This is an essential and immutable pattern of nature. In the oceans, when the tide is coming in, every seventh wave is larger than the previous six. When the tide is going out, every seventh wave is smaller than the previous six. There are seven notes to a diatonic scale. Repeating the first note forms an octave. There are seven colors to a rainbow. Each phase of the moon has seven days.
In our society we are imbued with the idea that we must have animal protein. The fact that the end result of nutrition creates protein is no indication that we should consume protein directly to have sufficient protein in the body. One hundred years ago studies were conducted by Osborne and Mendel, using rats as subjects. These rats were fed various foodstuffs, and the one that created the fastest growth was egg. As a result, egg became the standard basis in nutrition, and has remained so to this day.
So what is protein? It is the end result of digestion, but it shouldn’t be the first step. The important elements are the amino acids, along with the vitamins, minerals and enzymes. What is the difference between protein and the amino acids? If we picture a brick wall, that wall is protein. The individual bricks, which make up the wall, are amino acids.
Early research of about 50?–?60 years ago suggested that humans must eat all the essential amino acids in one meal in order for them to be absorbed. This “research” was conducted under the auspices of the beef, dairy and poultry industries. The only way we can obtain all the required amino acids in just one food item is to eat animal products. We have since learned that any combination of a legume and grain will also give us all the amino acids. We have also learned it is not necessary to eat these foods in the same meal.
Cooked or sprouted legumes and grains aren’t the only plant foods rich in amino acids. It turns out every natural foodstuff, including vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, are all great sources of these building blocks. The standard teaching now is, if we consume a variety of natural foods sufficient in calories to sustain our energy requirements, then we are absorbing sufficient nutrition, including essential amino acids.
In reality, the human structure cannot absorb protein. Once we ingest such a substance, the body must put the material through what is known as inversion. This takes the protein and breaks it down into its component amino acids.
From this point the human constitution may easily absorb the amino acids and create its own protein. It is easier on the body to eat the amino acids in their natural state in the first place, which is from plant foods.
With the advent of nutrition awareness, people often turn toward fish as a “good” source of things like protein and EFAs (essential fatty acids). EFAs such as linolenic and linoleic acids are elements which the human structure cannot synthesize, yet are necessary for good health. Among these are omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. These are also found in certain plant foods such as organic flax seed oil, evening primrose oil, pine nuts, olive oil, walnuts, pecans and hemp oil.
Certain fish also contain these, especially the fatty fish such as salmon, shellfish, mackerel, herring, tuna and shrimp. It’s important to note that fish get omega-3s from microalgae. Small fish eat the microalgae and then are eaten by the carnivorous fish (such as salmon) which humans tend to eat. Like fish, humans can get their EFAs directly from plant foods.
The sickest fish are bottom feeders. Their sole purpose in nature is to consume all the garbage that nothing else in the ocean wants. They also tend to be very high in cholesterol, like “couch potatoes.” These include lobster, shrimp, crab, oysters and clams. Research has shown that pollutants accumulate in the fatty tissues of creatures.?As a larger fish eats a smaller species, there is a cumulative effect.
Dr. Grace Mankowski, who is also a chemist and long time associate of mine, has specialized in hair analysis and live blood cell analysis for nearly twenty years. She has had patients in China, Japan, Russia, Poland, Eastern Europe, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. Dr. Mankowski notes that, worldwide, the heavy metal with the highest accumulation rate is mercury. It is also the most difficult to chelate or extract from the blood. She has traced this mercury accumulation to the intake of fish.
Dr. Mankowski has a patient she chelated for ten months to eliminate mercury accumulation. The patient, who has eating issues, binged for two weeks on tuna fish after her treatment, and brought the mercury levels right up again.
During the 1950s and 1960s, while the U.S. military was playing around with nuclear waste and did not know what to do with it, the waste was stored in 50-gallon steel drums. The U.S. Navy dumped these drums into the ocean. Now, 50 years later, the salt water has eaten through the steel drums, and the nuclear waste has been leaching into the oceans for the past couple of decades. This is another reason not to eat fish, it is better to eat northern Alaskan salmon. They are somewhat above the line of pollution.
Mercury poisoning, also known as hydrargyria, causes central nervous system problems, which can include symptoms such as anxiety, depression, confusion, irritability, insecurity, phobias and fatigue. The most common (and avoidable) source of mercury exposure is seafood. The most deadly form of mercury is methyl-mercury, which is formed after mercury is absorbed into animal tissue.
Adult exposure to methyl-mercury can result in numbness, tingling in the extremities, hormonal imbalance, loss of coordination and sensory loss. Exposure to a developing fetus or young child can result in neurological abnormalities. Often, central nervous system damage caused by mercury poisoning is irreversible.
Factory farmed fish are given chemicals that are designed to make the fish have a “wild” taste. These fish are often fed parts of cows, goats and sheep, causing the fish to be contaminated with mad cow prions. Even radiation does not cause these prions to die.
It appears the safest and wisest way to consume EFAs is through plant foods. See the articles in this issue by Tom Fisher, RN, and Chef Ken Blue for ideas on introducing more plant-based omega-3s to your diet. You will find many of these foods also offer complete amino acid profiles. In the final analysis, as my good friend Dr. Shawn Miller says, “If you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?”