In this month in review show I want to dig in with one of the common conversations I’ve been having with consumers on the streets of Sydney these past few weeks. First though let me share one particular conversation with a lovely and previously pescatarian lady. She recalled how she’d been on a scuba diving trip at the Great Barrier Reef. As she explored the beautiful, foreign landscape and was accepted by it’s curious inhabitants she noticed the fish coming up to investigate her would follow her eyes with their eyes.
They were undeniably sentient, perceptive, feeling beings. Inquisitive and even playful.
As she resurfaced the lady declared: No more fish flesh would ever pass her lips.
Hundreds of years ago when humans were hunted by more powerful predators… when human communities were small, loyal and dependant on each other for survival. When food was sometimes scarce. Certainly then there would have been value in noticing difference. In sticking to your own kind. However now? Just because someone does not look like us does not mean they are not deserving of respect, compassion and freedom.
It took us so many years to realize this with regard to other humans and slavery.
I’m certain that in decades to come the human race as a whole will be appalled that we chose to treat animals as slaves. As nameless numbers and inconsequential commodities to be bought, sold, mutilated, exploited and killed without a second thought.
However back to the matter of one of the most noticeably different looking creatures to us, fish and specifically:
The Health Benefits Of Fish Myth.
The propaganda promoting fish as healthy, even essential has regrettably been perhaps more effective than those other myths about eggs and dairy. Since it’s a recurring conversation I thought I’d dedicate the majority of this weeks show to exploring and dispelling the “Fish is healthy myth” for both you and I. Having said that, I’m diving in to this research with an open mind. If I discover I’m wrong in my current belief that the health risks of eating fish outweigh the benefits then I’ll stand corrected.
Corrected yet still not willing to consume fish flesh as my go to belief remains: Listen to your heart.
In this month in review show I’ll chat a little food, a little exercise and I’ll share what’s been rockin this past month and what’s been a tad more struggle street. Above all, my intention is to make this content applicable to YOU and creating and keeping a fit, healthy plant strong body.
Let’s get rolling…
First up, FOOD and The Health Benefits Of Fish Myth.
Before I looked into it I assumed fish was a great fuel. High protein, low carb, low fat and full of essential fatty acids.
- I assumed fish was saturated fat free.
- I never considered the quality of the water fish live in. The quality of the fuel they eat.
- The concentration of toxins that travel along the food chain, getting intensified with larger fish such as Salmon and Tuna.
My primary researching port of call was Dr Michael Gregor and his site nutritionfacts.org. The reason I turn to Dr Gregor is he and his team go through all the latest nutrition research and then document it in language that someone much less qualified such as myself can actually understand. Importantly, the site is non-commercial and accepts ZERO corporate sponsorship.
Let’s start with a few points / clarifications I found useful.
First, Omega-3’s are often cited as the reason “we need to eat fish” however overt omega-3 deficiency is rare.
Second, Avoiding mere deficiency likely isn’t our goal. What about optimal omega-3 status? Can it be achieved without eating fish or taking fish oil supplements?
Third, Often used interchangeably with Omega-3’s, EPA and DHA are both long chain omega-3 fatty acids.
Fourth, Our bodies can make DHA’s from the shorter chain omega-3’s in plant foods like flaxseeds and walnuts however probably not enough for optimal health.
So, what does the science say?
From his video Is Fish Oil Just Snake Oil? I’ll quote the Dr: “Advice to eat oily fish, or take fish oil, to lower risk of heart disease, stroke, or mortality is no longer supported by the balance of available evidence.” This is in response to a systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which looked at all the best randomized studies on both fish oil supplements and consumption of oily fish.
Researchers concluded there was no longer justification for the use of omega-3s in everyday clinical practice.
What about omega 3’s and brain function?
The Dr address’s this in his video: Should We Take DHA Supplements to Boost Brain Function?
Also in Mercury vs. Omega-3s for Brain Development. To cut to the chase, Dr Gregor explains how the brain boosting affects of DHA in fish and fish oil supplements is negated by the brain damaging affects of mercury in fish and fish oil supplements. And it’s not only the brain at risk so the safer option is to supplement instead with as low on the food chain as possible to avoid industrial toxins. In this case, that would be algae that produce bio-equivalent long chain omega-3’s. This is where the fish gets it to begin with however the algae used in supplements are grown in tanks and as such never come in contact with the pollutants in our oceans.
The Dr’s recommendation is: 250 mg daily of pollutant free (yeast or algae-derived) long-chain omega-3’s (EPA/DHA).
What about those pollutants in our oceans?
Fish can contain up to 9 million times the amount of chemical residue in their flesh and fat as the water they live in. And (even salt aside) we wouldn’t think to drink that water right?
PCB’s are synthetic chemicals that although now banned have resulted in heavy global environmental contamination especially in fish. The further up the food chain the heavier the concentration of toxic PCB’s that can increase cancer risk, decrease mental functioning and damage sexual health.
Are farmed fish safer?
Farmed fish are not the way to escape the toxic cycle of small fish getting eaten by bigger fish and bigger fish getting eaten by humans. In fact concentration of PCB’s in farmed fish such as Salmon is even higher. This is because farmed fish are fed commercially caught fish that are considered not suitable for human consumption and the waste / trimmings of fish sold for human consumption. Aside from increased PCB’s, farmed fish swim around in their own faeces, are fed antibiotics to allow them to survive the disgusting conditions and are artificially died pink to impersonate their wild cousins.
Mercury is a natural element that is toxic to humans. It can affect brain function in adults, teens and infants and also increase the risk of atrial fibrillation and fatal heart attack. Although naturally present through the environment, human industrial activity has increased the amount of airborne mercury that then ends up in rivers, lakes and the sea. Subsequently, fish such as king mackerel, swordfish, shark and tuna are our primary food source of mercury. Mercury content in fish may also explain the link between fish consumption depression and suicide. Fish are basically mercury sponges and just because some fish have less toxins than others does not mean less toxins is ok!
So how much Mercury can we tolerate?
In Dr Gregors video Nerves Of Mercury he concludes: “Studies of the neurobehavioral toxicity of mercury on children suggest that no level of mercury exposure can be considered safe, but pressure from the fish industry may be preventing safety limits from dropping further.”
So what’s with the multibillion dollar fish oil industry?
Well, multibillions in cash-o-la. Just like Meat, Dairy and Eggs. Including clever marketing and also scarily (how is this even possible?) publication bias where only the studies supporting the use of fish oil supplements have been published where the studies reporting negative effects have been buried.
As one former EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) toxicologist told the Wall Street Journal “(Government regulators) really consider the fish industry to be their clients, rather than the American public.”
Please don’t assume it’s any different here in Australia or wherever is home for you.
For a summary of why I wholeheartedly believe The Health Benefits Of Fish ARE a Myth this months recommendation (for not the first time!) is the documentary: What The Health. It’s on Netflix and this website has a comprehensive fact page with links to cited studies.
The film covers the 4 worries of fish: PCB’s, Mercury, Saturated Fat and Cholesterol. (starting at 21.31) We’ve covered the first 2 worries of fish.
How about Saturated Fat and Cholesterol in fish?
Cholesterol varies greatly. From almost less than a glass of milk in canned tuna in water. To as much as a pork chop in salmon. However if you choose the tuna you’re then courting dangerous mercury levels. I’m going to wait till next weeks show to dig deeper with both saturated fat and cholesterol in fish and all other animal products.
Ethics aside (and WHY would you put ethics aside!) however even if you chose to, there is nothing fish gives your body that you can’t get instead from the plant kingdom without the risk of PCB’s, Mercury, Saturated Fat and Cholesterol.
Let’s talk EXERCISE and perhaps for the first time ever in The Healthification Podcast history (!) this is also my struggle street this week!
I’m actually sitting at the gym planning this weeks show rather than working out. I will work out today and I want to share the steps with YOU that will allow me to “Get my workout on.” First the don’t’s then the do’s:
One: Don’t give yourself too much flexibility with time.
I’m not training yet as I have a 3.5 hour gap in which to train. It’s mush easier to sit down with a coffee and write than it is to drag my unusually lethargic body onto the weights floor.
=> To make this applicable to your training, I recommend getting uber specific with your training time/s. Rather than “this morning” or “Saturday” lock in 7am Monday morning. Or 9am Saturday. The less room for maneuvering you give yourself the easier you make it on yourself.
Two: Do line up an appointment after your workout to maximize your focus within the session and not let it drag out ineffectively.
My most focused sessions are always when I’m squeezing in a (shorter than I’d like) session prior to my next client. I tend to get the same amount of work down in less time.
=> To make this applicable to your training, make the gym a device free zone. There’s really no need to take calls or check social media while training. The only reason to have your phone is if you have an awesome playlist that fires you up and even better is the length of your ideal length of training time. While we’re talking focus to get the most out of your session focus your mind on the muscle you’re working every single rep of every single set. I’m serious! Only do this if you want, a firm butt… toned triceps… and sculpted inner thigh love!
Three: Don’t expect every session to be at your best, maximum strength / energy / enthusiasm.
I actually did about 3.5 chin ups before I disgustedly threw in the towel on my first session attempt today! My body felt weak. I hate weak! Because I had too much flexibility with time I gave up rather than adjusting for lessor strength / energy / enthusiasm.
=> To make this applicable to your training, I recommend aiming for half the time you might normally aim for when you start a struggle-street session. It’s about making it easy for you to succeed. Lift lighter weights, do less sets, do easier exercises. Set the bar a bit lower and if you do get into it you can always up the anti aa you’re able.
Four: Do be prepared to adjust accordingly when your body simply does have the usual push (pull, squat, lunge, bend or twist…
HaHa, that’s a shout out to Paul Chek’s 6 primal movements which I cover here:) that you expect of it. Further to the adjust accordingly options I shared in the previous point if your session is really super struggle-street consider just going for a gentle walk instead. I’m a HUGE fan of maintaining consistency as an absolute priority. It’ll always leave you feeling better than doing nothing and it’ll make it much easier to do the training do next time to.
Five: Don’t give up before trying.
To get great at consistency you need to see YOU as someone who comes through for YOU! You’ll build this sort of self belief when you commit to always at least trying even on those days you’d rather not. As an added incentive to act consider: The Anti Mentor. That person you really don’t want to be who regularly gives up before trying.
Six: Do recognize everything counts.
One of the things I observe in people who tend to stay fit and healthy naturally is the acknowledgement that for better or worse: Everything counts. A 10 minute workout counts. It’s a whole lot better than skipping your planned session altogether. Equally, unplanned fries count. It’s a whole lot easier to sneak in the unplanned food extra tomorrow once you choose the fries today.
Morning on to who’s inspiring me right now?
It’s always the amazing animal rights activists I get to hang out with each week however also increasingly it’s the many individuals I chat with each week who take the time to have open, honest and at time vulnerable conversations with me regarding the morality of eating animals. I have so much respect for people who are willing to engage in conversations that challenge everything they’ve been indoctrinated to believe and to do. The easy option is to stubbornly keep your blinders on. To filter in only the information that supports your current beliefs and enforces your current actions.
Finally, I have another recommendation this month. Let’s also call it (if it resonates with you) the time of the actionable. If you’re already vegan and feeling a little isolated, frustrated, disheartened or angry… please consider volunteering with a group of like minded activists. I’ve found volunteering with Anonymous For The Voiceless to be invaluable in soo many ways. It’s connection and community. It’s an opportunity to feel like you’re having an impact and like you’re challenging yourself and evolving as a person. Surprisingly (yet welcomely) I’ve found it’s also strengthening the compassion I have for others whether we see eye to eye or not.
As one of the AV family on Saturday shared: “When you become a vegan you leave something that you wish you’d never been a part of. When you become an activist you join something you wish you always had been a part of.”
To see if one of the 500+ chapters globally operates in your city just type “AV” and your city into your Facebook search box.
The Healthification podcast is proudly bought to you by my FREE ‘Easy Vegan’ plan. It took me 25 years to transition from a meat eater to a happy, healthy Vegan! You can do it in just 3 days with my simplified ‘easy vegan’ plan! Get the fit, strong, and healthy plant based body you deserve… while avoiding ALL the mistakes I made along the way!
Till next time, remember Creating a body and life you love is Freedom. (If this ex-carb queen, NON-genetically gifted, naturally uncoordinated VEGAN-chick can do it – so can YOU!!!)
If you liked ‘Month In Review PLUS The Health Benefits Of Fish Myth‘ you’ll also like: One Ingredient Foods.
If you’re yet to share the Healthification love – just click here to zip over to iTunes and leave an honest rating and review. It’d help me out big time. With gratitude, Kate.