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The Controversy Explained: Canada’s New Food Guide

Yesterday, Health Canada introduced a new Food Guide, which is the equivalent of the USDA’s Food Guide, previously known as the “Food Pyramid.”

Although this new guide is not perfect, we could rightfully say that it’s a little miracle that it got published!

What’s the hype (and controversy) behind it?

1) Dairy products have been downgraded. They no longer are a group of their own but are now included in the “protein” category. It’s no longer a recommendation to consume these products.

2) There’s a definite recommendation to consume plant protein rather than animal protein.

3) No industry leader was allowed at the roundtable of discussion leading up to the new guide.

4) The recommendation is to avoid processed foods, and foods high in sodium, sugar and saturated fats.

5) Half of the plate, visually, should be composed of fruits and vegetables.

Of course, the guide is not perfect. But it’s as perfect as such a guide can be when done by government agencies and to be followed by the population at large.

What Could Be Improved?

The most obvious problem with the guide is that it still uses misleading words instead of telling people what not to eat. For example, the guide tells us to avoid foods high in sodium or saturated fats. But for most people, “saturated fats” does not mean much. It should be stated instead that we should avoid animal products and plant foods rich in saturated fats, such as coconut and palm oil.

The word “processed food” is also used, when it should be more obvious what those are. For examples, oils should be identified as processed foods.

It should also be clear which foods are high in sodium, such as bread, bakeries, and pretty much anything that is served in a restaurant or sold in a box.

And of course, I would personally not include dairy products (and other types of animal products at all in the category of “foods to eat” and instead put them in a separate category of “foods to avoid or to consume as little as possible.”

That might be for the next guide. And what’s next for the US’s guide? Who knows if Canada’s example will influence them. I wouldn’t expect it.

The most extraordinary aspect of the guide is its overt promotion of a plant-based diet, and the downgrade of dairy products from an essential part of our diet to a non-essential “protein food.”

Canada has a large dairy industry that spends a lot on trying to convince the public that their products are essential. It’s a massive blow to this industry! The incredible thing is that they weren’t able to influence Health Canada, as they’ve done in the past.

What do you think of Canada’s new guide and how the US might follow lead (or not)?

Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude
Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.