A Look at the 2019 Canada Food Guide

Canada’s food guide

The 2019 Canada Food Guide is the most health evidence based Guide to date, with a comprehensive and inclusive approach to food selection. The diversity of food options, including offerings for vegetarian and vegan diets, with decreased emphasis on meat, eggs and dairy products, provides more information for Canadians towards making healthy food choices.

The Toronto Star, July 21, 2019 editorial made a plea for not politicizing or pandering to food lobby efforts to change the current Guide and ignoring the science linking diet to many preventable diseases.

On September 25, 2019 the Toronto Star article “Saturated fat is bad for your heart. Or is it?” challenged the recommendations of the Guide, pointing to the often contradictory information linking dietary fats with cardiovascular disease. Do reductions in butter, cheese and red meat reduce disease risk and promote good health? An abundance of information shows that those who consume the highest levels of fresh fruits and vegetables reduce their risk for a wide number of diseases, including cardiovascular, as well as reducing death from a variety of causes. Using only cholesterol levels as the biomarker for cardiovascular health is misguided, as other measures such as those for inflammation and blood coagulation provide better insight for vascular health as well as for measurement of risk for other diseases.

A whole food, high fibre, plant-focused diet is known to provide benefits for:

  • Blood sugar regulation
  • Weight management
  • Gut health, including motility and support of the gut microflora
  • Cancer risk
  • Cognitive disorders
  • as well as moderating cholesterol levels and altering cardiovascular risk

No whole food is essentially a ‘bad’ food. Portion levels and a broad selection of food from all categories may be key determinants in what distinguishes a healthy diet from one that is not. Most authorities agree that the Mediterranean Diet is a good dietary template in modifying risk for a number of diseases including cancer, diabetes, obesity, as well as cardiovascular risk.

Additionally, consideration should be given to climate and environmental impacts related to food production. Planetary health is the foundation for everyone’s health. High carbon footprint foods such as meats, cheese and eggs should have lesser focus in most diets, with greater importance given to healthy foods that can be more affordably produced and available to everyone.

Good food supports good health. Karma stocks a wide variety of fresh, local, healthy foods on our shelves! Diet diversity and whole, unprocessed foods are the foundations for healthy eating. The new Canada Food Guide is setting the right direction for promoting health.

 

 

Ask Reece

Hi Reece,

When I hear the phrase “clean eating”, it sets my teeth on edge. I eat mostly organic, and mostly wholesome foods, but can’t stand it when people around me talk about clean eating, assuming I am “one of them”. I have tried to explain the objection I have to this phrase but to no avail. Ideas?

Unable to Neatly Contain Laughably Euphemistic Eating Nonsense

Reece,

What is the evidence that clean living/eating provides significant health benefits, over (for a purely hypothetical example 🙂 ) a diet with lots of veggies, fruits, and beans, etc. but with some candy bars and cakes thrown in? NOT “health” cakes of apple sauce, sprouted rice flour, and children’s tears, but honest-to-goodness sugar, all-purpose flour, and loads of buttery icing. Inquiring minds want to know.

Cakes Are Non-negotiable DelicacY

Dear UNCLEEN and CANDY,

The components of a clean diet could be broken down, and likely each could be proven to provide some benefits, but the “clean” label is nebulous, and has more to do with ideology and purity than health. A quick Google search of clean eating comes up with a variety of definitions, many of them including non-nutritional components such as mindfulness and environmental awareness when selecting foods. Very few academic journal articles that I could find mention clean eating, and the one that did define it said, vaguely, “an approach to eating which promotes the exclusion of processed foods” (Allen 2018). Without a solid definition of the diet, providing information on benefits or drawbacks to that way of eating is difficult.

Note that in an earlier column I touched on the challenges in proving that organic food provides health benefits — not a straightforward task. Nutrition studies in humans are notoriously complex and information on nutrition is frequently inconclusive or contradictory (Whoriskey 2015).

So, UNCLEEN I would like to clarify what bothers you; is it the assumption that you align yourself with a group ideology — something that necessitates insiders, outsiders, policing, and other lovely accoutrement, possibly including a holier-than-thou attitude? If this sounds about right, I would suggest being direct about your thoughts around the phrase and also inviting friendly discussion, if you feel equipped to do so. I think most people who use it aren’t thinking about the class, and often size and other insider/outsider implications associated with that diet. An example script could be: “Joe, when you described our meal as ‘clean’, I felt uncomfortable. It seemed to imply that certain foods are forbidden or bad, and I don’t believe that, even though I generally eat whole foods. What do you think?” I would love to hear how it goes, so please write back.

CANDY, I fully support your uncompromising dedication to desserts, and would argue that there is substantial information about the health and social risks of restrictive diets and orthorexia (an obsession with avoiding foods the orthorexic considers unhealthy) (e.g., Hunter, 2018; Nevin, 2017). I could find no reputable information linking moderate consumption of desserts to health risks.

I hope this helps!

Reece

Ask Reece is the Chronicle’s advice column by Karma working member Reece Steinberg, a health sciences librarian and food enthusiast. Reece provides advice with input from a variety of sources including anything from traditional etiquette columns to peer-reviewed scientific articles. He answers Karma member questions about dietary lifestyles, food science and fermentation, eating etiquette, and anything else food-related. Please email your questions to askreece@karmacoop.org.

What is the most nutritious food?

Which has more nutritional value? Cauliflower or basil? Perch or chia seeds? Almonds or kale? Researchers in South Korea used data-driven analysis to quantify the “nutritional fitness” of about 1,000 raw foods (including frozen and dried foods). Can you guess which one comes out on top?

The answer is almonds! They have a nutritional fitness score of 97, just above cherimoya fruit at 96. Farther down in third and fourth place are ocean perch (89) and flatfish (88). Also included in the top 10 are chia seeds (85), swiss chard (78), and pork fat (73). BBC Future used the data to create a list of the 100 most nutritious foods, from almonds to sweet potatoes.

The researchers evaluated nutrients in the foods under study in terms of their fulfillment of daily nutritional needs, when combined with other foods (Uncovering the nutritional landscape of food). They divided foods, first, into animal-derived and plant-derived, and then further categorized animal-derived foods as fat-rich or protein-rich, and plant-derived as fat-rich, carbohydrate-rich, or low-calorie. Almonds belong in the fat-rich category of plant-derived foods. The authors of the study also visualized a “food-food network,” which shows the similarities among the nutritional compositions of the various foods.

Lists are hugely popular, especially on the internet. Still, beyond entertaining us, what is the value of this kind of categorization? The researchers suggest such applications of nutritional fitness as the creation of policy for international food aid or the possibility of customized nutrition, especially for people with specific dietary needs. Nutritional fitness calculations can also be used to analyze the effect of farming methods on the nutritional composition of a food.

submitted by Mara Eksteins