The Tuna Trouble

03Nov08

When I was pregnant, a dear friend gave me a book called Having Faith: An Ecologists Journey to Motherhood Sandra Steingraber. The book covers the physical journey of an egg to fetus to infant and the environmental factors that may be affecting that growth.

Some may find the book paranoia inducing, but I truly found it empowering. Knowing what you can control is so important when you are a mother. The message of the book was not one of despair over our earth, but it had a strong message of hope for our future (and that we should be involved in changing it).

One obvious environmental factor is mercury in fish. Since I have read the book, studies have come out that show that mercury in our fish may be worse than we think. The FDA sort of swam in circles around the matter, but eventually suggested that women who are in their childbearing years (especially pregnant or nursing) should really limit their intake of fish.

The real trouble? Fish are so good for you! Fish are loaded with Omega 3’s which are crucial to brain development for your babies. And for you, Omega 3’s are shown to reduce arrhythmias, triglyceride levels, and blood pressure.

Even if you are not pregnant, mercury is stored in your body over time. They actually find that a woman’s body becomes less “toxic” over the course of having children– meaning, basically, that your children are absorbing your mercury, through carrying and nursing.

When I discovered this, I avoided all fish products. I did not eat sushi (which I LOVE) or any kind of fish, basically the whole time I was pregnant and nursing.

Truthfully, it’s difficult to say how it weighs out. I’ve read a lot since then and I have come to these conclusions:

1. Don’t quit cold turkey (or fish). This kind of dietary change, if you eat any sort of fish, is probably going to cause you more trouble than its worth. Fish is a good source of Omega 3’s, and you can supplement your need with flaxseed (oil and whole), canola oil, and walnuts. If you are vegan, you should definitely be eating these other Omega 3’s.

2. When you eat it, make it count. One thing I never eat anymore? Canned tuna. It’s hardly worth it. Tuna has moderate levels of mercury. You should avoid shark, tilefish, king mackerel, and swordfish completely. These fish eat other fish, and naturally they have higher levels of mercury. Lowest on the scale are small fishes that eat algae and such. If I eat fish I am eating fancy, like sushi, or for a special meal. And I still eat small amounts, and only occasionally.

I recently discovered an ahi tuna wrap at Kilauea Fish Market on Kauai. I decided to try to make it at home and I am loving my new find. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s really good. Sam Choy’s Creamy Oriental Dressing tastes exactly as it sounds. Kind of sesame-y, creamy, Hawaiian-y. If you can’t find Sam Choy’s, I’m sure there’s another dressing that’s similar.

Ahi Wrap (serves 1, or 2 if your husband is lucky)

  • 1/4 lb ahi tuna, sashimi grade (should look bright red and not smell fishy if its fresh), cut into bite sized cubes
  • handful of mung bean sprouts, trimmed and sliced
  • 1/2 carrot, peeled and shredded
  • handful of mixed green salad
  • 1/3 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1-2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1-2 T Sam Choy’s Creamy Oriental Dressing
  • 1 large (burrito-sized) flour tortilla (wheat, white, spinach– whatever you like)
  1. You may think that you don’t need to trim and slice the mung bean sprouts. This is a mistake. For some reason, the sprouts taste much sweeter this way. Trust me. Trim off the ends, and slice them in half lengthwise. It takes some time, but it is totally worth it.
  2. Put a little olive oil in a saute pan over high heat. As soon as the pan is hot, throw the sprouts and carrots in. Saute for a couple of minutes, just until tender. Transfer the contents to a bowl.
  3. Heat a little more olive oil and saute the fish cubes. I heat it over high very quickly so that the middle is still raw and the outside is seared. Cook to desired taste. Transfer to the bowl of veggies.
  4. Put cucumber, tomato, and mixed greens into the bowl along with dressing. Mix until everything is coated.
  5. Heat pan over high heat and warm up tortilla and slightly toast in the pan on both sides. Transfer to a bowl. Pile the contents from the bowl in the middle of the tortilla and wrap it up.

Optional: Black beans. I’ve made this recipe with some black beans mixed in at the end and it was delicious.

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5 Responses to “The Tuna Trouble”

  1. We’ve been eating a lot of Talapia lately because it’s easy to prepare and cheap. I do worry about it’s quality though.

    That wrap looks really, really good. I am going to try it this week. Is the sauce the one that they sell at costco?

  2. 2 Mariko

    Oooo. They might sell it at costco.
    Tilapia is kind of a garbage fish– meaning they eat anything. But the kind you’re eating is farmed and isn’t eating other fish. I checked the mercury FDA levels and it says .010, which is pretty low compared to tuna.

  3. can i come over for dinner? i’ll bring the tuna

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