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Doctors and Dietitians on the Same Page

May 18, 2012 by Kenton Delisle

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Have you ever stood on a street corner and asked for directions only to be told different things by different people? Very frustrating, right? This can be very similar to how it feels when navigating health information. You can get as many “opinions” as you have people asked... especially when it comes to food and nutrition.

Nutrition and food science is a constantly evolving area that requires ongoing learning. While the fundamentals don’t change (i.e. eating plenty of vegetables and fruits, choosing whole grains, enjoying low fat milk and alternatives and selecting lean meat and alternatives), new research findings add to our knowledge and help us to fine-tune our advice. With new discoveries in nutrition it’s even more important that various health professions are able to deliver consistent, practical messaging for the public to use in their daily lives.

Last summer, Dietitian Services worked with the BC Medical Association* to develop common communications for the public on frequently asked nutrition questions. Health professionals working with other health professionals - cool!

Here are a few of the questions and answers adapted from the article. (Adapted from the BC Medical Journal* article Nutrition facts vs fiction: What are your patients asking?)

Common questions The short answer
Should rice cereal be the first solid food introduced to infants? It’s true that Iron-containing foods are recommended as the first foods, but this is not exclusively fortified rice cereal.  Recommended iron sources include meat and alternatives (including meat, fish, poultry, cooked egg, well-cooked legumes, and tofu) and iron fortified cereal.

Note that iron from meat sources is better absorbed than iron from non-meat sources.

Is organic food more nutritious than non-organic food? People may choose foods grown by different methods for many reasons, but when considering nutrition, there is no significant difference in the vitamin and mineral content of organic food and conventionally grown foods.

Are there foods recommended to avoid in pregnancy?

(we discuss only specific food and foodborne illness concerns here, but natural health products and herbs should also be taken into consideration)
During pregnancy, you have a higher risk for foodborne illness. To minimize the risk, there are foods to avoid while pregnant.

Foods to avoid, include:
  • Unpasteurized milk and most soft cheeses such as feta, brie, and blue (hard cheese, processed cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt are all safe to eat).
  • Undercooked meat, fish, shellfish, and eggs.
  • Deli meat and hot dogs that have not been cooked.

Other foods and beverages consumed during pregnancy do not cause food poisoning but may still affect an unborn child. These include:
  • Caffeine-containing beverages.
  • High-mercury fish such as mackerel, swordfish, and tuna.

See: Reducing Risk of Food Allergy in Your Baby: A resource for parents of babies at increased risk of food allergy for more information

Do we need vitamin/mineral supplements? If so, which ones, and when? Most people do not need vitamin/mineral supplements. The majority of individuals over 2 years of age, at most stages of life, can meet their nutritional needs using Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide to plan their meals. However, there are some exceptions:
  • Women of child-bearing age should take a supplement of 400 micrograms of folic acid per day to help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. This should be continued while pregnant and breastfeeding.
  • Pregnant women should take a supplement containing 16 to 20 mg of iron per day as their iron levels are likely to be low.
  • Many older adults are not able to absorb vitamin B12 found naturally in food. All adults over the age of 50 years should meet their vitamin B12 requirement from supplements, fortified foods, or both.
  • As we age we need more vitamin D, and it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food. Adults over 50 years should take a supplement of 400 IU vitamin D per day in addition to following Canada’s Food Guide to meet Health Canada’s vitamin D recommendations .

Want more information? Email or call a Dietitian at 8-1-1. They are ready to answer your questions about these or other food and nutrition questions.


*The British Columbia Medical Association (BCMA) is a voluntary association of British Columbia's physicians, medical residents, and medical students. The Association aims to advance the practice and science of medicine and the health of British Columbians by working for the improvement of medical education, health care legislation, and the delivery of hospital and other health care services.
 
**The BCMA’s medical journal provides continuing medical education with a focus on evidence-based medicine. The BC Medical Journal provides clinical and review articles written primarily by BC physicians, for BC physicians.

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