Food: It’s the Whole Package that Counts

Communicating the benefits of a food: Seems like it would be simple. You can talk about the nutrients in the food or describe the specific roles that those nutrients play in your body or, as is usually the case, both. But, it’s rarely as easy as this.

IMG_0605Earlier this week, I spoke to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Risk Communication Advisory Committee during the public testimony period with suggestions about how to effectively communicate the new draft seafood advice so that pregnant and breastfeeding women (and their doctors) feel confident eating (and recommending) fish during pregnancy. Even though the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise pregnant and breastfeeding women to consume 8-12 ounces (or 2-3 servings) of a variety of seafood each week, most pregnant women in the U.S. consume less than 2 ounces per week.

We sometimes fall prey to touting foods by the nutrients they contain. But, foods are not nutrients. They are packages comprised of (hopefully) nutrients and antioxidants and sometimes bacteria, mold, contaminants or even pathogens. Some of these are good (think bacteria in yogurt and sourdough bread or mold in blue cheese), some of them are bad (think mold in expired bread or cheese) and some of these just are (like PCBs in vegetables or mercury in fish). We know the benefits of healthful foods like vegetables and fish far outweigh any potential exposure to trace amounts of contaminants, but sometimes the benefits become minimized or, even worse, forgotten about.

This is such an important topic because those omega-3s in seafood are so vital to baby’s brain and eyes during baby’s most critical developmental periods. But, it’s more than that… fish is a whole food package that contains numerous other nutrients so important during pregnancy, like protein, vitamin D, B vitamins, selenium and iron.

The much-needed updated draft advice was released in 2014. It is unclear when the final draft seafood advice will be released, but for the estimated 4 million babies that will be born in 2015, I hope it’s sooner rather than later.

PLEASE SHARE: Are you an expectant or new mom? I’d love to hear about your experiences with fish during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. Please share.


Although I provide consult to National Fisheries Institute, the opinions expressed on this blog are entirely my own opinions, and do not reflect the opinions of the National Fisheries Institute or any other client with whom I contract. I did not receive compensation to post this message, and National Fisheries Institute is not responsible for any information contained in this blog.

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