Humanimal – Fish Fallacies

The idea that we can’t get ‘complete’ proteins from anything except fish is getting a little tired.

humphead-endangered-lgI LOVED IT when, already sexagenarians (that’s ‘in their sixties, not sex mad!) my parents became involved in the organics movement.
As a child of the 1960s, I had seen how my parents – whose life revolved around gardening their quarter-acre piece of paradise – had been conned into accepting that pesticides were totally safe. It wasn’t just my parents, but a generation or two that had accepted the blithe assurances of government and business that waging war against garden pests with all manner of toxic chemicals was perfectly okay, and that there would be no ill consequences for humans.
Roundup-is-poisonBut as we now know, humans were just as vulnerable as any other creatures to compounds like 2,4,5-T, so I was chuffed when maw and paw Steel embraced organics, steering committees at Soil & Health (the official home of the organic movement) and boasting the best vegetable garden in a neighbourhood otherwise swamped with Roundup. Heck, Dad even got photographed by the local newspaper taking a good sniff of his moist compost.
As a vegetarian, following organic principles just makes sense. If I want my body to efficiently harness all the goodness of everything I digest, then it had better be as free as possible of potentially harmful pesticide residues. With that in mind, I’ve been a long-time subscriber to the Soul & Health Association’s magazine, these days called Organic NZ, and full of great articles on pest-free gardening, and relevant issues (like saving heritage seeds from Monsanto’s evil grasp, for instance).
The latest issue features a mostly excellent piece by David Hodges, who is a naturopath and nutritionist at West Auckland Natural Health. It’s about fish: is fishing sustainable, and is eating fish healthy?
Hodges comes to the conclusion that the seas are fast becoming fished out, and that the oceans are fast becoming toxic. In my view, that news alone – quite apart from any humanitarian views on ending the lives of sentient beings – is a compelling argument against the eating of fish.
Hodges does what he set out to do and lists the main ingredients that fish contain that make their eating beneficial to us: selenium, Omega 3 and Vitamin D.
Fair enough, but let’s take a closer look:
imagesSelenium: It’s fairly well known that New Zealand soils are deficient in selenium, which is a component of “one of the most important antioxidant enzymes in the body, and is required for normal thyroid function.” Hodges states that the only vegetarian sources of selenium are brazil nuts and Australian wheat, but ignores sunflower seeds, eggs, mushrooms, onions, and other grains like barley, brown rice and oats. And the miraculous brazil nut has so much selenium in it that you only need one of them to get your daily dose!
Vitamin D: Fish and meat products contain vitamin D, but few items from the vegetarian larder boast this essential vitamin, which “may reduce rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes”. He does leave mushrooms off his list, although it has to be noted that some fundamentalist vegans won’t eat mushrooms, because technically, as a fungus, they’re closer to being animals than they are to being vegetables. images-1But here’s the thing: we’ve become scared of the sun, but short, regular, monitored blasts of those life-giving rays will bless you with all the vitamin D you could ever want. We don’t live in England, and there’s nowhere in NZ (except perhaps Invercargill and Bluff) that we can’t guarantee at least some regular sun.
Omega 3: There’s a lot of hype and controversy about Omega 3 and its interaction with Omega 6, and many nutritionists reckon that the only real source for this essential fatty acid (which is an anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant) is oily fish. flax-seed-oil-omega-nz-waihi-bush-organicWhat a load of old cod! Vegetable sources of Omega 3 include flaxseed oil, and while there’s debate about how well the body converts the goodness, the jury is still well and truly out. This is an important subject, and Doctor Feelgood hopes to soon have some experts on the subject to look at it in detail. [Note: this author is currently trialling a rather interesting Lifestream brand veg-capsule called V-Omega3, where the selling guff goes: ‘Did you know that fish don’t naturally produce Omega 3 EPA and DHA? The reason fish contain essential fatty acids is because they consume algae. It is the algae that naturally produce EPA and DHA and Lifestream has gone straight to this source.” Etc.]
It would be unreasonable, perhaps, to ask Organic NZ magazine to take an anti-fish line (draw an anti-fish line in the sand?!), because they no doubt have to represent organic meat and fish producers. Still, it would have been useful to see some more vegetarian-friendly facts coming through in what is otherwise an excellent piece. GARY STEEL


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