#sushi :raw foods history and stigmas

Nohemie Mawaka Friday, December 19, 2014 Permalink 0

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I am currently in Tokyo for the day, heading to Kathmandu, Nepal for the holidays and then Thailand for a week in the new year. In Japan, my priority was to eat sushi. In British-Columbia where I live, Vancouver is surrounded by the water, thus why it has some of the best sushi served in the entire country because the fish is fresh out of the sea. Sadly, many Japanese restaurants in Canada are very westernized and do not always serve the most authentic sushi or maki. That being said, I wondered with all of the environmental initiatives warning us to reduce our fish intake because of the high mercury concentration in the sea, what could be the benefits and disadvantages of eating raw fish?

Since I am currently in Japan, let’s begin by understanding the history behind its foods. Sushi as a style of food began as a way of preserving fish. In the 7th century, the mountain people of Southeast Asia invented the technique of pickling. The Japanese acquired this same practice that consists of pressing cleaned fish between rice and salt by a heavy stone for a few weeks and subsequently using a lighter cover for the packing process until the fish was considered ready to eat. During the process of fermentation, the rice produces a lactic acid, which in turn caused the pickling of the pressed fish. The finished edible product that results from this early method of sushi processing is known as naresushi, a sushi made with carp, (Cindy Hsin-I Feng, 2012).

For starter, fish contain both beneficial nutrients such as fish oils like omega-3 (chemistry: long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids n-3 PUFA), (Amelia Granier et al., 2010). The benefit of omega-3 is that it reduces high levels of triglycerides; blood fat which are risk factors for heart disease. Some researcher speculate that foods with high levels of omega-3 are associated with antidepressants boosters, improved maternal nutrition and neonatal and infant brain development. Whilst, a huge disadvantage with eating fish, particularly raw; is the high contaminates such as methyl mercury (Ch3Hg). Such high concentration of mercury can cause poisoning, compromise fetal development and cause neurological damage, particularly in young children, and possibly cause cardiovascular disease. Thus monitoring levels of fish intake is very important, especially for women of childbearing age and those who are pregnant or nursing about the risks of eating any shark, tilefish, swordfish and king mackerel and advised that other fish consumption should be limited to 12 oz/week and albacore tune to 6 oz/week, (Amelia Granier et al., 2010).

Speaking as someone who loves fish, more importantly sushi and maki rolls (salmon is always my favourite), knowing all associated environmental factors that comes with eating such foods is very important. Trying to buy low to no mercury fish, and knowing the type of water the fish comes from ( freshwater or marine), geographic variation and differences based on the consumer (pregnant women or fishermen), these are important factors that should not be overlooked when delighting in some delicious fish.

  1. Amelia Greiner, Katherine C. Smith and Eliseo Guallar. (2010). Something fishy? News media presentation of complex health issues related to fish consumption guidelines. Public health Nutrition: 13 (11), 1786-1794.
  2. Cindy Hshin-I Feng. (2012). The Tale of sushi: history and regulations. Comprehensive reviews in Food Science and Food safety, Vol. 11.

The academic success: A dream killer

Nohemie Mawaka Wednesday, November 12, 2014 Permalink 0

By: Nohemie Mawaka I am now a quarter done my master’s degree in Public Health and I have to say that is fascinating how much I have learned in such a short period of time. Although it is exciting to learn about the various opportunities that come with the field of health, it is at times daunting. From a very young age, I always saw myself pursuing high education simply because coming from Kinshasa, DRC, where many are limited in their outlook on life due to poverty and social construct. I always told myself that education is my option in life. While my father is a realist who achieved great success in his career through education, my mother is a dreamer who goes through life pursuing various interest and opportunities that life has to offer. That is where I come in. I am both a realist and a dreamer.

This is where my long life journey of obstacles begins. I have always thought of myself as someone who is intelligent. First let me define intelligence in my own words: Humans are born with a blank state of mind (Tabula rasa) but acquire intelligence by seeking wisdom. That is why I never agree with those who say “some people are naturally smart”, what does that even mean? During my undergraduate studies I loved biology, chemistry and physics but never seemed to get high grades. The majority of science courses at my previous university graded students with standardized tests (i.e: Multiple choice). For some odd reason, no matter how hard I studied, how many hours I spent at the library; when writing a standardized test my brain freezes and nothing seems to make sense. Even worse is the fact that, most professors often trick students with having the most confusing multiple choice answers just to make the level of testing more difficult. No one gets evaluated through standardized testing in the professional world or elsewhere in the real world, so why push for it in academia? It is not an indication of one’s intelligence. Luckily for me I got into graduate school with a fairly good GPA. Yet, even in graduate school when competing against thousands of researchers for grants, the academic committee making final decisions on which student gets selected, still boils down to marks.

I am aware that the system is the way it is and there is no other way around it. I have to get better at standardize testing if I want to succeed in my dream of becoming a successful researcher in health sciences. Sadly, I am certain that I am not the only one who struggles with this. Even worse, people like me who have a thirst for knowledge and education, with dreams of doing good for the world with our future career practices. We end up at the bottom of the academic intelligence scale, simply because the education system says so. Am I frustrated? Yes. But am I going to let it stop me from pursuing my long-term goals of one day obtaining a Ph.D? No. In the end, I believe that hard work pays off, with much persistence and perseverance, the sky is ultimately the limit and I will continue to pursue my dream.

Here is my favorite TED talk which discuss a similar concept of what I have just discussed.

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