Diet focus shifts to sustainability

OTTAWA — Good nutrition has gone beyond food to supporting the health of the planet.

Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, economically fair and affordable, said Joanne Gallagher, assistant director for nutrition with Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Sustainability cannot be ignored but Gallagher worries people are not eating well for many reasons.

“This is a perennial issue worldwide where people in general are not meeting their country’s food guidelines. I am not sure if we have the answer to remedy that,” she said in an interview at a recent Dairy Farmers of Canada meeting on sustainability in Ottawa.

She encourages people not to reject dairy products.

Dairy is a staple of Canadian diets. Once new immigrants acclimatize to Canadian culture, they also tend to serve more dairy.

Gallagher described dairy products as a nutritional bargain, with food guides around the world recommending more milk consumption and calling it a good source of calcium, protein, riboflavin and Vitamin B12.

There is also scientific evidence to support claims that consuming milk, cheese and yogurt helps reduce the risk of diseases such as colorectal cancer. The risk of Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and stroke are reduced with greater dairy intake.

A Harvard University study found osteoporosis and hip fracture risks were also lowered with higher milk consumption.

Currently, food guides are em-phasizing environmental sustain-ability in food production as well as attempts to encourage lower consumption and reduce food waste.

Gallagher expects Canada’s food guide to be much different than in the past, with a new approach to food quantity and quality.

“It is not changing the overall foods, but choosing more nutrient rich foods,” she said.

Gary Hulob of Health Canada said consultations on a new guide continue, with the emphasis on a healthy eating strategy rather than prescribed recommendations.

In 2018, part one of the new diet-ary policy report for health professionals and policy makers will be released, comprising of general healthy eating recommendations.

In 2019, the new dietary guidance policy report should be ready to outline healthy eating patterns, including recommended amounts and types of foods.

A publication from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization released in 2010 called Sustainable Diets and Biodiversity talked about the need for a shift to more sustainable food systems and diets to protect people’s health and the environment.

With more than nine billion people expected in the world by 2050, the need for food is great but it is likely to come with the continuing degradation of the planet’s re-sources, said the report.

Some countries have already developed recommendations for increased consumption of plant products and local food production, reduction of red meat and processed meat consumption as well as reduced selection of highly processed and sugar sweetened drinks.

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