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- More from Ed Blonz
Q. I just took a loaf of bread out of the freezer and it has mold. How is this possible?
C.P., San Diego, Calif.
A. Mold spores are everywhere, and there are many different types with different health implications. The Environmental Protection Agency has a collection of good resources on mold at tinyurl.com/6rhvby.
Bread is not a sterile food and if the bread had already been opened, it is likely a few mold spores were present. There could have also been some mold in the packaging that was used.
You don't mention how long the bread was in the freezer, how it was defrosted or how much mold you found. There could have been a small amount of growth during the freezing process. Other factors could be a power outage during the loaf's life in the freezer, or if the loaf was near the door and it was opened often.
Moisture in bread tends to move from the interior to the surface during the freezing process. This helps explain ice crystals that form in the package. During the defrosting process, any ice crystals present will create a high-moisture environment in the package as it returns to room temperature, an ideal situation for the mold to spring back to life.
It is difficult to say for sure what happened, but the key is whether this is an isolated incident or a regular occurrence. If it's the latter, you have some detective work to do. Whatever the case, this particular bread should be discarded.
Q. In a recent column, you stated that "Fish is the best source of omega-3." I must object. Hemp oil is much higher in omega-3 and at a healthier omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.
U.C., San Diego, Calif.
A. I get many questions on this topic. Fatty acids are long chains of carbon atoms. Omega-3 is a term that refers to the location of the first double bond along the carbon chain. In this case, it is the third carbon.
(Omega-6 fats have their first double bond on the sixth carbon.) The location of that first double bond helps determine what that fatty acid can do. Our body requires the omega-6 and the omega-3 fats, but it cannot make them on its own, so they are considered "essential fatty acids" that need to be in our diet. We tend to take in too much of the omega-6 fats and an insufficient amount of omega-3.
A factor that determines what a fat does in the body is the length of the carbon chain. EPA and DHA are omega-3 fats that are 20 and 22 carbons long, respectively. These are the omega-3s associated with beneficial health effects on blood pressure, a reduced risk of heart disease and ant-inflammatory effects. There is a list of beneficial effects at tinyurl.com/jqtly.
The omega-3 fat from plants can be found in flaxseed, canola, soy, walnuts and hemp. The key characteristic of plant sources, such as hemp, is that the omega-3 is only 18 carbons long. The body can lengthen this fat into EPA and DHA, but it's an inefficient process.
The bottom line is that if you want the full benefits of the omega-3 fats, fish oils are the way to go.
• Ed Blonz, Ph.D., is a nutrition scientist and the author. Write him at "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Newspaper Enterprise Association, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.