Does your canned tuna or salmon have arsenic or mercury without much DHA and EPA?

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Consumer Lab just released a recent review of canned salmon and tuna with some pretty shocking results. Many of the canned products have higher amounts of contaminants and much less of the beneficial omega 3 fats, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) than expected. 

The products with the highest levels of mercury contamination are listed below (in order from highest level to lower, but still significant level). Note that most are tuna, because tuna is higher on the food chain and lives longer. They eat other fish that have taken in contaminants and have more time to accumulate contaminants.

  • Bumble Bee Solid White Albacaore Canned Tuna In Water

  • Vital Choice Solid White Albacore Tuna

  • Wild Planet Wild Albacore Tuna

  • Chicken Of The Sea White Albacore Tuna In Water

  • Kirkland Signature Albacore White Tuna In Water

  • Wild Planet Skipjack Wild Tuna

The products with the highest levels of arsenic contamination are listed below (in order from highest level to lower, but still significant level) Note that some products appear on both lists so definitely avoid those!

  • Starfish Selects Solid Yellowfin Tuna in Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • Bumble Bee Solid White Albacaore Canned Tuna In Water

  • Chicken Of The Sea White Albacore Tuna In Water

  • Kirkland Signature Albacore White Tuna In Water

The products with lower levels of DHA and EPA reported are listed below, with the actual DHA/EPA levels.

  • Safe Catch Elite Solid White Tuna Steak (45 mg/0 mg)

  • Bumble Bee Solid White Albacaore Canned Tuna In Water (67 mg/0 mg)

  • Starfish Selects Solid Yellowfin Tuna in Extra Virgin Olive Oil (107 mg/0 mg)

  • Trader Joes Chunk Light Skipjack Tuna In Water With Sea Salt (112 mg/17 mg)

  • Chicken Of The Sea White Albacore Tuna In Water (118 mg/22 mg)

  • Genova Yellow Fin Tuna In Extra Virgin Olive Oil With Sea Salt (146 mg/22 mg)

  • Kirkland Signature Albacore White Tuna In Water (190 mg/28 mg)

  • Wild Planet Wild Albacore Tuna (230 mg/50 mg)

  • Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon (286 mg/101 mg)

So what should you choose? First, wild salmon will always be a better choice than tuna because the contaminants are lower. The omega fat content is usually higher, as well. If you do choose tuna, limit consumption to no more than once per week and the best option is the Vital Choice Albacore Solid White Tuna. The next best option, albeit not great, is Trader Joe's Chunk Light Skipjack Tuna With Sea Salt. Your best choice is to eat salmon instead of tuna and choose one of these:

  • Deming's Red Sockeye Wild Alaska Salmon

  • Kirkland Signature Wild Alaskan Pink Salmon

Healthy Snacks for Kids

It's that time of the year where parents start to ask me for healthy snack ideas. It seems there are ice cream trucks, candy stands, donuts and other things to tempt our kids all throughout the summer. It can be difficult to get them to eat healthy all the time but don't stress too much about situations you can't control. We don't want to raise our kids to have an unhealthy relationship or feel the need to hide or sneak unhealthy food. 

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I always start with a breakfast that has a balance of healthy fat and protein. I give my son two eggs cooked in pasture butter. This may get paired with gluten-free waffles or toast, topped with nut butter or protein/fat based pancakes. I try to avoid including fruit at breakfast to reduce the sugar impact and save fruit for snacks. Although fruit is fun to use as decorations.

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For lunches I encourage kids to come inside to get a break from the sun and eat something healthy. Again, make sure there is protein and healthy fat. Hard-boiled eggs are fun, particularly with an egg slicer. Jerky, sausages, pepperoni, nitrate-free lunch meat and cheese are also easy.  I like to add fresh vegetables, such as sweet peppers, cucumbers, carrots, celery, jicama. These are all refreshing on a hot day. You can pair with hummus, guacamole or a dip made from healthy ingredients. Kids are more tempted to eat vegetables when they are sliced and arranged in a fun way.

When it's hot out, kids will naturally gravitate towards fruit. Have refreshing fruit on hand, like peaches, apples, oranges and melons. Grapes and cherries are also easy things to snack on and can satisfy the hand to mouth desire. A good rule of thumb is to try to pair the fruit with some fat, such as nuts or nut butters. Cheese is another pairing option but that can be difficult to keep chilled on a hot day. 

Water is very important, particularly on a hot day, and many people mistake hunger for thirst. Stay away from fruit juices but you can make some fruit infused water. You can also add some electrolytes to water if it's really hot. I like Nuun tablets. I also like some of the sparkling kefir drinks for kids. They are good for the gut microbiome and are a great replacement for soda. My son loves Doctor D's apple.

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Smoothies or homemade "ice cream" are popular. Use full-fat dairy or dairy alternative as your base (full-fat Greek yogurt, full-fat coconut milk, whole milk...), add some fruit and fat (coconut oil, nut butter...), a handful of greens and part of an avocado. Avocado is key to making it rich and creamy. If you have a Vitamix you can use some of the same ingredients to make it into a thicker mixture like ice cream or sorbet.

Homemade popsicles are easy to make, but just be sure to add a little fat to reduce the sugar rush. You can also simply freeze fruit, such as grapes. Kids love them!

An alternative to chips is homemade popcorn. Pop organic corn in coconut oil and top with more coconut oil, pasture butter or ghee and sea salt. I typically make an extra batch on movie night and have that available for snacks. If you do serve chips, the best options are those with the smallest ingredient lists and fried in healthy oils, such as coconut or avocado oil. Some good brands are Boulder, Jackson's Honest and Kettle.

Other snack options:

Smoothie recipe (for one child):
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp nut butter
1/2 banana
1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder
1/2 avocado
Handful of greens
Ice
Blend until smooth
 

Digging Deeper to Perform Better - Testing for Athletes

When athletes come to me as new clients, they are often seeking to improve their race performance, minimize gastrointestinal (GI) distress or determine individualized race nutrition. But once we begin working together, it is not uncommon for me to find bigger body imbalances preventing them from achieving their goals.

In addition to a thorough intake form that allows me to begin to understand underlying issues, I may use biomarkers and lab tests to give me a glimpse under the hood, so to speak.

These are common tests that I consider:

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  • Comprehensive blood panel – This can be obtained from the client’s general physician and is often
    covered by insurance. I recommend everyone have a full panel of blood tests at least once
    a year. From a comprehensive blood panel I can see the following:

o Nutritional deficiencies that may impair performance

o Blood sugar, which many athletes manage poorly due to a high intake of sugary sports nutrition drinks or bars, or excessive use of carbohydrates to fuel training sessions

o Inflammation, which can negatively impact recovery and can lead to other health problems like leaky gut, arthritis and eczema

o Bone and muscle health, which can indicate when there may be an increased risk of injury

o Hormonal deficiencies that can be precursors to overtraining or even prevent proper recovery and increase risk for injury

o Electrolyte imbalances, influencing hydration needs

o Iron and other oxygen transport levels, affecting performance

o Liver and kidney health, which can be damaged during endurance events

  • Organic Acids Test (OAT) – This test looks at metabolites in the urine, which are found in much higher concentration than in blood. The test provides a great look into an athlete’s health and metabolism, providing more than 70 markers. (https://www.greatplainslaboratory.com/organic-acids-test/) Athletes typically invest a significant amount of money on bikes and other equipment to improve performance, but this test will actually help to improve the “engine.” It shows the following:

o Ability to generate ATP (energy currency in the body) from fat or carbohydrate

o State of blood sugar management

o Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

o Intestinal health, including bacterial and fungal overgrowth, which can be common due to poor digestion during training and races

o Levels of oxidative stress, which is a concern for all athletes due to excessive generation of reactive oxidative species during training

o Neurotransmitter levels, which can affect mood and the desire to train

o Oxalate levels, which can be a concern and are linked to a number of health disorders, including kidney stones, fibromyalgia and anemia

o Ability to detoxify and flush toxins from the body

  • Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones (DUTCH) – Too often I see female athletes struggle with amenorrhea (in which women stop menstruating) or male athletes that have low testosterone. Many times this is due to overtraining and excessive stress leading to cortisol imbalances. The DUTCH test offers a chance to see where hormone levels currently stand, including sex hormones, stress hormones and melatonin. https://dutchtest.com/ All hormones affect each other, this test gets to the big picture and where the problems lie.
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  • Metabolic Testing – This test shows me how well an athlete burns fat and gives me the data to prepare a customized training and racing nutrition plan. Learn more about it here: http://n2finc.com/blog/2017/4/10/the-value-of-metabolic-testing
  • Comprehensive stool testing – When an athlete struggles with GI distress during races, I probe more and find that he or she may deal with GI distress outside of training, as well. That’s a pretty good indicator that something is amiss in the GI tract. The stool test can tell us levels of bacteria, both good and bad, if there are parasites present and can even indicate how well an individual is absorbing nutrients

Without being able to see inside an athlete’s body, these tests provide an in-depth look at the overall health of the body and, as I say, health first, performance will follow. These are some valuable tools that all people should consider. Invest in your health!