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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.

 

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)

 

 

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