Canada’s ex­pected diet plan can be path for U.S.

It is ex­pected Health Canada will rec­om­mend a more ve­gan diet in 2018

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - HEATHER MOORE Heather Moore is a se­nior writer for the PETA Foun­da­tion, 501 Front St., Nor­folk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org. In­for­ma­tion about PETA’s fund­ing may be found at www.peta.org/about/num­bers.asp.

Know what would re­ally make Amer­ica great? If we fol­lowed in Canada’s foot­steps and re­vised our na­tional food guide­lines to favour plant-based over an­i­mal-based pro­tein. Our neigh­bour to the north’s new di­etary rec­om­men­da­tions, which will likely be is­sued by Health Canada next year, are ex­pected to spec­ify plant-based foods as the pre­ferred source of pro­tein and to call for the reg­u­lar con­sump­tion of fruit, veg­eta­bles, whole grains and other ve­gan foods. At least one news out­let has spec­u­lated that — be­cause Canada is so cul­tur­ally di­verse, much like the U.S., and be­cause many eth­nic groups can’t di­gest cow’s milk — dairy prod­ucts won’t be in­cluded in the new rec­om­men­da­tions at all.

While it re­mains to be seen if the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment will of­fi­cially urge cit­i­zens to eat beans not beef, many me­dia out­lets have al­ready re­ported on one an­tic­i­pated — and sen­si­ble — guide­line: Don’t eat foods that con­tain mostly sat­u­rated fat (i.e., meat, eggs and dairy prod­ucts) and opt in­stead for healthy plant-based foods, which also tend to be more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly.

That’s sound, sci­ence-based ad­vice — not in­dus­try-pan­der­ing. Canada is one of the world’s largest beef pro­duc­ers, and ranch­ers and feed­lot op­er­a­tors likely didn’t break into a cho­rus of “O Canada” when they heard that gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials were plan­ning to pro­mote plant-based foods. But it’s the right thing to do, and hope­fully Health Canada will hold firm to its mis­sion.

I also hope the U.S. Di­etary Guide­lines Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee will im­ple­ment strong guide­lines favour­ing plant-based foods. Amer­ica’s fruited plains and am­ber waves of grain are over­run with an­i­mal fac­to­ries and slaugh­ter­houses, and we’ll all be health­ier if we stop eat­ing an­i­mal-based foods.

We know this. The Academy of Nu­tri­tion and Di­etet­ics in Chicago — the world’s largest or­ga­ni­za­tion of food and nu­tri­tion pro­fes­sion­als — has pointed out that peo­ple who eat mostly plant-based foods are less likely to suf­fer from obe­sity, heart dis­ease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pres­sure and can­cer.

A 2016 po­si­tion state­ment by the academy re­vealed that peo­ple can re­duce their risk of de­vel­op­ing diabetes by 62 per cent, suf­fer­ing from heart dis­ease by 29 per cent and suc­cumb­ing to any form of can­cer by 18 per cent just by go­ing ve­gan. Ve­gan men re­duce their like­li­hood of de­vel­op­ing prostate can­cer by 35 per cent.

The U.S. ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee has ac­knowl­edged that a diet high in plant-based foods is “more health pro­mot­ing and is as­so­ci­ated with lesser en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact.” But meat in­dus­try groups spent hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars fight­ing to keep “eat less meat” from ap­pear­ing in the 2015-2020 Di­etary Guide­lines for Amer­i­cans — that’s why they al­low fatty, choles­terol-laden an­i­mal-based foods.

Other coun­tries have al­ready taken steps to pro­mote more nu­tri­tious, ve­gan foods. Last year, for ex­am­ple, the Nether­lands be­gan ad­vis­ing peo­ple to eat a lot less meat — no more than two serv­ings per week — and to re­place it with plant foods. The United King­dom also en­cour­ages res­i­dents to cut back on an­i­mal pro­tein. Brazil puts an em­pha­sis on na­tive plants and min­i­mally pro­cessed foods.

The U.S. will have to con­sider sim­i­lar guide­lines as pub­lic-health prob­lems — and peo­ple’s waist­lines — con­tinue to ex­pand. Let’s all avoid the “red tape” and opt for ve­gan foods well be­fore our di­etary guide­lines are sched­uled to be re­vised. Do­ing so will help lo­cal farm­ers who grow flavour­ful, health-pro­mot­ing fruits and veg­eta­bles — like red de­li­cious ap­ples, sweet white corn and juicy blue­ber­ries. It will also sup­port in­no­va­tive ve­gan busi­nesses, such as Be­yond Meat, Im­pos­si­ble Foods and Mem­phis Meats, three Cal­i­for­nia com­pa­nies that have made head­lines for pro­duc­ing mouth-wa­ter­ing plant-based meats. Most of all, it will ben­e­fit our health, the en­vi­ron­ment and an­i­mals — and that will help make Amer­ica a truly great na­tion.

The U.S. will have to con­sider sim­i­lar guide­lines as pub­lic-health prob­lems — and peo­ple’s waist­lines — con­tinue to ex­pand.

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