LifeHakx - The Answer to "Is all fish healthy”
By Eva Wisenbeck 01/03/2020
True or False “All fish is healthy”
Truth: The type of seafood you buy and eat matters a lot.
Solution: Eat mainly oily fish and only purchase wild, sustainable, uncontaminated fish products.
Fish, glorious fish, it’s full of iodine, selenium, vitamin d, things you can’t actually get in many other places.
However the biggest health benefits of fish come from the two omega-3 fatty acids that we get from them and nowhere else. The polyunsaturated fats, DHA and EPA.
Some of the primary benefits of DHA and EPA are cardiovascular. Eating salmon twice a week is enough to cut your risk of a heart attack, arrhythmia, stroke, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides.
Similar benefits come from eating other fish high in omega-3s, especially smaller oily fish such as sardines, herring, mackerel, trout, and anchovies.
Omega-3 fatty acids lower the risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune disease, as well as depression and inflammation. It also leads to healthier pregnancies and babies.
And the news gets even better! It turns out fish is one of the best foods we can eat for yet another critical component of our health, the gut microbiota, AKA the massive, metabolically active collection of microorganisms inhabiting our GI tract. Research overwhelmingly shows that eating fish can help us build a healthy, robust community of gut microbes, in turn benefiting our whole-body health.
Do Omega-6 Fats Make Us Depressed?
Dr. Hibbeln says soy oils and seed oils contain high amounts of inflammatory linoleic acid that create inflammation and disease.
He notes 80% of the fats that Americans eat are inflammatory omega-6 fats, while just 20% come from the anti-inflammatory omega-3 (in this case EPA).
In Japan, that number is reversed, 80% of their fats come from EPA, while only 20% are inflammatory omega-6 fats.
As an example over the last century in the U.S. there has a 1,000-fold increase in soy oil consumption. About 10 to 20% of our calories come from soybean oil rather than omega-3 fats and other, healthier fats we should be consuming.
The omega-6 fats aren’t the ones our ancestors ate. Human evolution occurred in an environment where seafood and wild animal fat was the predominant source of dietary fat.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate no seed oils. Obviously, they weren’t eating French fries, donuts and the zillion Frankenfoods products that contain these oils. These refined oils create and exacerbate inflammation, which contributes to nearly every disease and makes us fat.
Beyond that, the repercussions are dramatic and far-reaching. Disturbing recent research shows homicide in the United Kingdom increased dramatically with increased consumption of linoleic acid-rich soybean oil.
The same thing happened in the United States, Australia, Canada and Argentina. Interestingly, homicide mortality rates become inversely related to seafood consumption, meaning societies who eat more seafood have lower homicide rates.
Equally dramatic, one study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry gave one prison group recommended daily amounts of vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fats, while the other group maintained their regular diet and lifestyle. Researchers found reduced felony level violent offenses among prisoners who took omega 3 supplements. In fact, providing vitamin and fish oil supplements reduced felony-related violent crime among the prisoners by 37%.
The Cure for Depression, ADD and Dementia – Is it More Fat?
More fat to cure brain maladies makes sense when you consider omega-3 fats affect how we think and behave. Research even shows omega-3s help treat depression, including postpartum depression.
The omega-3 DHA, a critical part of mother’s milk, helps the foetus’s neurologic development. Studies show women who have higher levels of omega-3 fats, specifically DHA, have lower rates of postpartum depression.
Omega-3 deficiencies also affect our children. Young kids with dyslexia, dyspraxia (difficulty writing), learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder (ADD) are often omega 3-deficient.
The neurotransmitter dopamine, critical for brain function in children, becomes higher when these children consume essential fatty acids. Controlled studies show fish oil improves reading, spelling and conduct because the nervous system depends on these fats to function.
Chronic disease will only increase as we move further away from the diet of our ancestors, which consisted of omega-3 rich protein (wild, grass-fed animals and wild fish), a healthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats, and plenty of plant foods.
Dietary fat is very complex. We have saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats. And we have subcategories within each group. Some fats are good and yes, some are bad. Remember that quality matters; that food is information. Low-fat diets claim to be heart-healthy but aren’t. Low-fat diets typically tend to be higher in sugar. Eating less fat and more sugar and refined carbs floods our system with insulin, creating inflammation, heart disease and many other problems. When you consume lots of sugar and refined carbs, your body produces dangerous, artery-clogging small, dense LDL cholesterol particles; drops your protective HDL and increases harmful triglycerides.
Saturated fat is not a “bad” fat. A review of all the research on saturated fat published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no correlation between saturated fat and heart disease. The problem arises when we eat them with sugar and starch (sugar, flour, white rice and potatoes), because then they are deadly. Basically, think no “sweet fat”.
Some fats are unhealthy. Trans fats and inflammatory vegetable oils are bad fats that cause free radical damage and create a perfect storm for inflammation. Most restaurants cook with toxic oils because they’re cheap and marketed as heart-healthy, low-cholesterol fats.
We all need more omega-3 fats. The best ways to include them in your diet are to include wild or sustainably raised cold-water fish and pastured eggs, and taking a quality, toxin-free omega-3 rich fish oil supplement.
Your brain is made up of mostly fat. About 60 percent of your brain is fat, mostly as DHA, which your cells need to communicate. Quality omega-3 fats improve cognition, memory and mood. To get and stay healthy, eat quality fat at every meal. The right fats improve your skin, hair, nails and mood.
Factors to consider when buying fish oil
Chris Kresser provides us with the following advice of what to look for if you are thinking of using supplements to add to your Omega-3 intake.
There are seven primary variables to be aware of when shopping for a fish oil:
Purity. The oil must meet international standards for heavy metals, PCBs, dioxins and other contaminants. Many do not – even when they claim they do.
Freshness. Omega-3 oils are susceptible to oxidation, which makes them rancid. Rancid oils are pro-inflammatory and contribute to the diseases you’re trying to relieve or prevent by taking fish oil in the first place!
Potency. In order to have the desired anti-inflammatory effect, fish oil must contain an adequate amount of the long-chain omega-3 derivatives EPA and DHA. DHA is especially important.
Nutrients. All fish oils contain some amount of EPA and DHA. However, fish liver oil (from cod, skate or shark) also contains naturally occurring fat-soluble vitamins that are difficult to obtain from foods.
Bio-availability. The ability to absorb the beneficial components of fish oil is based on the molecular shape of the fatty acids. The more natural the structure the better.
Sustainability: The fish should be harvested in a sustainable manner and species that are under threat should be avoided.
Cost: the product must be relatively affordable to be practical for most people.
And finally to get you tempted here is a lovely and quick salmon recipe from Max Lugavere, author of The Genius Life and Genius Foods:
This is based on a wonderful article by the great Dr Josh Axe and his roundup of “The 11 Largest Nutrition Lies In the Media” for more details and links to the research papers and studies please look here: https://draxe.com/health/nutrition-lies/
If you are curious and would like more information about the whole fish debate and the latest research here are some great resources.
Mark Hyman ” The Missing Fat You Need to Survive and Thrive”
Chris Kresser “How Much Omega-3 Is Enough? That Depends on Omega-6.”
Sarah Ballantyne aka The Paleo Mom ”The Importance of Fish in Our Diets”
Sarah Ballantyne aka The Paleo Mom “Why Fish is Great for the Gut Microbiome”
Chris Kresser “The Definitive Fish Oil Buyer’s Guide”
Chris Kresser “How Too Much Omega-6 and Not Enough Omega-3 Is Making Us Sick”
Chris Kresser “Why Fish Stomps Flax as a Source of Omega-3”