Health - Index
FROM: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Fish & Shellfish:
Contamination Problems Preclude Inclusion in the
Dietary Guidelines for Americans
Safer Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
High levels of toxins, fat, and cholesterol and a lack of fiber make fish a
poor dietary choice. Fish oils have been popularized as a panacea against
everything from heart problems to arthritis. The bad news about fish oils,
though, is that omega-3s in fish oils are highly unstable molecules that
tend to decompose and, in the process, release free radicals. Research has
shown that omega-3s are found in a more stable form in vegetables, fruits,
Individuals need to include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids in their
diets on a daily basis. Alpha-linolenic acid, a common omega-3 fatty acid,
is found in many vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and fruits. It is
concentrated in flaxseeds and flaxseed oil and also found in oils such as
canola, soybean, walnut, and wheat germ. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found
in smaller quantities in nuts, seeds, and soy products, as well as beans,
vegetables, and whole grains.33,34 Corn, safflower, sunflower, and
cottonseed oils are generally low in omega-3s. Fish consumption is by no
means the only way to ensure adequate intake of essential fatty acids.
Omega-6 Fatty Acids
While supplements and added oils are not typically necessary in the
vegetarian diet, good sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fats should be
included daily. It is important to take these two fats in the proper ratio
as well. Omega-6 fatty acids compete with omega-3 fatty acids for use in
the body, and therefore excessive intake of omega-6 fatty acids can be a
problem. The U.S. diet has become heavy in omega-6 fats and low in omega-3
fats, secondary to a reliance on processed foods and oils. It is necessary
to balance this by eating a low-fat diet that is low in processed foods and
with fat mainly coming from omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-6 fats are found in leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, grains, and
vegetable oils (corn, safflower, soybean, cottonseed, sesame, sunflower).
Other omega-6 fatty acids, such as gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), can be found
in more rare oils, including black currant, borage, evening primrose, and
hemp oils.3 Most diets provide adequate amounts of omega-6 fatty acids.
Plant Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Green leafy vegetables (lettuce, broccoli, kale, purslane, spinach,
Legumes (mungo*, kidney, navy, pinto, or lima beans, peas or split
Citrus fruits, melons, cherries
* Mungo beans are particularly high in omega-3 fatty acids. They are
sold in many Indian groceries and may be found under the name "urid."
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
It is important for vegetarians to include foods that are rich in omega-3
fatty acids on a daily basis. Alpha-linolenic acid, a common omega-3 fatty
acid, is found in many vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and fruits. The best
source of alpha-linolenic acid is flaxseeds or flaxseed oil. More
concentrated sources can be found in oils such as canola (also known as
rapeseed), soybean, walnut, and wheat germ. Omega-3 fatty acids can be
found in smaller quantities in nuts, seeds, and soy products, as well as
beans, vegetables, and whole grains. Corn, safflower, sunflower, and
cottonseed oils are generally low in omega-3s.
Omega-3 Content of Natural Oils5,6
Wheat germ 7%
Flaxseeds for Omega-3s
Flaxseed oil and ground flaxseeds are particularly good choices to meet
your needs for omega-3 fatty acids. One teaspoonful of flaxseed oil or a
tablespoonful of ground flaxseed will supply the daily requirement of
alpha-linolenic acid. To protect it from oxygen damage, flaxseed oil or
ground flax seed must be stored in the refrigerator or the freezer. Use a
little in dressings for salads or baked potatoes. Don't try to cook with
this oil, however, as heat damages its omega-3s.For you to absorb what you
need from flaxseeds, they must be ground. Simply put fresh flaxseeds in a
spice or coffee grinder for a few seconds. Some people grind a cup every
week or so and store it in the freezer. A spoonful can be added to a
smoothie or sprinkled on breakfast cereal, a salad, or other dish.
"Veganism in a Nutshell"
By Bruce Friedrich
According to the U.S. Government Accounting Office, or GAO, inadequate
regulations mean that unsafe, contaminated, and spoiled fish often end up
on our nation's grocery shelves. In fact, 15 percent of all food-borne
illnesses in the U.S. are caused by contaminated fish, even though fish
represents only a small fraction of the total food consumed. Some fish
flesh is offered for sale without having been inspected even once, and even
where FDA oversight applies, according to the GAO, many inspections consist
of no more than paperwork, and even serious violations rarely result in a
Really, there is nothing good about fish flesh. The one thing we hear about
is the cholesterol-lowering properties of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, but
one finds Omega 3's and 6's in many vegan foods as well, like flaxseed oil.
Besides, if your cholesterol level is below 150-and remember that the
average vegan level is 133-you'd make Ripley's Believe It or Not if you had
a heart attack.