*Just a quick note on entering Paleo challenge points. Paleo Food Input tab can be found under the Paleo Challenge tab which is under the Tracker Tab at the top of the page once logged into the member page. When entering your points, be sure to include the +15 to your daily total for entering your log. For example if the only cheat you had today was a grilled cheese sandwich (2 pieces of bread + 2 peices of cheese = -20) but you also came to CrossFit (+3) and took fish oil (+2) and did 20+ minutes of mobility outside of class (+3), your total score would be -20+3+2+3+15=3*
With the Paleo challenge upon us, hopefully a lot of people are thinking about cleaning up their diets, eating real food, and cutting out the crappy grains, sugar, junk food, and other less than desirable items from their diet. An important part of this transition is increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids and decreasing your intake of omega-6 fatty acids. The omega-3 fats that are especially desired are EPA and DHA. Current westernized diets typically have an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 20:1 or higher, while most research suggests the best ratios are somewhere between 3:1 and 1:1, which happens to mimic the ratios found in a high quality Paleo diet. This skewed ratio appears to create all sorts of health issues for humans.
How can one eat healthy real food and increase their intake of omega-3 and decrease their intake of omega-6? A major source of omega-6 in the standard western diet is low quality seed oils (corn oil, soybean oil, etc) and processed foods. Reducing your intake of those foods will lower your omega-6 input. What about omega-3 however? The best source of omega-3 fats is in wild caught fish. The numerous benefits of eating fish are laid out in this great article from Chris Kresser.
While non-westernized humans have not always had easy access to wild caught fish, it has been documented in numerous places that non-westernized, “primitive” (not used in a derogative manner) people placed very high value on fish and would trade for it and eat it whenever accessible, especially those in need of high nutrition, such as pregnant and lactating mothers. This was documented in great detail in the incredible book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price (also available online for free here).
If you don’t like fish and instead decide to take fish oil, that is probably better than nothing, but there is some good evidence now emerging that eating fish is definitely superior to taking fish oil. One major reason for this is fish oil can go rancid easily, and rancid polyunsaturated fats can cause health problems long term. And for any vegetarians reading this who plan to take flax oil instead of fish or fish oil, sorry, flax oil won’t cut it. Flax oil is mostly Alpha-Linolenic acid (ALA), which must be converted by the body to EPA and DHA before being used, and which has a very low conversion factor. Algae DHA would work for the vegetarians and those adamantly opposed to fish, but you would miss out on additional nutrients as discussed below.
In addition to EPA/DHA, there are a number of nutrients found in fish not readily available elsewhere, such as selenium and iodine, both important nutrients that your body needs. While selenium is also available from brazil nuts, the best source is wild caught fish (brazil nuts have some drawbacks). While iodine is also found in regular table salt, fish are still the best natural source. For those concerned about the mercury content in fish, the selenium in wild caught fish appears to protect against the mercury. Eating fish lower on the food chain also helps protect against heavy metals, PCBs and dioxins as those toxins accumulate up the fish food chain. If you are also concerned about sustainability of your seafood choices, there are a number of good sources online for checking the best choices from a health and sustainability standpoint, such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Whole Foods also has their own internal rating system for seafood sustainability.
When starting to think about eating fish, in general try to purchase wild caught fish versus farm raised fish. Wild caught fish is much higher in nutrients and typically lower in toxins. As laid down by Chris Kresser in a very informative article:
- Farmed fish contain excess omega-6 compared to wild-caught fish. Tests conducted in 2005 show that wild-caught salmon contain 10 times more n-3 than n-6, whereas farmed salmon have less than 4 times the amount of n-3 than n-6.
- Another study found that consuming standard farmed salmon, raised on diets high in n-6, raises blood levels of inflammatory chemicals linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer.
- Wild salmon also contains 4 times as much vitamin D than farmed salmon, which is especially important since up to 50% of Americans are deficient in this important vitamin.
If you’ve never been a fan of fish before and want to start eating it now, remember that catfish that has been breaded and then deep fried in rancid soybean oil and then covered in mayonnaise is not the same as wild caught salmon grilled up with some veggies. There are lots of free easy recipes available online for seafood, and if you don’t like to clean up lots of pots and pans when done cooking, there are some easy cooking methods available (like sous-vide) using frozen sealed fish (available from Trader Joe’s and other stores).
Eating wild caught fish a couple of times per week will help take your healthy eating and lifestyle to a new level. Remember there are lots of different types of fish and lots of methods of preparing and serving it. If you haven’t liked fish before try some new types of fish and cooking methods before giving up on it. You will hopefully find something that you like.
30 front squats (95/65)
30 hang power cleans
30 shoulder to overhead
150 Double unders
30 shoulder to overhead
30 hang power cleans
30 front squats
L2 (80/50) 20 reps
L1 (65/35) 15 reps