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Why did Canada eliminate dairy from their National Food Guide?

Canada's national food guide was updated and one product was noticeably "missing": dairy! The new guide, released by the Canadian Ministry of Health, eliminated the "one daily dose of dairy" recommended before and, instead, suggested that people should drink more water, eat a variety of unprocessed foods and choose proteins that come from plants — not animals — more often.

It took specialists three years of consultations to create the new guide. The last time it was updated was in 2007. Since the food guide was first published in 1942, Canadians have been encouraged to eat or drink several servings of dairy a day.

Now, instead of the previous four food groups (vegetables and fruit, grain products, milk and meat), Canada classifies food into three groups: vegetables and fruits, whole grains and protein foods. Substituting meat and dairy as a group, "protein foods" open space for people to start seeing pulses such as lentils and beans, plant-based milk, nuts, seeds and tofu as good and healthy sources of proteins.

Canada doesn't mind the animal producers lobby — it's people's health that matter

Of course, the changes over time have not pleased the animal farmers' lobby — but the government is doing what's right for people's health, the environment and the animals, and just don’t care about the pressure.

"We were very clear that when we were looking at the evidence that we were not going to be using reports that have been funded by the animal industry as well," says Dr Hasan Hutchinson, general director of Health Canada's office of nutrition policy and promotion.

Dr David Jenkins, the Canada research chair in nutrition and metabolism and a professor at the University of Toronto, who created the Glycaemic Index in the 1980s, said Health Canada is doing the right thing. "I think [the guide] is moving in a plant-based direction, which will ruffle some feathers, but I think that's the direction it needs to go," he commented. Jenkins himself now follows a plant-based diet for environmental reasons.

Dairy consumption is decreasing in the whole world

Milk consumption has declined since 2009, according to Statistics Canada, while the popularity of plant-based milk-alternatives has grown. In 2009, each Canadian consumed an average of 81.79 liters of milk. In 2018, this number decreased to 65.85 liters per person.

This is a global trend! We recently talked about a new study that showed that a quarter of British people are choosing plant-based milk over dairy. 23% of people in the UK used plant-based milk alternatives in the three months up to February 2019 — in 2018 it was just 19%. Women and young people are the ones leading this change for the better.

37% of people between 16 and 24 years old said the reduction was due to health reasons. And they are totally right. As many scientific studies are coming to light, it's becoming harder to hide the truth: dairy products are not only unhealthy, but they're also linked to many serious diseases and even to elevated mortality rates.

The environment is also a legitimate reason. 36% of the participants in the study agreed that dairy farming has a negative impact on the environment.

A University of Oxford study analyzed the environmental impact of dairy, rice, soy, oat, and almond milk, measuring emissions and land and water use. The results show that greenhouse gas emissions from dairy were three times higher than from the plant-based alternatives, and that soy and oat milk require drastically less water use. Any of the vegan milks would require at least 10 times less land use than cow' s milk.

Drinking one glass of milk a day over an entire year is the equivalent of driving a regular petrol car for 941 km and taking 703 showers lasting eight minutes. The same numbers for oat milk would be like riding the car for 270 km and taking 54 showers!

Like Canadians, are you also concerned about your health, the environment and how animals are treated in animal farming as well? Thanks to lots of information and plant-based options, each day is easier to ditch meat, milk and eggs.


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