news & trends

Ask a RD – How much caffeine is too much?

A person holding a the handle of a coffee mug. An image of Sue's face in the overlay.

Health Canada has set recommended maximum daily amounts of caffeine depending on your age. For children and teens under the age of 18, the recommended caffeine intake depends on their body weight. Consuming too much caffeine can lead to insomnia, irritability, nervousness and headaches. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, consider having less.

chart with caffeine recommendations for age groups

Caffeine is found naturally in coffee, tea, chocolate and certain flavourings such as guarana and yerba mate. Check out the caffeine content of some common foods and beverages to see where you’re at with your caffeine intake for the day. Keep in mind that many mugs and store bought drinks are larger than a standard cup.

chart with caffeine intake of foods and beverages

Do you have a food or nutrition question? Ask us and we’ll feature the answer in one of our next newsletters.

Written by: Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc, FDC ~ Award-winning dietitian and Co-founder, n4nn

Does diet affect erectile function?

A man in a blue shirt sitting on a couch and talking to a health professional

It’s the question you may have always wondered, but were too shy to ask!

June is Men’s Health Month, so let’s take a look at some of the research on this topic.

A study published in the Journal of the American Association Network Open journal suggests that a healthy dietary pattern may play a role in maintaining erectile function in men. Researchers from the University of California and Harvard University looked at the food and nutrient data from over 21,000 healthy men aged 40 to 75 who had no previous diagnosis of erectile dysfunction or diabetes or heart disease. The men were part of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The researchers found that men at all ages who followed a Mediterranean-style diet had the lowest risk of erectile dysfunction. A Mediterranean-style diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and fish.

Fruits and vegetables contain special plant nutrients called flavonoids.  Researchers in Greece found that eating fruits and vegetables lowered the risk for erectile dysfunction by 32% in men aged 18 to 40 years.

Another study from researchers in Spain looked at 83 healthy men aged 18-35. For 14 weeks, these men were asked to follow their usual diet and were divided into 2 groups – one group also ate 60 grams (about ½ cup) of nuts a day such as walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts; the other group of men did not eat nuts. The study found that a healthy diet supplemented with mixed nuts may help to improve erectile and sexual desire.

Bottom line: Fruits, vegetables and nuts are the foundation of an overall healthy diet that can benefit not only your heart health but also your sexual health.

 

Why Does Magnesium Matter for Health?

Image Source: Bigstock, Canva

Magnesium is a hot topic and clients are asking what does it do?

Magnesium is an important mineral in the body. It plays a role in over 300 body enzyme reactions. Its many functions include producing energy, making body protein, and building bones and teeth. Magnesium also supports muscle and nerve function by helping our muscles relax and contract. Magnesium has a role in regulating blood pressure, blood sugar levels and may help protect against heart disease. Magnesium helps maintain a healthy immune response.

Magnesium is becoming a hot topic lately because research shows that many people are not getting enough magnesium in their diet. More than 34% of Canadians over the age of 19 consume less magnesium that would meet their nutrient requirement. [1] Although a true deficiency is rare in healthy people, because the body can compensate for lower magnesium intakes by reducing its loss in the urine and taking magnesium from deposits stored in your bones.  If you don’t consume enough magnesium, a concern is that you may not have enough of this important mineral stored to keep yourself healthy and protect your body against heart disease and immune disorders. [2]

How much magnesium do you need?[3]

Adult men need 400-420 milligrams daily and adult women need 310-320 milligrams magnesium every day.

Supplements provide non-food sources of magnesium. The tolerable upper intake level for non-food sources of magnesium is 350 milligrams / day. This amount would be in addition to the magnesium provided by food. Consult with your doctor or dietitian if you have any questions about non-food sources of magnesium in your diet. This is especially important because magnesium supplements can interact with some medications, so do discuss supplements with a health care provider before taking one.

Where is magnesium found in food? [4]

Magnesium is found in many foods.

The best sources of magnesium are nuts and seeds. Here are some examples:

  • Pumpkin seeds, ¼ cup (60 mL) of has 317 mg magnesium (about 10 medium nuts) [5]
  • Brazil nuts ¼ cup (60 mL) has 133 mg magnesium
  • Nuts (almonds, pine nuts, cashews, mixed nuts etc.) ¼ cup (60 mL) have 79-98 mg magnesium
  • Soybeans (edamame) frozen or prepared ¾ cup (175mL) has 73 mg magnesium

Other magnesium-rich foods are dark green leafy veggies including spinach and Swiss chard with
½ cup (125 mL) cooked dark greens delivering about 80 mg magnesium.

Magnesium is also found in legumes (dried beans, peas, lentils), grain foods like fortified breakfast cereals, bread, rice; soy foods like soymilk and tofu; peanut butter, avocados, potatoes, dairy yogurt and milk.

Bottom line

About one third of Canadians consume less than the average requirement for magnesium. Be sure to include plenty of magnesium rich foods in your diet. Inadequate nutrient intake can lead to nutrient deficiencies that may negatively affect the quality of your life.

Do you have a food or nutrition question? Ask us and we’ll feature it in our Ask a Dietitian posts. Registered Dietitians are the most trusted food and nutrition experts who are committed to helping Canadians enjoy nutritious, sustainable, and affordable and healthy eating.

Written by Lucia Weiler, BSc, RD, PHEc, Award-winning dietitian and Co-Founder, n4nn

 

[1] Health Canada (2012) Do Canadian Adults Meet Their Nutrient Requirements Through Food Intake Alone? Available at

art-nutr-adult-eng.pdf (canada.ca)

[2] Duyff Academy of Food and Nutrition (2017) Complete Food & Nutrition Guide

[3] Dietitians of Canada-UnlockFood.ca (2019) What You Need to Know About Magnesium Available at What You Need to Know About Magnesium – Unlock Food

[4] Alberta Health Services (2019) Magnesium and Your Diet. Available at Magnesium and Your Diet (albertahealthservices.ca)

[5] Government of Canada, Health Canada, Canadian Nutrient File https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/serving-portion.do?id=2544

What are plant sterols?

A heart shaped bowl filled with broccoli, blueberries and kiwi. A small headshot of Sue is in the photo with the caption reading "What are plant sterols?"

Plant sterols are also called “phytosterols” (phtyo means plant). They’re like cousins to cholesterol because they have a similar structure, and are found naturally (in tiny amounts) in plant-based foods – such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and vegetable oils.

If you have high blood cholesterol, plant sterols may be beneficial because they’ve been shown to decrease the levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol (Low Density Lipoprotein cholesterol) – this is the type of cholesterol that is a risk factor for heart disease.

In the body, plant sterols partially block the absorption of cholesterol. The cholesterol gets removed as waste (i.e. in our feces) which then results in an overall lower level of LDL cholesterol in your blood.

So, how much plant sterol is needed for this benefit? Research shows that eating 2 grams (2,000 milligrams) of plant sterols every day can lower LDL cholesterol levels by 8-10%. This amount is nearly impossible to get with regular foods since a typical healthy diet only contains about 200-400 milligrams of plant sterols.

To get 2,000 milligrams of plant sterols a day, you’ll need to consume foods and beverages that are fortified with plant sterols. In Canada, foods fortified with plant sterols include mayonnaise, margarine, salad dressing, yogurt, yogurt drinks, vegetable juice and fruit juice. A serving of these foods may contain up to 1 gram (1,000 milligrams) of plant sterols, so read package labels to check the exact amount. Plant sterol supplements are another option.

Plant sterols from food and / or supplements are not a substitute for a heart healthy diet or cholesterol-lowering medications. Always check with your doctor first before consuming foods or supplements with plant sterols because your medications may need to be adjusted.

Want to learn more about heart health?

What’s the difference between cholesterol and trigylcerides?

World Health Organization tackles salt reduction with first ever global benchmarks

Written by Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc, FDC – Award-winning dietitian and Co-Founder, n4nn

Ingredients for a healthier tomorrow – Nutrition Month 2022

Image Source: Dietitians of Canada

 

Canadians are looking for healthier ways of eating, a healthier planet and affordable food. To celebrate the 40th annual Nutrition Month, dietitians are focusing on the connection between food, public health and the environment. The sustainability movement has been growing in Canada and around the world. In this blog we define some key ingredients for a healthier tomorrow and sustainable food system.

Key Ingredients for a healthier tomorrow [1]

You probably know that dietitians provide life changing advice on nutrition and food choices to manage illness and promote health. But many dietitians are also involved in these areas of sustainability that could help create a healthier tomorrow.

  • Improved Food Security
    • “Food and nutrition security exists when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to food, which is safe and consumed in sufficient quantity and quality to meet their dietary needs and food preferences, and is supported by an environment of adequate sanitation, health services and care, allowing for a healthy and active life.”[2]
  • Food Literacy
    • “Food literacy includes five main interconnected components: food and nutrition knowledge; food skills; self-efficacy and confidence; food decisions; and external factors such as the food system, social determinants of health, and socio-cultural influences and eating practices.”[3]
  • Food Sovereignty
    • “Food Sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.”[4]
  • Sustainable Food Choices (Diets)
    • “Sustainable Diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources”[5]
  • Sustainable Food Systems
    • A food system that delivers food and nutrition security for all in such a way that the economic, social and environmental bases to generate food security and nutrition for future generations are not compromised.”[6]  Figure 1 summarizes what sustainable food systems look like in Canada.

Figure 1. Source: Dietitians of Canada (2022) Nutrition Month Activity Guide

How to join the conversation and support action  

It can be challenging to know where to start with change towards a healthier you and a healthier planet. The Dietitians of Canada share 5 tips for reducing the environmental footprint of your diet:

  1. Reduce food waste
    Check out our tips to Double down on reducing food waste, Put the freeze on food waste, and
  2. Eat to satisfy your hunger and support your health
    Read more tips on 5 smart snacks and What’s Your Food Personality? 
  3. Buy local products
    Read more about the meaning of local!
  4. Choose a healthy and balanced diet
    Read our highlights from a sustainable eating conference
  5. Talk to a dietitian for credible, life changing advice
    Read more about Why work with a dietitian?

Do you have a food or nutrition question? Ask us and we’ll feature it in our Ask a Dietitian posts. Registered Dietitians are the most trusted food and nutrition experts who are committed to helping Canadians enjoy nutritious, sustainable, and affordable and healthy eating.

 

Written by Lucia Weiler, BSc, RD, PHEc, Award-winning dietitian and Co-Founder, n4nn

[1] Dietitians of Canada (2022) Nutrition Month Activity Guide https://www.dietitians.ca/News/2022/Nutrition-Month-2022-Ingredients-for-a-Healthier-T

[2] Committee on World Food Security, Food and Agriculture Organization (2012) https://www.fao.org/3/MD776E/MD776E.pdf

[3] Nutrition Connections. Effective education strategies to increase food and nutrition knowledge in children and youth (2019) https://nutritionconnections.ca/resources/effective-education-strategies-to-increase-food-and-nutrition-knowledge-in-children-and-youth/

[4] What is Food Sovereignty. Food Secure Canada (Accessed 2022) https://foodsecurecanada.org/who-we-are/what-food-sovereignty

[5] Burlingame B, Dernini S. Sustainable Diets and Biodiversity: Directions and Solutions for Policy, Research and Action. (2012) https://www.fao.org/3/i3004e/i3004e.pdf

[6] Nutrition and Food Systems. A report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security (2017) https://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/hlpe/hlpe_documents/HLPE_Reports/HLPE-Report-12_EN.pdf

What are your thoughts on the Dirty Dozen?

 

A women shopping for veggies at a grocery store. A headshot of Sue is overlayed with the text.

Have you heard about the Dirty Dozen? Let’s take a closer look at this and what it means for you and your family.

What exactly is the Dirty Dozen?

The Dirty Dozen is an annual list created by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a United States-based environmental advocacy organization. The list ranks the top 12 conventionally grown fruits and vegetables in the United States that they claim should be avoided due to pesticide residues.

But what the Dirty Dozen list doesn’t tell us is how much residual pesticide is actually on the produce. We need this information to figure out if the amount we’re eating is at a level that could harm our health.

So what about pesticides?

Pesticides are substances that can be from either synthetic or natural sources, and are used on foods to protect them from diseases and pests such as insects and weeds. With the help of pesticides, farmers are able to grow safe, affordable and abundant food for Canadians.

As a dietitian, I worry that the Dirty Dozen list may cause food fear. The fact is both organic and conventional farmers use pesticides to control pests. Just because a pesticide residue is present, doesn’t mean that it poses a risk to our health. In fact, detection technology is now so sophisticated that it can detect parts per billion (think a drop of water in an Olympic size swimming pool). And, Canada has one of the most stringent regulatory systems in the world for pesticides. Before a pesticide can even be used on a food product, Health Canada assesses the health impact of any pesticide residues that may be in or on the food. It even takes into account the sensitivities of specific subsets of the population like infants, children and pregnant women.

Health Canada also sets Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs), which is the maximum amount of pesticide residue that is allowed to remain on a product when it is used according to the pesticide label – and these residue limits are typically set at least 100 times or more below levels that would have any impact on human health.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency inspects domestic and imported foods for pesticide residues. Over 99% of the food that is tested is below the MRLs. And in rare cases where the residue level is above the MRL, it does not pose a health risk as the MRL is set significantly below any level of concern.

My advice

We all want and deserve safe, nutritious and affordable food for ourselves and our families. Here are some things to consider if you’re concerned about pesticides.

  • Put the Dirty Dozen list in perspective. Health Canada states that there is no health risk from eating conventionally grown foods because of pesticide residues. Use this Pesticide Residue Calculator which shows you the number of servings of different fruits and vegetables that we could eat and still not have any adverse effects from pesticide residues. For example, a child could eat 181 servings of strawberries a day (or 1,448 strawberries) without any adverse effects from pesticide residues!
  • Wash fruits and veggies very well under cold water. This helps to remove dirt, bacteria, and any tiny amounts of residues which may be on the outer layers of the produce. There’s no need to use soap or detergent. You can also peel the skin on fruits and veggies, however keep in mind that you’d also be peeling away some fibre and nutrients, as well as contributing to food waste.
  • Feel good about the food you eat! Enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables every day that are tasty and affordable. Whether they’re organic or conventionally grown, both options are safe, nutritious and important for good health.

 

Written by Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc, FDC – Award-winning dietitian & Co-Founder, n4nn

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post with CropLife Canada. The information shared in the blog are my opinions based on my review of this topic. I consult only with companies which align with my personal and professional values.

 

Why work with a dietitian?

DIETITIANS SERVICES (SOURCE DIETITIANS OF CANADA)

Nutrition is a hot topic. You may have a growing desire for better nutrition as a way to improve your healthy and productivity.  Research shows that nutrition counselling with a dietitian is a good investment for your health and wellness. Here are some common questions we get asked about working with a dietitian.

Why should I consult a dietitian?

Dietitians translate scientific research into practical solutions. They work with you to help you feel your best. Dietitians can provide:

  • Tips and healthy recipes to help you plan, shop for and cook healthy meals for your family
  • Information to help you interpret food labels, the latest food trends and diets
  • Support to improve your relationship with food and be mindful of your eating habits
  • Individualized Counselling to help you:
    • manage your weight, food allergies and intolerances or digestive issues
    • get the most from your workouts
    • prevent and manage chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer and kidney disease
  • Guidance on how to feed your baby, a “picky” eater, or an active teenager
  • Advice on whether you need a vitamin or mineral supplement based on your health needs.

Why are nutrition services important?

Health concerns are on the rise

  • 44% of Canadians over age 20 have at least 1 chronic health condition
  • 11 million Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes
  • More than 2.6 million Canadians suffer from food allergies

Canadians want better nutrition

Canadians are increasingly more aware of their food choices, shopping smarter, and opting for better nutrition now more than ever before.  Although provincial health plans don’t provide adequate coverage, many employee and private health insurance plans cover Registered Dietitian led Nutrition Counselling sessions.

Manage your Health

Good nutrition improves health and reduces health risks that can lead to illness or high prescription drug use.

  • Lowers risk for and helps manage type 2 diabetes
  • Improves weight, blood pressure, cholesterol levels
  • Controls digestive issues and food allergies

Your best choice for nutrition services are Registered Dietitians…hands down!

Dietitians are Specialized

Dietitians must pass university and licensing exams, undergo rigorous practical training, and commit to staying on top of emerging research, skills and techniques in food, nutrition and health.

Dietitians are Regulated

Dietitians are the only nutrition practitioners that are licensed and regulated in every province in Canada. Just like a nurse or physiotherapist, dietitians hold a protected designation. Look for the letters RD (registered dietitian) or PDt (professional dietitian) DT.I or Dt.P, after your health care professional’s name depending on the province.

Dietitians are Health Care Professionals

Dietitians belong to a national association that promotes the highest level of professional standards through extensive training, knowledge sharing and a powerful evidence-based nutrition database – a leading resource for nutrition professionals around the world.

A Dietitian can unlock the power of food for your healthy living. Ask us how. Connect with us

What’s the difference between cholesterol and triglycerides?

Ask the dietitian image of Lucia Weiler RD over a heart shaped bowl with berries and stethoscope

You’ve probably heard of high blood cholesterol, but have you heard of high blood triglycerides?

Cholesterol and triglycerides are important measures of heart health.  Both cholesterol and triglycerides are different types of lipids that circulate in the blood, but elevated levels of both can raise your risk for heart disease. Here is a rundown of the difference between cholesterol and triglycerides, and why they matter for your heart health.

Definitions & Why it Matters

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in some foods and in your blood. Your liver makes most of the blood cholesterol and it produces enough for your needs. Cholesterol is part of every cell in your body and some hormones. Cholesterol is needed to help your body digest and absorb fat.

Too much cholesterol in the blood can build up inside arteries, forming what is known as plaque. Large amounts of plaque increase your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

Triglycerides are a type of fat found in some foods as well as in your body. Triglyceride is a term that describes the structure of a fat, which is made up of 3 fatty acids and a glycerol backbone. (See summary chart for diagram). When you eat, your body converts any excess calories you don’t need to use right away into triglycerides for a longer-term energy source. Triglycerides are mostly stored in your fat cells and are commonly deposited beneath the skin and around some internal organs. Some triglycerides circulate in the blood.

You need some triglycerides for good health. But high triglycerides might raise your risk of heart disease. High blood triglycerides may contribute to hardening of the arteries or thickening of the artery walls (arteriosclerosis) — which increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and heart disease.

What’s the best way to lower your blood cholesterol and triglycerides?

Healthy lifestyle choices are KEY low lower the risk of heart disease.  Bringing your blood cholesterol and triglyceride numbers down takes effort and commitment. Here are some things you can do.

Top 5 ways to lower cholesterol:

  • Choose foods that are lower in saturated fats like fish, lean cuts of meat and poultry, and lower fat milk and dairy products.
  • Eat a variety of heart healthy foods. Choose more vegetables, fruit, high fibre whole grains, beans, chickpeas, lentils, soy products, nuts and seeds.
  • If you smoke – quit all types of smoking.
  • Be physically active on most, preferable all days of the week.
  • Maintain a body weight that is healthy for you.

Top 5 ways to lower triglycerides:

  • Limit fast releasing carbohydrates like candy, sweet snack foods, and baked goods made with highly refined white flours.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink. Even small amounts of alcohol can raise triglycerides.
  • Include heart healthy fats such as olive oil, fatty fish, nuts, seeds and avocados.
  • Focus on boosting veggies and high fibre foods such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, seeds and whole grains every day.
  • Enhance your fitness routine. Find moderate to vigorous activities you enjoy (such as cycling, running, brisk walking, swimming, etc.) and aim for at least 150 minutes per week which is about 40 minutes 4 times a week or 50 minutes 3 times a week.

Talk with your registered dietitian or contact us to discuss your blood lipid numbers and develop a personalized plan for keeping a healthy heart.

summary chart cholesterol and triglycerides

References:

 

Written by: Lucia Weiler, BSc, RD – Award-winning dietitian and Co-Founder, n4nn

 

Does Vitamin K help with bone health?

Vitamin K rich foods such as beets, avocado, Brussels sprouts and leafy greens. A headshot of Sue is in the middle with the words Ask a Dietitian.

Vitamin K was first discovered for its blood clotting or coagulation effect. In fact, the “K” stands for the German spelling of “koagulation.”

Not only does vitamin K help you blood clot when you’re bleeding, but it also does help to build strong bones. Research published in the Journal of Osteoporosis and the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research from the found that low vitamin K may be linked to low bone density and a higher risk of hip fractures. Other bone building nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D are also key for bone health.

There are actually 2 forms of Vitamin K.

Vitamin K1 is found mostly in plant foods especially leafy greens like kale, spinach, collards, Swiss chard and beet greens. This form of Vitamin K1 is called phylloquinone.

Vitamin K2 is found in animal foods (like meat, cheese) and also in fermented foods such as natto (fermented soybeans), tempeh, miso and sauerkraut. This form of vitamin K2 is called menaquinone and there are many different subgroups ranging from MK4 to MK13. Vitamin K2 seems to have the greatest impact on bone health.

Adults need 90-120 micrograms of vitamin K every day. You can get this amount from ½ cup of broccoli or 4 Brussels sprouts or ¼ cup of raw kale, a few servings of cheese or natto.

Now what about supplements? If you have osteoporosis or are at risk for osteoporosis, a vitamin K supplement might be helpful. Check with your health care professional or dietitian because vitamin K can interfere with blood thinner medications such as warfarin.

 

Written by: Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc, FDC – Award-winning Registered Dietitian & Co-Founder, n4nn

What are postbiotics?

 

postbiotic foods in with ask a dietitian title and lucia's image

Postbiotics are one of the hottest topics and the newest member of the ‘biotic’ family! You have heard of prebiotics which are the food for bacteria and probiotics which are beneficial live bacteria. Now we have postbiotics which are the substances that live bacteria produce. The news around postbiotics is how these end products of bacterial metabolism can have therapeutic benefits.

Bacteria with benefits – PRE, PRO, and POST biotics

Like all living things, bacteria need the right environment to survive and produce something. You may be wondering how prebiotics, probiotics and now postbiotics are related to each other. And how are postbiotics connected to the trending business of fermented foods and supplements?

  • Pre-biotics are FOOD for the bacteria. In the food we eat, prebiotic compounds are not digested but provide fuel for gut bacteria to grow to support health. Some foods naturally high in prebiotics are also a source of fibre such as whole grains, fruit, vegetables, beans and legumes. Examples include Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, garlic, onion, asparagus, cabbage, chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans and soybeans.
  • Pro-biotics are LIVE organisms that have scientifically proven health benefits if consumed in adequate amounts. Foods that contain probiotics (live friendly bacteria) include fermented dairy (yogurt, kefir) and fermented vegetables (uncooked sauerkraut, traditional kimchi). Probiotics are also available as dietary supplements.
  • Post-biotics are compounds that bacteria produce as part of their life cycle and metabolism. For example, bacteria and yeast strains used in fermentation generate postbiotic compounds. These include short-chain fatty acids, functional proteins along with discarded matter from the microorganisms themselves, which include cell wall components. Postbiotics also include nutrients such as vitamins B and K, amino acids and substances called antimicrobial peptides that help to slow down the growth of harmful bacteria.

Postbiotics are studied closely for potential health benefits. They may help reduce digestive symptoms, optimize gut flora and advance the immune response of the colon’s lining by improving gut barrier function. Researchers are also looking at anti-inflammatory, antiobesogenic, antihypertensive, hypocholesterolemic, antiproliferative and antioxidant activities.

Although scientists and gut experts have known about postbiotics and their benefits for years, no regulators have provided a definition for postbiotics or a framework specific to postbiotic-containing foods or food supplements. However, a proposed definition was recently published by a team of experts who defined postbiotics as a “preparation of inanimate microorganisms and/or their components that confers a health benefit on the host.”  The expert panel determined that a definition of postbiotics is useful so that scientists, industry, regulators and consumers have common ground for future activity in this area. It’s hoped that a generally accepted definition will lead to regulatory clarity and promote innovation and the development of new postbiotic products (Salmien et al.).

What can you say about biotics?

Terms such a prebiotic and probiotic may suggest a food provides a specific health benefit and are therefore considered health claims. Health claims are subject to the Canadian Food and Drugs regulations and must not be false, misleading or deceptive. These implied health claims are only acceptable when accompanied by a statement of the specific and measurable health benefit conferred by the prebiotic substance, as demonstrated in humans (Health Canada).

Postbiotics are likely to be the next health-boosting compound for digestive health and more. They have the advantage of longer shelf life in comparison to live, active probiotics.  However postbiotics are not yet regulated in many countries. Consult a food labelling expert for guidance.

Bottom line: 

The biotic family supports a healthy gut. For optimal health, scientists recommend a combination approach—prebiotic fiber to feed gut bacteria as well as live probiotics to provide specific health benefits and create postbiotic compounds.

Connect with us (Info@n4nn.ca) and let’s work together for your innovation journey.  As dietitians, we can support you and your business in taking meaningful steps toward health and wellness.

 

References:

  1. Salminen, S.,et al. (2021). The International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) consensus statement on the definition and scope of postbiotics. Nature reviews. Gastroenterology & hepatology18(9), 649–667. Accessed  Dec 9, 2021 from  https://doi.org/10.1038/s41575-021-00440-6
  2. Golen, T., Riccotti H. (2021). What are postbiotics? Harvard Health Publishing. Accessed Dec 9, 2021 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/nutrition/what-are-postbiotics
  3. Hermann, M. (2020). Discover the World of Postbiotics, Today’s Dietitian Vol. 22 (6):20.
  4. Health Canada (2019). Health claims on food labels / Prebiotic claims, Probiotic claims. Accessed Dec 9, 2021 from Health claims on food labels – Food label requirements – Canadian Food Inspection Agency (canada.ca)

 

 

Is it OK to eat processed foods?

head shot of Sue on a background collage of grocery cart

In short, the answer is YES! As Registered Dietitians, we believe that all foods can be part of a healthy diet, in sensible amounts. But there are actually different categories of processed foods, and some are better choices than others. Let’s break it down.

When you hear the term “processed foods”, you may automatically think of foods that come in a box or package. There’s more to the term “processed foods” though. Scientists at the School of Public Health at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil developed a classification system called NOVA (it’s not an acronym) that groups foods into 4 different categories depending on the extent of the processing:

  1. Unprocessed or Minimally Processed Foods:

Unprocessed foods have not undergone any changes whatsoever. Some examples are fresh fruit and veggies as well as plain unseasoned fish and meats. Minimally processed foods are essentially unprocessed foods that have been cleaned, dried, ground, pasteurized, fermented or frozen. No oils, fats, sugars, salt or other substances have been added to the original food. Dried fruit, frozen veggies, dried beans, dried herbs and ground spices are just a few examples of minimally processed foods. Both unprocessed and minimally processed foods should from the foundation of a healthy, balanced diet.

  1. Processed Culinary Ingredients:

    These are oils, fats, salt and sugars. These ingredients have been extracted from whole foods using processes such as pressing, grinding, refining and crushing. Vegetable oils for example are made from crushed seeds, nuts and fruit. Table sugar and molasses are obtained from sugarcane or sugar beet. Maple syrup is extracted from maple trees, and sea salt is mined from sea water. 

  1. Processed Foods:

    These are unprocessed foods with added oils, fats, salt or sugars. Most processed foods have just 2 or 3 ingredients. Some examples are salted nuts, smoked fish, fruit packed in syrup, pickled veggies, and homemade / bakery-made bread. These foods can still be enjoyed as part of an overall healthy diet. 

  1. Ultra-processed Foods:

    Most ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat products would be considered as ultra-processed foods. These are foods that are made by a series of processes and have extra ingredients such as oils, fats, salt, sugars, additives, colours, flavours, emulsifiers and thickeners. Some examples are cake mixes, packaged pasta dishes, frozen entrées, reconstituted meat products and seasoned packaged snacks. While these foods can be convenient, enjoy them occasionally and in sensible amounts.

Do you have a question about food or nutrition? Ask us (info@NutritionForNonNutritionists.com) and we’ll answer it in a future blog!

Ask the Dietitian: Is there any nutritional benefit to coconut sugar or date sugar?

Coconut sugar (Istock)

Date sugar (Bing)

You may have seen recipes that say ingredients like coconut sugar and date sugar contribute nutritional benefits. Although there are a few elements in these sugars that make them different from regular sugars, in reality, coconut sugar and date sugar are almost identical to regular cane sugar in terms of nutrients and calories. Both consist mainly of sugars, which are simple carbohydrates. Diabetes Canada states sugars may be eaten in moderation by people with diabetes but there is no advantage to those with diabetes in using one type of sugar over another.

Coconut sugar is also called palm sugar and comes from the dehydrated sap of the coconut palm. Coconut sugar may contain some trace minerals found in the coconut palm like iron, zinc, magnesium and B-Vitamins.  These nutrients support good health, but coconut sugar does not contain enough of them per serving to offer a measurable benefit. Coconut sugar also contains inulin, a type of soluble fibre. Fibre is a more complex type of carbohydrate and it slows down the absorption of the sweetener which is linked to a lower risk of blood sugar spikes.  Coconut sugar may impart a nutty flavor and is recommended as a substitute for brown sugar in food preparation.

Date sugar is simply dried dates ground into a fine powder. Date sugar has the trace nutrients found in whole dates, including potassium, calcium, and antioxidants. The fibre in a teaspoon of date sugar is nutritionally insignificant. The main drawback to date sugar is that it doesn’t melt or dissolve completely in water, so its uses are somewhat limited. Replacing brown sugar in recipes, such as banana bread and bar cookies, or sprinkling some on yogurt or fruit are suggested uses.

Bottom line: If you prefer to use coconut sugar or date sugar, go ahead and enjoy it. But remember it’s really just like eating another type of sugar. It provides just as many calories and carbohydrates as regular sugar: about 15 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrate per teaspoon. All added sugars should only be used in moderation. Speak to a dietitian about your personal nutrition questions.

Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Today’s Dietitian, Diabetes Canada

Ask a Dietitian – What’s the Difference between Free Run and Free Range Eggs?

Small headshot of Sue Mah over-layed on a background of brown and white eggs. The Ask a Dietitian question is typed within a green box.

This is such a common question, thanks for asking us!

Eggs are a nutrient-packed food, and with so many choices these days, it can be confusing to know what they all mean.

Free run and free range describe the type of housing for the hens which laid the eggs.

Free run eggs come from hens that roam the entire barn floor, and some of these barns may have multi-tired aviaries.

Free range eggs come from hens that also roam the entire barn floor. And when the weather permits, the hens also have access to outdoors.

You may have seen these other types of eggs at the grocery store too:

Organic eggs come from hens which are raised free range and they’re also fed a certified organic feed.

Omega-3 eggs are nutritionally-enhanced or vitamin-enhanced eggs. The hens were fed a special diet with certain nutrients or ingredients (such as flaxseed), so that their eggs actually contain higher amounts of these healthy omega-3 fats.

Whichever eggs you choose, know that they all contain essential nutrients such as protein, iron, folate, choline, vitamin A and vitamin D.

What would you like to ask a dietitian? Comment below or send us an email, and we’ll answer it in a future blog.

 

– By Sue Mah, MHSc, RD, PHEc, FDC