It’s bizarre that pregnant women are advised to avoid tuna, but no one else is advised to do the same. This recommendation is based on the fact that tuna contains relatively high levels of mercury (as well as other environmental pollutants), which can be harmful to babies, mothers, and everyone else for that matter. Fish, in general, are the most polluted food in the supermarket, as all fish contain some degree of environmental pollution. Pregnant woman are specifically advised to avoid tuna and other predatory fish high on the aquatic food chain because pollutants like mercury bioaccumulate and biomagnify up the food chain, becoming highly concentrated in these species.
Mercury is toxic to the nervous, digestive, and immune systems, as well as the lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes. Exposure can cause a variety of neurological and behavioral disorders. The developing brain is especially vulnerable, as mercury can cause lifelong damaging effects if children are exposed to it in utero.
But why does the “avoid tuna” recommendation stop at pregnant mothers? Most experts agree that the human brain isn’t fully developed until our mid-20s, so shouldn’t we avoid feeding this stuff to our kids? Furthermore, we now know that adults have the ability to grow new brain cells (a process called neurogenesis, or neuroplasticity). So, shouldn’t we all be avoiding mercury-laden seafood? Especially when it’s as easy as swapping out a tuna salad sandwich, for a delicious, and much healthier, chickpea salad sandwich, such as this one (how do you like that for a buildup—casually mention the damaging effects of mercury-laden tuna, then slide in with a healthier alternative?).
This recipe can be mashed up in under 15 minutes, making it the perfect dinner option after a busy workday. I like it best as a sandwich filler, but it can also be scooped onto a salad for a plant-protein upgrade. It stores well, so it can be made ahead of time, or eaten as leftovers the next day. I hope you enjoy!
- Chickpeas, like all legumes, are a good source of fiber, protein, potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium. They are low in fat and sodium and are cholesterol-free. Eating a cup of beans every day is considered the best longevity supplement, as they are a staple food among all of the world’s healthiest and longest-living populations, and the single food most associated with healthy aging.
- Capers are one of the best sources of rutin, a flavonoid that appears to protect against DNA damage and may improve vascular health.
- Lemon juice is rich in vitamin C, which boosts the absorption of plant-based iron.
- If you think you’re missing out on the omega-3 fat in tuna, you’re not. Plants like walnuts, flax, hemp, and chia seeds are all great sources of omega-3 fat. You can also take algae-based omega-3 supplements that contain the exact same fat found in fish, but without the environmental contamination—a win-win!
- 30oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp dried dill
- ¼ cup minced kosher pickles
- ½ cup minced celery
- 3 tbsp capers
- 2 tbsp minced red onion
- Juice from one lemon
- Black pepper to taste
- Salt to taste (optional)
- In a medium mixing bowl, mash the chickpeas until there are no whole beans left.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, stir well, and mash up some more.
- Serve on whole grain bread with any of the following toppings: sliced tomato, pickles, lettuce, red onion, avocado, additional mustard, or hummus.