After years of research analysis, stakeholder and public consultation, and message testing, Health Canada has published an updated version of Canada's Food Guide.
According to the new food guide, the foundation for healthy eating is:
Vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and protein foods should be consumed regularly. Among protein foods, consume plant-based more often.
Foods that contain mostly unsaturated fat should replace foods that contain mostly saturated fat.
Water should be the beverage of choice.
Health Canada explains that plant-based eating patterns typically result in higher intakes of vegetables, fruit, nuts, soy protein, and fibre, and lower intake of processed meat and foods that contain mostly saturated fat. Eating plant-based foods is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes, and improved blood lipid levels.
Saturated fat is found almost entirely in animal foods, while unsaturated fat is found in plant foods like nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oil. According to the food guide, replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat decreases LDL cholesterol, which is a well-established risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Notably, right in the food guide, Health Canada emphasizes policy changes that support healthy, plant-strong eating.
Guideline two states that “Foods and beverages offered in publicly funded institutions should align with Canada’s Dietary Guidelines”. Currently, schools, hospitals, prisons, and more serve foods that undermine health. This common sense but groundbreaking recommendation will help convince decision makers to change their menus.
Guideline three states that “Food labels should be promoted as a tool to help Canadians make informed food choices”. Consumers can make better choices when they understand how to read nutrition panels and ingredients lists. Government has a role to play in educating Canadians about healthy diets.
It so happens that eating patterns that emphasize plant-based foods are also better for our planet: animal farming is a leading contributor to climate change, ocean degradation, water pollution, fresh water usage, species extinction, and more. And eating plants is better for the animals themselves, who are spared from the misery of being farmed under callous intensive conditions.
Canada's groundbreaking new food guide—emphasizing plant-based eating and related policy changes—is a triple win for health, environment and animals. It will support Canadians in creating a healthier, greener, kinder future.