By Andrea Bartels CNP NNCP RNT
14 Jun 2019
Canada’s new guide to healthy eating is now 6 months old. The illustrated version is pretty, and it’s simple; there are no recommended number of servings, or portion sizes. Yet, in its simplicity, the guide may increase the need for nutritional supplementation. Why? Some important nutrients are not getting the special mention they deserve. Here are some of them:
Calcium and vitamin D
Despite the massive popularity and marketing of milk products Canada has one of the highest osteoporosis rates in the world. Our geographic position on the Earth and our cold climate cause us to get less direct sun exposure than countries closer to the Equator, leading to lower vitamin D production by the skin. This is why Canadian milk is fortified with vitamin D: to support bone density. However, the new food guide no longer includes dairy products as their own grouping. Instead, they’ve been placed in the protein category along with lean meats, eggs, nuts, beans and tofu. While dairy products containing the highest source of dietary calcium per serving, lumping them in with the other protein sources reduces their chance of consumption on a daily basis. For these reasons, Canadians who don’t consume milk products or their substitutes would benefit from supplementing calcium and vitamin D.
Iron is another nutrient that has been de-emphasized in the new food guide by way of restricting red meat consumption. The guide recommends that beef and pork eating be reduced in frequency, and that poultry, fish and plant-sourced proteins be chosen more often. While meat of any kind contains the mostly highly available type of iron, called heme iron, the poultry breasts Canadians seem to demand are actually a very low source of iron. While beans and lentils do offer good amounts of this mineral, the type of iron they contain is harder to unlock and absorb. So, menstruating females who abstain from red meat are more likely to require an iron supplement to feel their best, energy-wise.
The new food guide continues to reflect the decades-old fat-phobia, completely ignoring the importance of dietary fats and oils. Complex carbohydrates are recognized as a wholesome source of calories, and so are proteins. Fats are essential for brain function, hormone production, cardiovascular health and regulation of inflammatory response, yet no provision has been made for the liquid or solid sources of fat we use in meal preparation.
Then there are the overlooked whole food sources of healthy fats. Avocadoes and olives may be classified botanically as fruits, but are largely composed of unsaturated fats. Plenty of studies have shown that populations following Mediterranean diets with these ingredients have much lower rates of cardiovascular disease, yet these foods have not been emphasized or given any special mention.
Do Carbohydrates Occupy Two Thirds of Your Plate?
In an aging population where diabesity—the concurrent existence of diabetes and obesity---has become so prevalent, it’s unwise to give dietary carbohydrates so much value. All carbohydrate sources contain glucose, which is the body’s most rapidly absorbed fuel for brain and muscle function. With high consumption, the pancreas and its insulin production are taxed, leading to insulin resistance. Including healthy fats and oils in our meals and snacks helps curb our appetite and stabilize our blood sugar.
Quality over Quantity?
As a holistic nutritionist, I emphasize the importance of choosing fresh, natural, minimally –processed foods. The new food guide certainly has made an effort to reflect this in its most recent version; however, without portion and quota recommendations for different age groups the challenge of tackling obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and other degenerative diseases will remain just that. Supplementing some of the basic nutrients under threat by the new food guide may be the only sure-fire way to prevent deficiencies related to these health conditions.
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