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Monday, August 10, 2015

Nutrition: An Important Part of Food Security

Food security means not only having enough food but also having a healthy, nutritious diet as described in the first post of this series. We need to eat the right type and range of foods to get the nutrients we require.

Calorie Intake

There are different ways to assess the levels of nutrition in our food. Many people focus on their calorie intake. This is the energy obtained from food including carbohydrates, proteins, fats and fibre. This information is available on the Nutrition Facts label that is found on most pre-packaged foods. The recommended healthy level of calories depends on one's gender, age, body size, and activity level as per the energy requirement chart offered by Health Canada. For example, the average female in the age group of 30 to 50 years is recommended about 1,800 to 2,000 calories per day.

Risks from artificial trans fat

The nutrition facts table also provides information about core nutrients such as vitamins, calcium, iron, and fibre -- all of which are good for the body. Information about salt content, cholesterol, fat content helps to monitor and avoid excess intake. 

The nutrition labeling regulation that came into effect in Canada almost eight years ago also mandated the publishing of trans fat levels present in the food causing bad cholesterol or 'LDL cholesterol'. Statistics show that Canadian consumption of artificial trans fat has declined 40% over the past decade. A recent US Food and Drug Administration announcement about partially hydrogenated oils, the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods will further eliminate their use over the next three years. So consumers in Canada may now also look for similar regulations. Artificial trans fat can still currently be found in crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pizzas and pies, microwave pop corn, refrigerated dough products like biscuits and cinnamon rolls etc.

Source: Diabetes.ca

The Food Group Approach: We cook food, not nutrients

Working out nutrient and calorie levels can be too much sometimes on a busy day. Canada's food guide offers some simple guidelines for a healthier diet such as 
  • buying staple fresh foods from the essential food groups of vegetables and fruits, grains, meat, dairy, oils and unsaturated fats
  • avoiding excessive processed foods. 
  • eating one dark green vegetable and one orange fruit or vegetable daily if possible 
  • consuming fish once a week if possible
  • protein alternatives for vegetarians including beans, lentils and tofu

Ultimately consumers can take the common sense approach to adopt a nutritious diet and use available guidance as best suited to their health and lifestyle. 

Burnaby Food First is offering an interesting, relevant free workshop Fats: The good, the bad, the ugly. Please register for this if interested. 

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