Last month, The Downsview Advocate featured an excellent article by Anna Porretta about the new Canada Food Guide. Read it. The new Guide is a big improvement!
The benefits of a plant-based diet are recognized without hostility to meat. Even before the new Guide, Health Canada took a big leap forward by proposing to ban trans fats. Trans fats are not natural oils; they result from heat and processing. In the new Guide, the general trend away from animal fat to vegetable oil is a positive step, but here is one catch: in animals (primarily fish) omega-3 oil is more readily available than in vegetable oil.
For good health, good oils are super important. The Guide says nothing about the types and qualities of vegetable oils that we use for cooking and dressing salads.
Oil nutrition is complex. As with proteins and amino acids, our bodies make many of the nutrients we need, but some are essential in our diet because we can not make them on our own. The essential oils which our bodies need but cannot produce are in two families: omega-3’s and omega-6’s. Both are poly-unsaturated and therefore very delicate, easy to spoil with heat and light. Another valuable family consists of the omega-9’s, abundant in olive oil and avocados. Theoretically, in the right conditions, we can make our own omega-9, but only when omega-3 and 6 are in balance. Processed oils keep these two way, way out of balance.
Omega-6 is everywhere. The amount we eat overwhelms the omega-3 which is quite scarce. If a food product is advertised as a good source of omega-6, that is like saying, “Buy this car! It comes with four wheels!” This is not an oversimplification, but a good source of omega-6 translates to a bad source of omega-3.
It would be great if we could just eat the nut, the seed, the olive, the sardine and forget about what’s in the bottles.
Consider canola oil. Although canola seeds start out with a respectable proportion of omega-3, the extracted oil, like others, is so easily damaged in processing that the benefits get lost. In Canada, canola oil is a source of pride. Canada exported almost 3,000,000 tons of canola last year, more than half to the USA and almost a quarter of it to China. But if it is heat processed or hydrogenated or cooked, the omega-3 is partially converted to. . . guess what? . . . trans fat. Heat processing keeps the price down at a cost to health. That is part of the reason why in general, cheap oil is not healthful. On this matter, the Guide is silent.
*To read Anna Porretta’s article on new changes to Canada’s Food Guide, visit: https://www.downsviewadvocate.ca/2018/01/new-changes-canadas-food-guide-benefits-plant-based-diet/