by Kirk Schroder, Ellwood Thompson's Food Advocate

Drink lots of water. Significantly limit animal products. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Avoid processed foods. Limit booze. Beware of fruit juice: it's liquid water.

Canada has released its updated Dietary Guidelines for 2019. The guidelines were last revised in 2007. In a major move from past guidelines that emphasized meat and carbohydrates, these new guidelines emphasize replacing animal proteins and fats with plant-based foods. The guidelines do not establish food groups or serving sizes, but instead emphasize consuming whole, plant-based foods and avoiding most beverages except for water. Instead the guide focuses on proportions.

Among foods to be regularly consumed, Canadian health officials recommend plant-based proteins, fruits, and vegetables, including nuts, seeds, tofu, fish, eggs, and low-fat cheese and yogurt. Shifting eating habits away from animal-based foods and more towards plant-based foods reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, cited as a “serious public health concern.” Reducing intake of animal-based foods also encourages lower intakes of processed meats and saturated fats.

Dr. Gigi Osler, president of the Canadian Medical Association, praised the guide's overall direction and applauded the process used to ensure the guide's advice was based on "unbiased research."

Critics say that the guide does consider culture’s role in maintaining a healthy diet, but falls short of incorporating this effectively into its visuals or recipes. In particular, many consumers, especially in low economic circumstances, do not choose quality over quantity when making food choices. Cattle and dairy farmers fear new food guidelines could hurt their industries.

Otherwise, the new guidelines have drawn general praise, as the Calgary Herald writes:

We urge Health Canada to stay the course and resist food industry pressures to reduce the emphasis on consuming plant-based foods. Several evidence-based publications confirm the health benefits of predominantly plant-based diets, which have been shown to reduce the risk of many lifestyle diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity as well as certain types of cancer (such as breast, colon and prostate). Consumption of plant-based foods is also associated with greater longevity and healthy weight management.

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