New year, new resolution and a new Canada’s Food Guide. “Eat well. Live well. Healthy eating is more than the foods you eat.” These are the bold messages in the new guide that was released in January. Based on the most up-to-date nutrition science, the guide provides an overview of not just what Canadians eat, but how they should eat. It starts with a simple picture of a plate of real food and eliminates the old serving sizes.
According to Health Canada, the history of Canada’s Food Guide goes back to the second world war when there was a shortage of food. The prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King introduced it in 1942 to fight diseases and manage food during the war. Since then, the country has become far more diversified and has welcomed new Canadians from all across the globe who brought with them their own culinary traditions. Canada has changed and so has the food guide.
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits ( half your plate)
- Eat protein foods ( a quarter of your plate)
- Choose whole-grain foods (a quarter of your plate)
- Make water your drink of choice
What has changed?
No more serving sizes and food group ideas. Instead of meat and dairy, you now see a protein category, and much emphasis is on plant-based protein sources such as beans, lentils and nuts, rather than animal-sourced foods such as milk and meat. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds, and get your carbohydrates from whole grains. One other big change is that water should be the drink of choice. Fruit juices and dairy products (except for yogurt) are no longer in the food guide. Only whole grain products are recommended. The new guide also focuses on reducing sugar intake, especially sugary beverages such as pop and sweetened milk. Juices are de-emphasized. It advised you to cut back on processed foods with saturated fat, as well. Fruit naturally contains a high amount of sugar therefore it is better to eat the flesh rather than drink the juice, since the fibre found in the flesh helps to eliminate sugar in the body. The new guide also warns against alcohol consumption, saying it “contributes a lot of calories with little to no nutritive value.”
There is also an emphasis on a more communal and healthful approach to eating, including:
- Cook more often at home
- Eat meals with others
- Take time to enjoy your food
- Don’t overeat
The de-emphasis of meat and dairy products has served to spark fierce opposition from those respective industries.
Understanding how food is processed and body fat formed
When food is eaten, our pancreas releases insulin which helps cells to take in glucose to be used for energy. If the body has sufficient energy, insulin signals the liver to take up glucose and store any excess as glycogen in our liver and muscles. However only about 1500 calories are stored, if we eat more than that they are converted into fat cells. Our body uses glycogen for fuel between meals. Think of this process as similar to when you go to the supermarket, buy food and then store it in the refrigerator (which acts as our glycogen). When the refrigerator is packed, you buy an extra freezer to store food in. The freezer acts like our fat cells.
We should be aware that every time we eat, our body releases insulin and it takes about three or four hours for the insulin level to decrease. The highest amount of insulin is released when you load up on sugar and carbohydrates. A lesser amount is released with protein intake and the least amount is released when fat is consumed. The more insulin released the less fat can be burned, since insulin helps bring energy to fat cells. The key to burning fat is to avoid making our bodies release too much insulin all the time.
To burn fat, we need to allow our bodies enough time to lower the insulin level. The gap between meals should be about three or four hours, and there should be at least a 12-hour break at night without any more food intake. If you like to snack, opt for choices that contain healthy fats such as avocadoes, olive oil, or nuts. Try not to eat anything four hours before going to sleep. During the 12-hour break, our bodies will start burning fat. That is how our natural circadian rhythm works. In ancient times, before electricity, people did not eat after dark. People who are constantly eating are more likely to become insulin resistant which might lead to diabetes.
“The key to burning fat is to avoid making our bodies release too much insulin all the time.”
Creatine and our health
The new food guide de-emphasizes red meat. People who are vegetarian or who have eliminated red meat completely from their diets might be low or deficient in a substance known as creatine. Creatine is a type of amino acid located mostly in our muscles as well as in the brain. It is produced by the liver, kidney and pancreas and it is important for providing energy and strength. Creatine is naturally found in red meat and fish and it is also available as a sports supplement. Recent studies show that not only young people who are body builders need creatine, but older adults especially need it to help retain muscle mass, bone density, strength, and better posture. Creatine is also good for the skin but whether it is good for our brains is still being researched.
Studies in the United States have demonstrated that, not factoring in physical exercise, taking creatine supplements increases performance in activities in daily living and muscle strength. When combined with resistance training it yields impressive results. However, supplements should only be taken after consulting with your doctor. For instance, individuals with a kidney condition should avoid protein from animals completely.
The Canada’s new food guide is a great guide. If you follow it closely, you will shed the extra weight that you are hoping to lose. You should also incorporate daily exercise into your lifestyle for a healthy, strong body and a cheery spirit.
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