The New Food Guide – What’s Good, What’s Not

 

After $1.5 million and two years of study and consultation, Health Canada released the new Canada’s Food Guide in 2007.  There are some improvements, but also some disturbing flaws.  These flaws are not merely minor omissions – they could have potentially dangerous health effects.  The new Food Guide appears to serve the needs of the few (big business), rather than the needs of the many – us.    Here is the Health E Guide perspective on Canada’s Food Guide, 2007:

 

WHAT’S GOOD:

·         Specific diet recommendations based on age and gender

·         New emphasis on food quality, such as eating whole grains, whole fruits rather than fruit juice

·         Importance of physical exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. 

·         Within the Fruits/Vegetables group a recommendation to have one daily serving each of green leafy and orange vegetable. 

·         Encourages a variety of whole grains, emphasizing grains other than wheat (barley, brown rice, oats…).  

 

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD:

Fruits and Vegetables Less Important !?!

The old guide recommended daily intake of 5-10 fruits. The new guide says 5-8 is sufficient.  It is mystifying why these health promoting foods have been downgraded in importance.

 

Could Promote Weight Gain

Based on your gender and age, the interactive on-line feature “My Food Guide” will calculate the number of servings to eat in each food group.  However, body size and activity level are not considered.  This means that someone who is 5’0” and sedentary will be advised to eat the same amount of food as someone 5’10” and active. One critic calls this “obesogenic,” the genesis of obesity.   I agree. By following the recommendations the person who is 5’0” will gain weight. 

 

Whole Grains Only Half the Time

The guide encourages people to eat whole grains, but then states that only half the daily intake needs to be whole grains.  With all the research on negative health effects of refined grains and their link to blood sugar imbalances and overweight, this is not a health promoting feature.

 

Dairy Still Given Too Much Importance

·         Dairy products are still considered a food group. Perhaps this is related to the presence of the BC Dairy Foundation on the Food Advisory Committee for the new Food Guide. 

à For Health E Guide perspective on why this is a concern read the article “Is Dairy Really “Nature’s Perfect Food?” and “Milk and Calcium”

·          The guide does recognize a milk alternative, but only one - soy milk - a food with some problems of its own. 

à  See Health E Guide article “Soy: Not So Good  

 

Bad Fats Abound

·         The guide encourages us to limit trans fats, when we should not be eating trans fats at all.  There is no safe level.

·         The list of recommended fats and oils does not include any sources of fat in their natural, whole state i.e. nuts and seeds. The list is all oils extracted from nuts and seeds (canola, sunflower oils, and products like margerine). 

·         The daily recommendation, regardless of age or body size, is for 3 tablespoons of unsaturated fats/oils.

·         Suggestions for incorporating fats and oils into the daily diet, includes two references to frying, a practice that damages the oils and anyone who eats them.

 à See Healthy E Guide articles: “Fats: Good and Bad” and “Omega 3’s – The Miracle Food”

 

HEALTH E GUIDE CONCLUSION:

Minor improvements in the Food Guide are outweighed by many nutritional flaws that will make it a questionable health promotion tool. Tragically this new improved guide may do nothing to address our society’s trend to overweight or prevent further increases in killer diseases like cancer and heart disease.