Fish has always been pushed as something good for you, by doctors, health nuts and the Japanese, opposed only by people who don't like fish, and of course, fish.
And occasionally, Don Knotts.
However, in recent years, a lot of people have been jumping on the fish-are-poison bandwagon, which is alarmist and inaccurate. Fish aren't poison. They're merely filled with poisons.
Fish are similar to Brisk Iced Tea in that way.
The good news is you have a choice of what kind of poison you want to eat in your fish.
Do you prefer mercury? Try ocean fish. Apparently, the oceans are full of mercury, mostly thanks to coal-burning power plants and chemical processing plants and people dumping their defective T-1000 Terminators. And almost all fish contain at least some trace amounts of mercury.
And it's not the good or "Freddie" variety.
According to the EPA, children, pregnant women and women who think they might possibly get pregnant someday should completely avoid four species of fish that seem to be mercury superstars, while not eating more than one moderate serving of even a low-mercury fish a week.
You can avoid mercury by eating farmed fish, that have grown up nice and safe in a little fish farm, eating, uh, pesticide runoff. One expert suggests the safe limit on farmed salmon is one dinner every five months. Holy crap! Is that right? We're pretty sure doctors want you to smoke cigars more often than that.
"No. That's not true."
#3. Fast Food Salads
In the recent crusade against unhealthy foods, fast food chains like McDonald's have been the first against the wall. Their clever (and mildly diabolical) two-pronged defense aims at targeting communities where the healthy eating trend hasn't spread yet and where the residents are currently the highest-risk demographic for heart disease and other diet-related issues (witness this official McDonald's-sponsored website, 365black.com). Meanwhile, they aim to hold onto the health nuts by promoting "healthy" items to the menu, like yogurts and salads.
Bacon salad bowls would satisfy both demographics.
The reason that "healthy" is in quotes is that fast food restaurants' salads are often even worse for you than their burgers. The Wendy's Mandarin Chicken Salad, for example, beats the quarter pound Wendy's Double Stack cheeseburger in fat, sugar, carbs and total calories.
Not as healthy as a Wendy's cheeseburger. Seemingly impossible, but true.
Fortunately, most fast food restaurants have nutrition information brochures stuffed somewhere out of view that you can use to research menu items before diving in. The new health care bill actually requires them to put the info somewhere visible but that takes all the challenge out of it. So let's just say if the salad has lots of dressing, meat, cheese or bits of fried food on it, the addition of lettuce does not negate the damage.
#2. Protein Shakes
People associate protein with muscle, because that's what muscles are mostly made of. However, muscles going into your stomach doesn't translate to muscles coming out of your biceps. Your body breaks down what you eat into tiny components, and rebuilds these components into whatever it thinks it needs.
So if you needed a second set of Goro-like arms, protein shakes could provide that. Probably.
And to most Americans' annoyance, what it thinks it needs is usually fat.
Again, you have to take a look back at evolution. Your body doesn't know we haven't moved out of the Stone Age. And the only way to convince your body that all this extra protein is supposed to be for making new muscle, and not fat, is to work out like a mofo.
If you are sitting on the couch or in a desk chair all day, your body doesn't give a shit about whether you are giving it carbs or protein, it's going to make what it wants to make out of them. Except that in making protein into carbs (or fat) it dumps the protein's nitrogen and makes it into urea or uric acid which, in large amounts, can screw up your kidneys.
According to one expert, even a heavy exerciser would only need to double their protein intake at most. Most people need about 50 to 70 grams a day, depending on how much they weigh, and the average American eats about 100 grams a day as part of their normal diet. If you need more, you can easily get 30 to 60 gram from just a chicken breast.
If you want to lose weight, it might help to replace meals with protein shakes (not add protein shakes to your meals, as some people do) but then you're missing out on the vitamins and nutrients you get from real food, and could run into some trouble in the long term. Ever wondered exactly what scurvy was? Try complete meal replacement and you just might find out.
"No. For the love of all that's holy, please don't."
So whether you're a bodybuilder looking to buff up with minimal effort, or a fatty looking for a magic food substance that doesn't make you any fatter, protein shakes aren't really the answer.
#1. Herbal Supplements
Herbal supplements are not only a creative euphemism for marijuana, but also a booming market of remedies ranging from old school to New Age. None of them are regulated by the FDA, so your bottle of Ancient Chinese Vitality Root could be powdered dog shit for all you know. It could also cure cancer. It's a crapshoot.
Consumer organizations do their best to keep an eye on these things, however, and Consumer Reports made a list in 2004 of herbal supplements that are downright dangerous. Number one on that list is a Chinese remedy for eczema. This FDA alert tells of two people who took it hoping to clear up some skin problems and ended up needing kidney transplants.
One of the more well-known supplements on that list is kava, which is supposed to be a kind of herbal Prozac.
It is rather cheerful looking, as roots go.
Unfortunately, evidence started to appear indicating that, while it might make you feel good, it also destroys your liver. Kava advocates theorize this might have been caused by companies looking to cut costs by grinding up the entire kava plant, including leaves and stems, which may contain toxins, in addition to the traditionally used root.
Which brings us back to the beginning: There's no FDA to ask manufacturers, "Hey, what are you guys doing with the leaves and stems over there?" So they'll just throw any old thing right in. They could be grinding up used condoms and bear fur in there.
Remember: People still sell snake oil. They just put pictures of leaves on the bottle now.
Do you have an idea in mind that would make a great article? Then sign up for our writers workshop! Know way too much about a random topic? Create a topic page and you could be on the front page of Cracked.com tomorrow!
For more displays of futility, check out 5 Ways People Are Trying to Save the World (That Don't Work) and The 7 Most Retarded Ways Celebrities Have Tried to Go Green.
And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 05.24.10) to see Bucholz eats with his daily dose of Castor oil.