s venture into the depths of the pantry to see exactly what you have, then strategize how to use it (or if needed, toss it!). You can save money as you work through shelf-stable items too. Before purchasing duplicates be sure to use those that are close to their sell by date, then restock. Also remember to re-stock those healthy staples that make fast and easy weeknight meals; like this spaghetti squash with turkey veggie sauce dish. Some of my family’s favorite pantry staples are canned tomatoes, coconut milk, vegetable broth and nutrient-rich whole grains like quinoa and buckwheat.
Next work through your freezer. We jam pack our freezer with the usual suspects including riced cauliflower, broccoli, shredded kale, green peas, frozen berries and cherries, and of course wild caught fish! I often make double batches of meals too and freeze the second batch for a “prepared freezer meal” one another week; it’s such a fun surprise (but be sure you label it, otherwise it could be a surprise)!
As you clean each of these areas, check expiration dates to help determine when to dispose of foods. But when in doubt, throw it out. Have you ever wondered what's the difference between "use by" and "expiration?"
• “Use by” or “best if used by” date is not a safety-related date (these are usually placed on shelf stable foods, like cereal). It’s the last date recommended for use of the product at optimal quality.
• "Expiration" date means don't consume the product after this date (think of your dairy foods).
Once you’ve finished each area of your kitchen try to get in the habit of using the First In, First Out method – which means put those closest to their end date in the front of your fridge/pantry (so they’re the first ones to be used). That way you never waste food, or money.
Step 2: Embrace seasonal produce One simple way to get out of a cooking rut is to switch up your go-to fruits and vegetables based on the season. Bonus: this also means fresher and less expensive finds! I love salads with seasonal fruits and vegetables like this one featuring strawberries and radishes which came back in season, beginning in March. Did you know that depending on the season, frozen produce may be more nutritious than fresh? That’s because if a fruit or veggie is out of season it is picked while it’s still green (meaning not yet ripe) and held under conditions during transport to ripen. That means less tasty, and less nutritious food. Be sure to print this Produce Availability Chart that shows you how to eat seasonally, for those of you who are Michiganders.
Step 3: Find a meal planning method that actually works. Remember that meal planning is key to staying on track with healthy living goals, so if you’re current setup isn’t working, it might be time to switch gears. Make it a goal to find an approach that feels doable -- and most importantly, sustainable. If this is something you struggle with, you might consider outsourcing. Try out my meal planning program to save time so you can focus on improving your culinary skills and enjoying home-cooked meals over endless recipe searching. The recipes are so tasty too, so even if you enjoy meal planning, trying my plans can offer nice variety for as little as $9/month!
Dedicating time to freshen up your cooking routine can produce results that last. A simple, well-planned menu and well-stocked pantry will reduce your stress in the kitchen and limit the need for takeout (saving your health and your wealth). Set yourself up for success…which step will you tackle first?
Happy January, welcome to 2020! Brand new year, brand new decade.
Health is more than just about the food and exercise. Let me explain what I mean. Our body is a whole person of interworking systems, which is why when it comes to your health your body is not a mistake. Dramatic pause ...
This is the time of year we all choose to be better, to do better. And really, it’s great that we’re wishing to invest in ourselves. This wish is much needed, as we’ve seen over the last century there has been a dramatic shift in the number of acute to chronic diseases. Acute diseases are those that are “brief”, short in duration, a hospital visit for an infection that is quickly treated, such as pneumonia. The latter, chronic diseases, are those that are persistent or otherwise long-lasting in their effects. Examples of these include, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, chronic pain, cancer and depression.
In America nearly 1 in every 2 people is living with a chronic condition. In the hospital I work at, I see patients on a daily basis being treated acutely for their chronic condition(s). By this, I mean the hospitalist will treat the patient to ensure they survive, but simply does not have the resources to teach the patient to thrive. Enter, functional medicine nutrition therapy.
The Integrative & Functional Medicine Nutrition Therapy (IFMNT) radial is a tool used to help assess clients. One of the main areas of focus is lifestyle, within lifestyle includes twelve separate areas, food being only one of them! Although each area has a much more expansive effect than what I’m able to describe in a two-page paper. The purpose of me sharing these areas of focus is so that you understand the complexity of our bodies. So that when you begin to make lifestyle changes, you slowly piece each of these together as you strive for true, long-lasting health.
We’ll begin with our environment. This topic is broad and may include anything from the round up you spray on your lawn that trickles into our water system that you drink, to the products you put on your face. It’s been said that the average woman leaves her home in the morning with over 200 different chemicals being applied to her body. Many of these chemicals may be harmful and foreign to our human bodies. Our skin is in fact, the largest organ in our body, and no doubt absorbs what we put on it!
Similar to what we put on our bodies, is what we put in our bodies. This includes supplements, or perhaps medications we take. How many pills or powders do you take each day? Did you have testing done to give reason for taking them? Do you still need them, or perhaps were they only necessary to pull you out of a hole? It’s always good to reassess supplements, because with any benefit there’s the potential for imbalances, or competition with another nutrient. Supplements absolutely have their time and place but be sure you’re not just continuing on a path blindly, and always opt for the food first approach!
The Latest on the Science of Intermittent Fasting
Welcome Spring! The weather is warming up, and with all seasons of spring we start stripping off the layers. So naturally, people begin their‘Spring Break Bod’ plans [#SpringBreak2020]. There are so many different diets out there that claim to help with weight loss and disease prevention: low-fat, low-carb, ketogenic, paleo, whole 30, vegetarian, vegan, DASH, Mediterranean, MIND, etc. But I want to talk to you about one of the latest trends: the science of intermittent fasting, otherwise known as IF in the world of food and nutrition.
You may be used to eating three meals every day, plus snacks. That’s pretty common. With intermittent fasting you can essentially eat how much of whatever you want—but here’s the catch: you have to stay on schedule. With intermittent fasting there are scheduled periods of time when you can eat and others when you have to fast. Unlike most other diets, intermittent fasting tells you when to eat, not what to eat.
And, many people say that it can help lead you to better health and a longer life.
Let’s dive into some of the pros and cons of intermittent fasting.
How to intermittently fast
Most of the diets that help achieve weight loss work by reducing the number of calories consumed. Intermittent fasting does the same thing, but in a different way. This way of eating significantly limits calories (requiring fasting) for certain durations of time (intermittently), while allowing little or no restrictions the rest of the time.
Intermittent fasting essentially means skipping meals on a regular basis, sometimes daily, weekly, or monthly. Here are a few different approaches:
- Time-restricted feeding—Having all of your meals during an 8 to 12 hour window each day, drinking only water the rest of the day.
- Alternate day fasting—Eating normally one day but only a minimal number of calories the next; alternating between “feast” and “famine”.
- 5:2 eating pattern—Consuming meals regularly for five days per week, then restricting to no more than 600 calories per day for the other two. This happens by eating very little and drinking only water on those two fasting days.
- Periodic fasting—Caloric intake is restricted for several consecutive days and unrestricted on all other days. For example, fasting for five straight days per month.
How to Avoid Weight Gain During the Holidays
One to five. This is the average amount of a weight (in pounds) an adult will gain each holiday season, beginning Thanksgiving and rolling through to New Year’s Day. ‘Tis the season to talk about a few physiological changes that happen with weight gain, some reasons we tend to gain weight during this time of year and how to avoid it!
What happens inside our bodies when we gain weight? Initially, there’s an increase in the number of adipocytes (fat cells). Sadly, this number will never return to the original number (unless you undergo a procedure like CoolSculpt®). Instead, the cells can increase in quantity (with further weight gain) and/or change in volume – either smaller (during weight loss) or larger (during weight gain). This means, the next time around it’s easier for those cells to “refill” the lost “weight”. Unfortunately, these adipocytes are not just along for the ride either, they change the way your body makes, stores and circulates hormones (among other things). Another area that’s affected, is your heart. It’s put under extra stress due to additional weight and blood volume, causing a rise in blood pressure. Poorly controlled blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart disease, kidney failure and impotence – (the last one mentioned if you dozed off… but a good motivator). Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, a person can become insulin resistant. Which means that the hormone, insulin, has a reduced response to the sugar (glucose) floating in your blood streams. Often, this is due to a poor diet that leads to a consistently elevated blood sugar. When blood sugar remains high for too long it becomes similar to “white noise”. Have you ever heard a white noise machine, at first you do … and then you don’t. Other profound changes include poor sleep, skin changes, digestion upset, and the ever familiar tightly fitting clothes. You see, this is more than just aesthetics.
Holidays are a wonderful time of year; I am one of the first to turn the station to Christmas tunes as soon as the calendar rolls to November. Nevertheless, just like the American way, we allow such a special time of year to become all about over-spending, overeating and under sleeping. Oftentimes when I talk to others about their holiday plans and I end up hearing them complain about too many parties, classroom gatherings, gifts for her and gifts for him. To top it off each party has a menu, with too many decadent cookies, gingerbread houses, stuffing and don’t forget the free-flowing wine and spirits. All capped off with year-end work deadlines, gift wrapping and last-minute online shopping. Just writing this makes me exhausted! You see how our over packed agendas and less than charged personal batteries cause us to store extra weight this time of year.
How do we avoid all of this?