Salmon - wild or farmed?

(04/15/2017)

I’ve been duped.

Years ago, I saw an exposé on the evils of farm-raised salmon. Since that time, I have dutifully shelled out three to four times the cost of farmed-raised salmon to buy wild to keep my family safe from toxins, heavy metals and parasites.

So, when I started my research for this column, I expected to find a plethora of websites screaming about the dangers of farmed salmon.

Nope.

All I discovered was one reference to a movie in Europe about the toxins in the Baltic Sea that had ruined farmed fish from that area.

Don’t think local stores carry Baltic salmon.

At least, I hope they don’t.

See, my paranoia still paces back and forth like a wolf in the basement.

On the other hand, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries report painstakingly details the rules and regulations imposed on U.S. fish farms to keep the practice sustainable while doing as little harm to the environment as possible. (http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/aquaculture/faqs/faq_aq_environment.html)

Moreover, researchers have long agreed that eating fish at least twice a week has a wealth of health benefits.

The University of California at Davis reports adults who add fish to their diet twice a week have a 40 percent lower risk of dying from a heart attack.

The children of moms who ate fish have the best brain and eye development.

And as people age, adding fish regularly to the diet helps to reduce the odds of dementia and depression.

Researchers say a big reason fish helps the head and heart comes from the Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids — essential fats I’ve written about before: “Fats Are They Good Until They’re Not?” Dec. 2016 (http://www.paysonroundup.com/news/health/fats-are-they-good-until-they-re-not/article_ab73f0a8-c6e3-11e6-9e92-9b5041602b7c.html)

Nutritionists call salmon, as well as sardines, herring, albacore tuna and mackerel, fatty fish.

That sounds like a bad thing, but fish fat tends to be a good fat (essential fatty acid) versus beef fat that is made up of saturated fat.

I explored the difference in fats in my column, “The Two Sides of the ‘Fat’ Story” Feb. 2014 (http://www.paysonroundup.com/news/health/the-two-sides-of-the-fat-story/article_8adf60a6-5b2d-5e0a-bfa4-cadbf46c5d38.html)

In both columns, I discuss how the body needs essential fatty acids for proper functioning of cells. However, the body cannot make EFA’s, so we must eat them.

Saturated fats have long sticky carbon chains that clog our system making cholesterol.

The alarmingly named fatty fish have more omega oils in them and definitely better fats than beef.

So, adding fish helps you stay healthy.

But making sure to buy wild fish doesn’t make much difference to my body but actually hurts the environment.

Salmon used to fill the rivers and streams of the Pacific and Atlantic.

Because of overfishing as early as the late 1800s in the Pacific, the salmon population on the Columbia has dropped by 97 percent. Salmon for millions of years have spawned in headwaters of streams and rivers before swimming out to the ocean to live the bulk of their lives. They return to the rivers of their birth to spawn and then die.

But we’ve dammed up every other river in North America destroying salmon’s habitat: It’s hard to make a comeback when there’s nowhere to go back to.

So it turns out, picky eaters like me willing to pay three times as much for wild salmon have likely contributed to their decline.

My guilt threatens to overwhelm me.

So what’s a girl supposed to do?

Well, here’s one lesson: Do some research, whether you’re talking fatty acids, farming techniques or fake political news. Weigh the risks and benefits of the nutrients, effect on the environment and costs. Seek out the information from numerous research institutions and environmental agencies.

It’s so easy — at least for me — to get caught up in the hype and mania of food activism. Even now, I’m ever so slightly worried about whether they’re making bread out of yoga mats — but never mind that.

Thankfully, this column helps me fight that fatal flaw.

So next time you see me buying salmon — it’ll be farmed: A dupe no more.