Apr 022012

dead fish on ice

In a strange world where ‘vegetarians’ sometimes eat fish and chicken, you might be wondering…”Are these foods OK as long as they are organic/free range/wild farmed etc.?” Certainly paying a premium for quality meats is better than eating regular ground beef… right? Well, have you ever checked out any of the real research to see what’s in your meat? Here’s some bad news for all you fish lovers out there, the evidence does not support your eating habits!

I thought eating fish was healthier than red meat.

While eating fish instead of land dwelling animals may tout a few advantages, that is not to say you should replace your entire meat intake with fish. Even the governmental health agencies don’t recommend eating fish more than twice per week. If you go from eating land meat 7 days a week to eating fish 7 days a week, you could be looking at some drastic health concerns! Rather than replacing meat with fish, decrease or eliminate both from your diet while replacing them with whole vegetables, fruits and grains.

Why would eating fish be a concern?

It’s common knowledge that fish have relatively high levels of mercury. This is because they are swimming around in mercury contaminated waters. If mercury hung around in the air like it does in the water, we would have much stricter regulations on mercury products, or we would all be suffering from mercury poisoning. But mercury isn’t the only toxic chemical that we’ve subjected the fish to. Scientific reports show all sorts of endocrine disruptors that cause widespread thyroid and sexual disfunction.

a spoon pouring liquid mercury

What types of chemicals and pollutants are found in fish?

In addition to mercury, PBDE’s (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) and organochlorines (think DDT) are common. PBDE’s are flame retardant chemicals that are found virtually everywhere, but their concentrations are highest in animal foods; dairy and meat. This means all meat, including fish. Other things to look forward to in your animal based foods are PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls) and just about every pharmaceutical drug under the sun, ranging from cholesterol and blood pressure meds, to those treating bipolar disorder and allergies.

Why are these things found in fish and other animal products?

They don’t biodegrade, so once they are manufactured they are pretty much sticking around. In addition to that, it’s hard for us to keep all of our waste in one place. Pharmaceuticals don’t just get out as runoff from the processing plants, what’s not stored up in our bodies gets flushed down the toilet, literally. But it’s not treated properly in our water plants and our fish end up drinking it, and our livestock end up eating it. Some chemicals, like PBDE’s for example, don’t leave our bodies once we consume them, they don’t leave other animals bodies either. So when we eat animals that are laden with chemicals, those chemicals go into our bodies. And they don’t go anywhere. They usually get trapped in our fat cells, and stick around. So by eating animal products, you are exponentially increasing the amounts of dangerous chemicals that you are exposed to. If you are thinking of having children in the future, remember that a percentage of the toxins in your body get passed on to your baby too.

What if I take the skin off my meat products?

While removing the skin and fatty pieces of your meat may get rid of some of the toxins, the safest way to eliminate these things from your diet is to quit eating animal foods altogether.

Is organic or wild fish better?

In fact, one study found that organic farmed salmon had even higher levels of PBDE’s than conventionally farmed or wild caught varieties. This proves that even though organic has many health and environmental benefits, it doesn’t outweigh the nasty consequences of eating meat. Organic meat is not okay!

Should I take cod liver oil or other fish supplements for omega-3 fatty acids?

There is no reason to believe the fish that are used to make fish oil supplements are any less toxic. Fish supplements are just not a safe way to get your omega-3 fatty acids. Fortunately, there are plant sources for omega-3’s. Look for microalgae derived DHA, which is bioequivalent to fish derived DHA without the overload of toxic chemicals. You can also get ALA (DHA precursor) from flaxseed, hempseed, walnuts and other vegan foods.

The truth is that there is no safe meat to eat. All meat has the risk of contamination regardless of whether it is organic, wild or from the McDonalds drive through. Sure some are better than others, but if you are going for health benefits, it’s best to eliminate these foods from your diet altogether.

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  2 Responses to “Is Organic Fish Part Of A Healthy Diet?”

Comments (2)
  1. i don’t usually take supplements…but i don’t always follow my ideal diet. so when I’m lacking in flax or whatever, omega 3 stuff I take a bit of algae supplement. i usually just keep it around the house and occasionally pop a pill or two…seems to be working. still alive.

    • That’s a really great idea Warren! Although we try, sometimes our diet doesn’t always contain the necessary nutrients. It’s important to pay attention to that!