Health Canada's updated food guide favours plant-based protein


Health Canada's updated food guide favours plant-based protein

When the food guide review began several years ago Health Canada officials said the facelift would be based on input from scientists and health experts as well as feedback from Canadians. The representation swapped the familiar colourful textbook-style rainbow showing the four "food groups" from previous years for a balanced plate shown from a bird's-eye view angle, a popular style for Instagrammers aiming to show off their meals.

Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University, said eggs, poultry and milk are by far the biggest losers in the new guide.

Other suggestions like limiting highly processed foods, cooking at home, and eating with others, come alongside a new technically-accessible Guide that will be revised in the coming years.

Earlier this month, the Dairy Farmers of Canada released a statement warning that the new guide could hurt Canadian farmers, especially after recent trade concessions made to the U.S. during the negotiations of United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Implementation of front-of-package labelling, proposed by Health Canada, which would include labels on bad food choices, to point out excessive amounts of sodium, sugar or fats. In addition, Health Canada recommends eating more nuts or soy protein, which can help improve blood fat levels, while warning that eating processed meat is linked to higher risks of colorectal cancer.

"We are privileged to be able to choose among a wide variety of affordable protein sources, but some protein sources, like pork, are more efficient at delivering health benefits", said Canadian Pork Council's nutrition manager Mary Ann Binnie. Policy interventions - including those that educate consumers and shape which foods are readily available - are essential to ensuring the evidence-based food guide recommendations are put into practice.

In eliminating specific food and portion recommendations, the guide also no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group but lists them within other recommended food categories, such as healthy proteins.

On Jan. 22, in its first update in over a decade, Health Canada released the latest update for "healthy eating" and anything dairy was largely absent.

"They provide, in addition to protein, they provide nutrients and in the case of milk products these nutrients are very different than other protein sources", said Isabelle Neiderer, director of nutrition and research for the Dairy Farmers of Canada. Rather, the updated guide lists foods Canadians are encouraged to eat on the regular (and which ones to limit).

However, the report outlined that numerous well-studied healthy eating patterns included plant-based proteins. The last version of Canada's food guide was released in 2007.

"We made that very strong commitment not to be meeting with industry (and) not to be influenced by industry", Hutchinson said.

She pointed out the guide does not call for a meat-free diet.

Petitpas Taylor said part of the reasoning behind the increased focus on plant-based proteins was a recognition that many Canadians have lifestyles where meat may not be a major part of their diet. Among protein foods, it recommends consuming plant-based more often.

"I have a concern with that because not all protein foods have the same nutritional profiles".

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