On July 30, 2019, the Government of Canada released an update to the Canada Food Guide. The new version has seen many overhauls from its 2007 predecessor. One of the most noteworthy changes, apart from some necessary aesthetic touches, was an increase in the quantity of alternative proteins, such as legumes and pulses, and a decrease in dairy and meat. The food guide explicitly encourages Canadians to “choose protein foods that come from plants more often.” While this may seem like a minor blip on the radar, the reveal of this food guide comes at a key time in contemporary history.
A report released by the United Nations in August indicates why these changes to the Guide are so important. In addition to polluting waterways with excess fertilizer use and enabling the deforestation of important landscapes, the rearing of animals for consumption, most significantly beef and pork, is responsible for more global methane emissions than all cars, trucks and airplanes combined!
And at what cost? By way of nutritional content, a comprehensive study of 119 countries showed that meat and dairy contribute to only 18% of all food calories and fulfill only about ⅓ of protein requirements. However, they use up 83% of potential farmland and produce 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gases. Moreover, most of the dwindling farmland holds crops to feed livestock, such as corn and soy, inciting the question of why humans are not consuming these nutritious crops instead.
In addition to the environmental impacts, health issues related to diets high in processed meat are also a concern. Effectively, heart disease, stroke and cancer have all been linked to diets rich in meat products, and contribute to long-term morbidity and strain on the healthcare system. As such, this updated Food Guide kills two birds with one stone: it acts as a major opportunity to aid in mitigating and adapting to climate change, as well as to optimize human health.
Consumers today are more aware of the impact of their dietary choices on the environment, with many choosing to adopt the increasingly-popular “flexitarian” diet as a way to reduce their impact. And while meat and dairy, are important food staples and integral to many Canadians’ daily diets, the new inclusions to the Food Guide can be seen as an important opportunity for Canadians to increase their awareness and make healthier dietary choices for themselves and the environment over the long run.
Have you been following the newly updated Food Guide?
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