In this week’s news: Seafood guidance for kids and expectant mothers; the next iteration of futuristic faux food; and a reminder from Mark Bittman to just eat the real thing.
Pass the Salmon
This Tuesday, federal officials announced that they’re for the first time ever recommending a minimum of two weekly servings of low-mercury seafood (think salmon, shrimp, cod and light canned tuna) to children and pregnant or breast-feeding women. Back in 2004, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency had set an upper limit to these foods. And though this proposal, too, suggests an upper limit of three servings, the shift is noteworthy. According to a recent FDA analysis, one in five pregnant women in the United States currently eats little or no fish, and the new recommendation is said to reflect concern that these individuals are missing out. Indeed, a number of studies show that children born to women who eat fish have better cognitive development and higher IQs than those born to women who eat little to no fish. Still, the recommendation isn’t without controversy: Some environmental groups expressed concern that this will ultimately increase mercury consumption. One particular worry is packaged fish, especially tuna, from which Americans get approximately a third of their methyl mercury exposure. Interestingly, other groups fear that the measures don’t go far enough. Bottom line: Know where your fish is sourced, and also remember that while plenty of research suggests taking Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, there remains a wide variety of nutrients in fish worth tapping.
Soylent: The Next Generation, Already Here
It may not taste as good as pomegranate or (let’s face it) even green juice, but when it comes to superfoods, Soylent — the beige, sludgy go-to nutrition supplement for countless Silicon Valley CEOs — has become the food product of the hour. (Or however many minutes it takes you to efficiently drink it and get back to data programming.) Nobody likes a healthy 2.0 better than a tech guy or gal, so it’s probably unsurprising that there are already some new competitors in the race. Enter Ambronite. Unlike Soylent, which is formulated with powdered supplements, this one uses pulverized organic real-food ingredients like oats, walnuts, apples, spirulina and sea buckthorn. A single serving gives you 500 calories, just four grams of natural sugar and about half your protein and fiber needs. This week, Time ran a little taste test and the verdict was, if not enthusiastic, more positive than you might think. Are we inching toward a Brave New World of bland, hyper-healthy meal replacements? Hardly. Experts stress that it’s still tough to replace all of the benefits of whole foods in a single meal.
All Together Now: Just Eat Real Food
From the Institute of Medicine to the Department of Agriculture, the predominant public health message these days is to eat more plant-based, minimally processed foods. This week in the New York Times Opinion pages, food writer Mark Bittman digs into just why this might be the silver bullet we can actually bite (and enjoy). With varying degrees of emphasis, research has repeatedly pointed to sugar, fat and salt as root causes of our obesity epidemic. But if you look at any one of these factors, the problem most often revolves around added sugars, fats and salt. In the case of salt, for instance, processed foods supply over 80 percent of the sodium in our diet. Replace these with unprocessed foods, and you can make massive strides toward eliminating the problem. No complicated dietary bells, whistles or rules needed. As for sugar, the biggest problems seem to arise when we consume it as an ingredient in processed foods, particularly when it’s the main one — as in white bread. In those cases, there’s no fiber or other components to help buffer the rate at which our bodies absorb this easy-to-metabolize carbohydrate. The result? A massive insulin spike that just doesn’t get matched when you bite into, say, an apple which, while plenty sweet, is balanced with blood-sugar regulating fiber.