LETHBRIDGE -- The latest version of Canada’s Food Guide was released this week, raising eyebrows in some quarters. In particular, the guide no longer lists milk and dairy products as a distinct food group. Also, Canadians are urged to choose more plant-based proteins, such as legumes, nuts and tofu, with an overtly reduced importance on animal proteins.
Tom Lynch-Staunton, Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) Government Relations and Policy Manager, has this reaction
"On the change from four food groups to three, we recognize that we are quite positive to see their description of eating lots of fruits and vegetables, a quarter of your plate being whole grains and the other quarter of your plate being protein foods, of which beef will be a part. So we're supportive of that.
However, we have raised our concerns about an emphasis on plant-based protein, over animal-based protein, which we believe, and we know, that plant-based proteins and beef are not nutritional equivallents, even though both can be good for you in a well balanced diet.”
Lynch-Staunton emphasized the importance of beef in the diet.
"Beef is a nutrient-dense food, as many animal proteins are, so beef can play a very important part in a balanced diet, when eaten appropriately and balanced with the other foods you need to remain healthy."
He says ABP would recommend that absolutely you eat these whole foods, where a variety of proteins could complement your food, including plant and animal-based proteins.
However, he notes that dietary advice to reduce red meat consumption could put some Canadians at risk of iron, zinc, vitamin B12 deficiencies and inadequate protein intake.
Following the publication of the new food guide, Lynch-Staunton says there is a positive message of action from Alberta Beef Producers.
"ABP will still continue to talk about the nutritional benefits beef, how it fits into a balanced diet and, hopefully, we will be able to let Albertans and Canadians we reassured that it is a very nutritious source of protein, iron and other very important nutrients, when eaten in conjunction and balanced with other healthy foods."
In many places in Canada, raising cattle is considered to be the best and most environmentally beneficial use of the land. To that end, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association has a beef about the new food guide. The organization says by urging the consumption of more plant-based proteins over animal sources, Health Canada has missed an opportunity to inform people of the nutritional benefits of eating lean beef.
The association says this is biased, and it would be unfortunate if people interpret this message as a signal to remove red meat from their diets.
On the plus side, the association appreciates the guide's focus on food waste reduction and supports recommendations to eat whole foods and cooking and eating with friends and family.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is also disappointed that Health Canada's newly published guide does not promote Canadian food products.
But the organization, which represents 200-thousand Canadian farming families, notes that the foods outlined in the guide are all produced in the country.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation applaudes changes in the guide -- especially on the emphasis on people preparing meals based on whole foods at home and the message that highly processed foods and sugary drinks should be significantly reduced.
It notes that unhealthy diets were responsible for about 47,000 deaths in Canada in 2016.
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