Spicy Fish Tacos with Tequila Lime Pickled Pineapple

Salmon Tacos

Servings 0 4

Ingredients
Tequila Lime Pineapple
  • 1/2 a pineapple thinly, sliced into half moons
  • 1 jalapeño, sliced (seed if desired)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2-3 tablespoons tequila (optional)
Chermoula Sauce
  • 2 cups fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Instructions
  1. 1. In a 9×13 inch baking dish, combine the orange juice, honey, all-spice, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Add the fish and toss to coat. Let sit in the marinade for 10 minutes.

    2. Heat a grill, grill pan, or skillet to high.

    3. Cook the fish for 3-4 minutes per side, or until cooked through, drizzling the marinade over the fish, as it cooks.

    4. To assemble, divide the rice among warmed tortillas. Add the black beans, and pineapple. Add the grilled fish and serve drizzled with the Chermoula Sauce. EAT.

Tequila Lime Pineapple
  1. 1. Add the pineapple and jalapeño to a shallow bowl and pour over the lime juice and tequila. Let sit 20-30 minutes or up to overnight. Serve alongside the tacos.

Chermoula Sauce
  1. 1. Add all ingredients in a blender and pulse until combined. Taste and add salt as needed. Serve drizzled over the tacos.


Peruvian-Style Roast Spatchcocked Chicken

I had never spatchcocked a chicken before, but simply saying the word had always amused me. But finding this recipe made me want to do so I found a Yutube video showing how to do it and IT WAS SO EASY!  I can’t believe I hadn’t tried it before!  Here’s the link to show you how- How to Spatchcock a Chicken

The recipe turned out wonderful, here’s the recipe;

IMG_20180729_154413

Roast the chicken:

Arrange rack in middle of oven; preheat to 400°F. Mix garlic, cumin, oil, paprika, pepper, oregano, 1/2 tsp. salt, and finely grated zest from 1 lemon in a medium bowl. Quarter zested lemon; set aside 2 quarters. Squeeze juice from 1 whole lemon and remaining 2 quarters to yield 2 Tbsp. juice; stir into spice mixture.

Place chicken breast side down on work surface. Spatchcock chicken by cutting along both sides of backbone with kitchen shears. Remove backbone; reserve for stock. Turn chicken breast side up and splay open. Press down on breastbone with palms until you hear it crack and chicken is as flat as possible. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Rub chicken all over with 2 reserved lemon quarters. Squeeze juice over bird, then rub skin all over with inside of rinds.

From both edges of cavity, loosen skin from breasts and thighs, being careful not to tear skin. Using your fingers, gently spread 2 heaping Tbsp. spice mixture under skin (reserve remaining spice mixture), then season chicken all over with remaining 1 tsp. salt. Transfer chicken, spread flat and skin side up, to a roasting pan or large skillet.

Roast chicken 20 minutes, then brush with spice mixture and pan juices. Continue roasting, basting with spice mixture and pan juices every 20 minutes, until juices run clear when thigh is pierced with a fork or an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 165ºF, 50-60 minutes total.

Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 15 minutes.


Firecracker Chicken Meatballs

IMG_20180729_150306 (1)

Meatballs:
  • 1 ¾ – 2 pounds ground chicken (or turkey)
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup gluten free Panko- style breadcrumbs
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
FIRECRACKER SAUCE:
  • ½ cup hot sauce (I recommend Franks)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼-½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on spice preference)
 
  1. Position 2 racks near the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 475ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.
  2. Combine the ingredients of the firecracker sauce and whisk to combine.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, garlic, salt pepper, eggs, panko, paprika, and onion powder. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together. It’s easier to tell when he ingredients are combined when using hands.
  4. Shape the meat mixture into ball, about 3 tablespoons of meat per ball.  Place shaped meatballs on prepared baking sheet. bake for 11-13 minutes or until the meatballs are completely cooked.
  5. Using 2 tablespoon, dip each individual meatball into the sauce. Alternately, you can brush each meatball with the sauce. Place back on the baking sheet and bake for an additional 1-2 minutes. Drizzle or brush with additional sauce as desired.

Fool’s Gold: What Fish Oil is Doing to our Health and the Planet

I have teaching my Nutrition clients for 20 years to NOT TAKE FISH OILS, or any other oil in supplement form. Fats and oils that are not in their original packaging (nuts, fish, avocado, seeds, etc.) are rancid.  They are rancid as soon as they are exposed to oxygen. They are oxidized, and that renders them carcinogenic.

There is no reason to ever take oils as supplements, it is easy to come by these nutrients by eating seafood, avocadoes, butter, etc. Ingesting fish oils do not protect you from heart disease. A balanced diet that meets your nutrient needs does that. Along with exercise.

Is the evidence for fish-eating better than simply taking a fish oil pill?

Omega-3 is one of our favourite supplements – but a huge new study has found it has little or no benefit for heart health or strokes. How did it become a $30bn business?

Is the evidence for fish-eating better than simply taking a fish oil pill? Composite: Getty

The omega-3 industry is in a twist. Again. Last week, Cochrane, an organisation that compiles and evaluates medical research for the general public, released a meta-analysis – a study of studies – to determine whether or not omega-3 pills, one of the world’s most popular dietary supplements, reduced the risk of coronary heart disease. After comparing 79 trials involving 112,059 people, the researchers could find “little or no difference to risk of cardiovascular events, coronary heart deaths, coronary heart disease events, stroke or heart irregularities”.

I can’t say that I was particularly surprised. Over the past 15 years, more than 20 studies have shown a similar lack of effect. But what does surprise me is how we continue to look at the world of fish and seafood through the amber lens of a fish oil capsule. Omega-3s do something in our bodies – and probably something important. But without the larger context of the marine organisms that contain them, omega-3s get lost in the noise of human metabolism and modern marketing.

The confusion arises in part from the historical baggage of fish oil and the $30bn (£23bn) industry associated with omega-3 extraction. Once upon a time, fish oil solved a major human health problem. But it had nothing to do with coronary heart disease. During the Industrial Revolution, a disease became increasingly prevalent throughout northern Europe: rickets. Malnourished children in sunlight-poor urban slums often ended up bowlegged by adolescence. Researchers eventually pieced the puzzle together and concluded that the disease was caused by a deficiency in vitamin D, which the body naturally generates in the presence of sunlight. And, as it turned out, vitamin D is stored in high amounts within the liver of codfish.

A Norwegian pharmacist named Peter Möller seized upon this finding (and many other anecdotal stories about the curative properties of cod-liver oil). Using a patented chemical process, he arrived at a product that, he announced to the world, “didn’t taste fishy”. Möller and his advertising team then launched a campaign to institutionalise the regular use of cod-liver oil, regardless of whether you were at risk of rickets or not. The campaign was a success: a spoonful a day became common practice. Möller built his company into an international presence and died in 1869 with 70 cod-liver oil steam factories to his name, churning out 5,000 barrels of the stuff a year. By the time omega-3s started to be a focus of medical research, there was already a rosy feeling around fish oil.

In the early 1970s, the chemist Hans Olaf Bang read in a Danish journal that there were extremely low incidences of cardiovascular disease in Inuit communities of Greenland. He and his assistant, Jørn Dyerberg, travelled to Uummannaq on the north-west coast of Greenland to investigate. At the time of the expedition, Bang didn’t quite know what he wanted to test for. They probed and palpated 130 local people, measured height and weight, and came home with a lot of blood.

“We had these 130 precious samples of blood,” Dyerberg told me in his lab in Copenhagen recently. They estimated that in 20 years, the traditional Inuit diet would have changed to the western diet, and Dyerberg remembers Bang saying: “‘There will never be anyone who can do this again, so let’s do whatever we can!’ And we decided to do fatty acid analysis.”

The result of their analysis was a hypothesis that is an exemplary “association study”. In an association study, multiple factors are logged and a hypothesis of correlation is drawn from the findings. In the case of the Bang and Dyerberg Inuit study, they found that: 1) Inuit people in Greenland had a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids and blood lipid levels of omega-3s much higher than their western contemporaries. 2) Inuit people also had, according to public health records, markedly lower rates of coronary heart disease. They hypothesised that therefore 3) omega-3s might reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

This was backed up by further laboratory studies that did show, in vitro, that omega-3s were involved in anti-inflammatory reactions. But – and this is a big but – while correlations abound for omega-3s and heart disease, the real trouble has always been in showing causation. That is where this latest round of studies comes in.

The Cochrane study and the others that preceded it have one thing in common: they are meta-analyses of “randomised control trials” (RCTs). That is, trials where patients are given a supplement at random and tracked over time against another set of patients given a placebo. Most statisticians consider these trials to be the very top of the evidence pyramid. But it is these studies that have at times proven troublesome for Omega World. Each time RCTs come to light that show little or no effect, Omega World tends to blend its counterargument with evidence from association studies because, as a recent industry reply to the Cochrane report put it, “it’s all connected”.

When it then turns to the RCTs, the industry, as would be expected, looks for different explanations as to why positive health outcomes weren’t reported. In the burst of RCTs preceding Cochrane, the Omega World line was that these most recent trials did not show benefits because things such as statins, stents and other forms of cardiovascular intervention masked the anti-inflammatory effect of fish oil pills; earlier RCTs had shown a fairly significant effect, but none of those treatments existed at the time of those trials.

The industry also, and I believe rightly, pointed out that studies often failed to look at omega-3 blood lipid levels before and after supplementation. In other words, it’s not really a fair trial if you don’t know where the patients started with respect to the omega-3 levels in their blood. If we only measure effect without looking at omega-3 levels in the blood at the outset, aren’t we doing the dietary equivalent of testing how far a car can drive without checking how much petrol is in the tank at the start?

With Cochrane, the latest industry argument is that the study’s authors cut out a number of different forms of cardiac ailments, thus skewing the stats. In particular, it notes that Cochrane failed to include “sudden cardiac death” and “sudden cardiac mortality” in its list of outcomes. Since nearly half of all patients first report heart disease to their doctors by suddenly dropping dead, this is not an insignificant exclusion.

But the fact that the industry’s arguments shift with each new, damning meta-analysis gives you pause. What is going on? Is there an international conspiracy to discredit omega-3s? Or does Omega World keep moving the goalposts? When I posed this question to Ellen Schutt, the executive director of the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s, probably the world’s most prominent omega-3 advocacy organisation, she made it seem as if the problem didn’t even exist. “As a matter of fact, we track media sentiment … and have found many more positive omega-3 stories than negative, in general. Of course, the negative stories are the ones that catch people’s attention. As we both know, negative stories are much more interesting and the media is definitely guilty of sensationalist ‘clickbait’ headlines such as: ‘Omega-3s don’t work.’”

As sympathetic as I am to the trials of Omega World, as studies continue to poke holes in aspects of the omega-3 cardiovascular argument, I can’t help thinking there is something else going on. Because, while the fish oil supplement business is a big deal, it is also a sheen on the surface of a much deeper pond. Long before omega-3 supplements became popular, an industry arose that used the same omega-3-rich creatures not for medicine, but for an odd array of agricultural and industrial purposes.

Ultimately, it was this so-called “reduction industry” that created the oily-fish extraction system that now consumes millions of tonnes of marine wildlife every year. Today, one in every four kilograms of fish caught is reduced into oil and meal and used for agriculture, land animal husbandry and, most recently, fish farming, AKA aquaculture.

The reduction industry has appeared in different forms under different ownership over centuries of human history. In the 18th century, it targeted whales, reducing northern hemisphere cetacean populations into isolated pockets of endangered species in order to make lamp oil and lubricants. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it shifted to the southern hemisphere, reducing 390,000 of the 400,000 great whales that once roamed the Southern Ocean to margarine, nitroglycerine and other “marine ingredients”.

In the latter half of the 20th century, it shifted again and targeted small, oily fish such as anchovies, sardines and herring. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the largest reduction operation in human history arose off the coast of Peru in pursuit of the Peruvian anchoveta. The Peruvian anchoveta is by far the largest single species catch by tonnage in the world, some years comprising as much as 10% of all fish caught. And although Peruvian anchoveta are as delicious as any anchovy on Earth, an industry-influenced Peruvian law dictates that more than 95% of the catch must go to the reduction industry.

Each decade brings a different use for all those anchovies. In the 1940s, they were used for fertiliser. In the 50s and 60s, chicken feed. In the 70s, pet food and pig feed. In the 80s and 90s, aquafeed for salmon and other carnivorous fish. And now, the most elite product of the reduction industry: dietary supplements.

And it is not just Peruvian anchoveta that are reduced into fish meal and oil. All told, the reduction industry removes from the ocean 20m-25m tonnes annually – the equivalent of the combined weight of the population of the United States. The omega-3 industry argues that some vendors are turning to much more sustainable options, such as algae-based omega-3s and fish oil reclaimed from recycled byproducts.

Nevertheless, the reduction industry marches on into new territory. Most recently, it has begun targeting Antarctic krill, the keystone prey species of the entire Antarctic ecosystem. Two years ago, when I asked the then chief executive of the largest krill extractor in the world why it had launched a $200m fishing operation in the Southern Ocean to take food out of the mouths of whales, he noted that krill oil is a “phospholipid” and making it much more “bioavailable” means that consumers can take a much smaller pill. Why was this important? Consumers who chose krill oil over fish oil would be much less likely to suffer the horrors of a fishy burp.

Amid all the conflicting reports, there is one bit of data that shines out: fish and seafood can bring considerable health and environmental benefits. Fish, in addition to providing us with omega-3s, delivers protein with far fewer calories than meat: 100g of salmon contains 139 calories and 23g of protein. By comparison, 100g of beef contains 210 calories and 20g of protein.

Harvesting wild fish from well-managed stocks requires a fraction of the carbon as farming terrestrial livestock. Similarly, fish farming puts a lesser burden on the Earth in terms of carbon and freshwater use than pretty much any form of terrestrial animal husbandry. We could make the farming of fish even more carbon- and resource-efficient if we used alternative ingredients for fish food based on algae and food waste. And if you consider growing “filter feeders” such as mussels, clams and oysters, the benefits are even more extreme. These bivalves don’t have to be fed anything, and make water cleaner even as they grow fatter. They provide protein 30 times more efficiently than cattle.

Is the epidemiological evidence for fish-eating better than simply taking a fish oil pill? Again, we are stuck with the problem of correlation versus causation. It is very difficult to feed someone a fish in such a manner that they don’t know they are eating a fish. Hence an RCT of seafood-eating hasn’t really ever been done. Most of the studies around seafood are association studies. And, while one such study associated eating fish twice a week with a possible reduction in mortality of 55,000 lives a year, we don’t know what a fish-eater does with the rest of their life beyond eating fish.

But what we do know is this: the omega-3 industry and the reduction industry that bred it removes fish from the water in a way that doesn’t put protein on our plates – it just puts pills in our cupboards. Is this the way we want to continue to do business with the planet?

Paul Greenberg is the author of The Omega Principle: Seafood and the Quest for a Long Life and a Healthier Planet (Penguin Press).


Here’s Why You Should Never Wash Chicken Before Cooking It

If you’ve always washed your chicken, it may be time to reconsider this potentially dangerous practice.

Female hands washing and cleaning chicken wings at the kitchen sink

MAHATHIR MOHD YASIN/Shutterstock

It’s the most polarizing problem in poultry—should you wash your chicken before cooking it? Food health and safety professionals are advising against this practice, as it can increase the spread of bacteria and the risk of cross-contamination. Don’t miss these other cooking mistakes that can make your food toxic.

Most people who clean their chickens think they’re washing germs or sliminess from the chicken. And while they’re correct in assuming that raw chicken is often teeming with bacteria, such as campylobacter or salmonella, washing it with water does nothing to combat this. In fact, washing your chicken actually worsens this problem, according to the UK National Health Service, because the running and splashing water can spread bacteria around sinks, countertops, and even your clothing. The USDA maintains that the only sure way to eliminate bacteria is to cook meat to the proper temperature, and these rules extend to other types of meat and fish as well. The minimum temperature of cooked chicken should be 165 degrees, and you can find the temperature for other types of meat in this table as well.

Even professional chefs have been divided on this issue. Julia Child was a staunch supporter of washing chicken, while Ina Garten more recently came out on her show to reinforce that there is no need to wash it or other meats. Garten’s side has the science to back it, and other than the potential hazards of washing chicken, there’s really no reason for it other than attachment to long-cultivated habits.

If you remain loyal to washing your chicken, however, as Drexel University food safety researcher Jennifer Quinlan told NPR, try not washing it at least once to see if you can really notice a difference. If sliminess is an issue, try patting the chicken down with a paper towel. Should you decide to continue your washing habit, you’ll need to take measures to properly disinfect any surfaces the liquid or splashing may have come into contact with, to prevent cross-contamination, and wash your hands thoroughly after touching raw meat or any food or tool that has come into contact with it. Check out these rules you should always follow to avoid food poisoning.


The Many Health Benefits of Broccoli

two heads of broccoli

 

These mini trees are notorious for being pushed off the plates of kids around the world, but broccoli’s reputation as one of the healthiest veggies still rings true.

Broccoli belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family, which includes kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, collard greens, rutabaga, and turnips. These nutrition powerhouses supply loads of nutrients for few calories.

If you are trying to eat healthier, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli should be at the very top of your grocery list. If you or your kids are not big fans of broccoli, be sure to read the how to incorporate more broccoli into your diet section for tips and delicious recipes.

This MNT Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of broccoli and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how to incorporate more broccoli into your diet, and any potential health risks of consuming broccoli.

Possible health benefits of consuming broccoli

Broccoli belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family.

Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of many lifestyle-related health conditions.

Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like broccoli decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality.

It may also promote a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight.

Fighting cancer

Eating a high amount of cruciferous vegetables has been associated with a lower risk of cancer; particularly lung and colon cancer. Studies have suggested that sulforaphane, the sulfur-containing compound that gives cruciferous vegetables their bitter bite, is also what gives them their cancer-fighting power.

Researchers have found that sulforaphane can inhibit the enzyme histone deacetylase (HDAC), known to be involved in the progression of cancer cells. The ability to stop HDAC enzymes could make sulforaphane-containing foods a potentially powerful part of cancer treatment in the future. Sulforaphane is now being studied for its ability to delay or slow cancer with promising results shown in melanoma, esophageal, prostate, and pancreatic cancers.

Other easily recognized cruciferous vegetables include cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, turnips, and cabbage, as well as the lesser-known arugula, broccolini, daikon, kohlrabi, and watercress.

Another important vitamin that broccoli contains, folate, has been found to decrease the risk of breast cancer in women. Adequate intake of dietary folate (in food) has also shown promise in protecting against colon, stomach, pancreatic, and cervical cancers. Although the mechanism behind the protection is not understood, researchers believe that it may have something to do with folate’s role in DNA and RNA production and the prevention of mutations.

Improving bone health

Poor vitamin K intake is linked with a higher risk of bone fracture. Just one cup of chopped broccoli provides 92 micrograms of vitamin K, well over 100 percent of your daily need. Consuming an adequate amount of vitamin K improves bone health by improving calciumabsorption and reducing urinary excretion of calcium.

Broccoli also contributes to your daily need for calcium, providing 43 milligrams in one cup.

Looking younger

Broccoli is rich in vitamin C.

The antioxidant vitamin C, when eaten in its natural form (in fresh produce as opposed to supplements) can help to fight skin damage caused by the sun and pollution, reduce wrinkles, and improve overall skin texture.

Many people automatically think of citrus fruit when they think of vitamin C, but did you know that broccoli provides 81 milligrams in just one cup? That is more than what you need in an entire day.

Vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation of collagen, the main support system for the skin. Vitamin A and vitamin E are also crucial for healthy looking skin, both of which broccoli provides.

Improved digestion and natural detoxification

Eating foods with a natural fiber like broccoli can prevent constipation, maintain a healthy digestive tract, and lower the risk of colon cancer. Adequate fiber promotes regularity, which is crucial for the daily excretion of toxins through the bile and stool. Recent studies have shown that dietary fiber may also play a role in regulating the immune system and inflammation.

Protection from chronic disease

According to the Department of Internal Medicine and Nutritional Sciences Program of the University of Kentucky, high fiber intakes are associated with significantly lower risks of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases.

Increased fiber intake has also been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and enhance weight loss for obese individuals.

Nutritional breakdown of broccoli

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one cup of chopped raw broccoli (approximately 91 grams) contains 31 calories, 0 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrate (including 2 grams of sugar and 2 grams of fiber) and 3 grams of protein.

Just one cup of broccoli provides over 100 percent of your daily need for vitamin C and vitamin K and is also a good source of vitamin A, folate, and potassium.

Broccoli ranks among the top 20 foods in regards to the ANDI score (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index), which measures vitamin, mineral, and phytonutrient content in relation to caloric content.

To earn a high rank, a food must provide a high amount of nutrients for a small amount of calories.

How to incorporate more broccoli into your diet

Broccoli is famously one of the least favorite vegetables of many, along with its cruciferous cousin, Brussels sprouts. But what if you have just been storing and preparing it wrong?

Fresh, young broccoli should not taste fibrous, woody, or sulfurous. To make sure you get the best tasting broccoli, store the unwashed vegetable in loose or perforated plastic bags in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. Only wash broccoli right before eating, as wet broccoli can develop mold and become limp.

Broccoli left at room temperature becomes fibrous and woody. You may not be able to tell by looking, but the flavor of broccoli continues to diminish the older it gets.

Broccoli can be added to wraps, pasta, pizza, or even made into a soup with onion and garlic.

Quick tips to enjoy more broccoli:

  • Keep it simple and sauté chopped broccoli drizzled with olive oil, cracked black pepper, and minced garlic.
  • Chop raw broccoli and add to your next wrap.
  • Top your flatbread or pizza with chopped broccoli before roasting.
  • Make your own pesto or pasta sauce and add broccoli.

Possible health risks of consuming broccoli

If you are taking blood-thinners, such as Coumadin (warfarin), it is important that you do not suddenly begin to eat more or less foods containing vitamin K, which plays a large role in blood clotting.

It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. The key to a healthful diet is to eat a variety of foods, rather than to concentrate on individual foods.


Eating Processed Meats Has Been Linked to Serious Psychiatric Problems

Oh, great. Bacongate 2.0.

Bacon

MIKE MCRAE

19 JUL 2018

Nitrate-cured meats – things like beef jerky or bacon – have been linked to extensive periods of hyperactivity, insomnia, and attention loss in people experiencing manic episodes.

Research conducted by Johns Hopkins University on patients receiving care for manic symptoms found they were over three times more likely to have ever eaten processed meat products than patients being treated for other psychiatric conditions, such as schizophrenia.

“We looked at a number of different dietary exposures and cured meat really stood out,” says the study’s lead author Robert Yolken.

“It wasn’t just that people with mania have an abnormal diet.”

The exact mechanism behind the link isn’t yet clear, but a follow-up experiment on rats fed jerky with their plain old rat chow resulted in increased movement and altered signalling in their hippocampus.

Changes were also noted in the rats’ gut microflora, hinting at a possible stepping stone between the nitrates in the meat and effects on their nervous system.

Taken all together, the results provide a strong suggestion that a diet rich in many varieties of ham, jerky or salami just might play a role in the development of mania-related conditions in at least some people.

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental health condition characterised by dramatic swings in mood and energy levels, including mania. Episodes can last weeks, or even months, and can coincide with depression and psychosis.

The condition affects as many as one in 25 people at some time in their life, significantly impacting productivity and taking a serious toll on personal and community wellbeing.

Surprisingly little is known about the condition’s causes. There are strong hints of a genetic predisposition, though as with most neurological conditions there’s a lot more going on than a wonky gene or two.

Environmental factors that affect early development, from infections to maternal smoking, have been explored as possible explanations. Stress, head injuries, and preterm births are also considered potential risk factors.

Diet is yet another area attracting significant attention, with studies suggesting a westernised diet and higher glycemic loads might contribute to the development of symptoms.

For this study, the researchers used medical records to categorise more than 700 volunteer patients as having either mania, bipolar depression, a major depressive disorder, or schizophrenia.

They gave each patient a survey that asked questions such as, “Have you ever eaten locally procured dry cured meat”? and “Have you ever eaten undercooked fish such as rare tuna?”

Those in the mania category had an unusually high number of patients who’d consumed processed meats.

“Future work on this association could lead to dietary interventions to help reduce the risk of manic episodes in those who have bipolar disorder or who are otherwise vulnerable to mania,” says Yolken.

The addition of nitrogen compounds in the form of sodium nitrite or potassium nitrate has been used to preserve meats for centuries, preventing decay, adding colour and reducing oxidation.

Nitrogen compounds in meat products have been linked with cancer in the past (never forget the great Bacongate of 2015 when the World Health Organization changed the carcinogen classification of processed meats).

But in this case it’s the nitrogen compounds’ influence on bacteria in our gut that could end up being the culprit. And this isn’t the first time nitrates in processed meats have been found to affect our health via our personal microbes.

Variations in microflora were deemed responsible for an overzealous digestion of nitrates in the diets of people who experienced migraines, causing their blood vessels to dilate more than usual and cause intense pain.

Our brains and the bacteria in our guts have a complicated relationship, one we’re still learning more about as we find connections between our bugs and our emotional state, the development of Parkinson’s disease, and even risk of strokes.  

So, it wouldn’t be a total shocker if further research confirms manic symptoms in bipolar can be exacerbated or even caused by certain microflora reacting to nitrates in our meats.

None of this means you need to ditch the jerky entirely. But to those who experience manic episodes, this might be useful information to perhaps help make their issues a little less severe.

This research was published in Molecular Psychiatry.