Superfood of the Day- Salmon! Yes- I’m going to delve into this controversial issue. When it comes to fish, its hard to know what to eat anymore. Hopefully after reading this blog you will know how to make a better choice.
The word salmon, any variety of fish of the genera Salmo and Oncorhynchus, comes from the Latin salmo, which later became samoun in Middle English. Many Native American tribes depended heavily upon salmon in their diet. Early European settlers quickly got tired of a salmon-rich diet, with many indentured servants actually having a clause written into their contracts restricting salmon meals to only once a week.
Salmon was abundant on both the East and West coasts of America. The waters of the Northwest are particularly abundant with salmon, where it is known as “Alaskan turkey.” In Hawaii, it is lomi-lomi, a food which is -highlyprized. New England first began canning salmon in 1840, shipping it all the way across the country to California. By 1864, the tables were turned, with California supplying the east with canned salmon. The waters of the East became fished out, so that today all Atlantic salmon comes from Canada or Europe.
There are eight species of salmon in North American waters, five in Pacific waters alone. Worldwide, commercial salmon production exceeds one billion pounds annually, with about seventy percent coming from aquaculture salmon farms.
Salmon and fish are big business therefore opening up the door for unethical practices.
What would happen if fishermen were free to grab up whatever they liked, whenever they liked? We don’t have to speculate: With 4.3 million vessels worldwide netting 90 million tons of catch each year, the numbers of large fish—including cod, flounder, swordfish and tuna—have dropped by 90 percent in the past five decades. And if practices don’t change, up to 90 percent of all the fish in the ocean could be gone by 2048, a study by 14 leading marine biologists in the journal Science reported in 2006.
Even if you’re not a seafood fan, you have reason to worry. Fish are more than food, explains Stephen Palumbi, Ph.D., coauthor of the Science study and professor of biology at Stanford University. “They are a key player in the delicate marine ecosystem. When you rip out one part of the ecosystem, there is a cascade of ripple effects, and that is what destabilizes the oceans,” he says. If you kill too many fish, for example, you may end up awash in algae, which fish eat, or you could throw off the natural mix of pathogens in the water.
Just as Americans are urged to eat more fish—8 or more ounces per week, according to USDA guidelines released this year—overfishing has emerged as the next great environmental crisis. But what can one health-conscious, green-loving person do about it?
The question is always farmed or wild caught- which is best or even OK?
The vast majority eaten in the United States is not caught by people; Atlantic salmon, as opposed to the Pacific salmon caught in Alaska, has been so decimated in the wild that if you eat it, it surely came from a farm in British Columbia or Norway. These facilities raise fish from eggs in open-net cages, pens set up in the ocean that crowd in up to a million fish.
Farming, or aquaculture, would in theory seem a way to protect ocean life. But that’s not how it works in practice. In close quarters, the fish often become infested with bacteria and parasitic sea lice. And when farmed salmon escape, as they frequently do, their infections can spread to wild fish, a 2007 Science study found. Many fish and shrimp farms, especially in developing worlds, combat the buildup of pathogens in fish with huge doses of antibiotics, leading the bacteria to develop resistance to the drugs. And because seawater and sediment are a soup of germs—fish, animal and human—fish pathogens may be transferring this antibiotic resistance to the germs that attack humans, including E. coli and salmonella, says Felipe C. Cabello, M.D., professor of microbiology and immunology at New York Medical College in Valhalla, who reviewed the threat in Environmental Microbiology.
But how do you choose a fish? The choices are overwhelming and the labeling inconsistent and even outright fraudulent with all fish- not just salmon. “The fish sections of supermarkets are the Wild West, where anything goes,” says Marion Nestle, Ph.D., Paulette Goddard professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “Most consumers haven’t got a clue about telling one fish from another, and sellers take full advantage. This is one place where you need to find a seller you trust.” To start: Seafood Watch recently introduced Project FishMap, an app for iPhone and Android that allows you to search among (and add to) a million restaurants and markets where users have located sustainable seafood.
Even at these spots, don’t be shy about asking where your meal came from-I am defiantly that girl- just ask my family! U.S. product is often a better choice than imported and how it was caught like “troll and pole,” versus bottom trawling or longlines matters also. Seek out local seafood at your farmers’ market, where you may be able to quiz the fisherman himself. And you can go to SeafoodWatch.org or BlueOcean.org to download or order apps and pocket guides that help you choose sustainable fish, including what to order at the sushi bar.
As far as salmon goes- the easier way is to stick to wild caught Alaskan salmon. In Alaska, they have very strict laws about how, where and when the salmon are harvested and they don’t allowed any fish farming.
The last thing you need to be aware of is mercury. This is one of the hardest toxins for your body to eliminate. Wild Alaskan Salmon is actually low in mercury whereas larger fish like tuna, swordfish, sea bass and halibut are some of the highest in mercury. Why? It’s naturally occurring but also found in our waters from industrial pollution- sad, huh? Big fish eat small fish increasing the mercury concentration. Some of the lowest mercury fishes to comsume are sardines, herring and anchovies. Check out the online mercury calculator at GotMercury.org to get an idea of the risks.
Why eat wild Alaskan salmon?
Research suggests that eating oily fish once or twice a week may increase your lifespan by more than two years, and reduce your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 35 percent, but you have to eat the right fish or you may be doing more harm than good. Wild salmon swim around in the wild, eating what nature programmed them to eat. Therefore, their nutritional profile is more complete, with micronutrients, fats, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants like astaxanthin (which gives salmon its pink, or in the case of sockeye, red-colored, flesh.) There’s also the vegetarian or vegan ethical aspect. Wild sockeye salmon are the vegetarians of the salmon world. Their diet consists of krill, plankton and algae, and they are caught at the very end of their life cycle. By the time they enter the fishing grounds, they’ve lived 95 percent of their natural life in the wild. At the end of their life, they fight their way up-river to spawn, after which they die a natural death – unless they’re caught by fishermen or get eaten by some other predator.
Did this make you hungry for a great piece of wild Alaskan salmon? You can order this wonderful superfood every week in one of our lunch boxes.
It really is fabulous so hurry over!
Happy Health Eating!