2015 – What Did We Learn?

I know that this is a little late coming well into January, but better late than never right?!

Nutrition news will come and go, but there are some stories that resonate more than others. Here are a few stories that stood out for 2015. I had the pleasure of speaking with Ian Hanomansing at CBC Vancouver about these topics -> video link: Top Nutrition Stories of 2015

2015 top storiesDiet Pepsi Drops Aspartame in the US, but not in Canada         dietsodas

Artificial sweeteners will always be a controversial topic. There has been a decline in diet sodas in favour of whole, natural, organic choices. Aspartame has a bad rap: “carcinogenic”, “nuero-toxin” among many other allegations.   According to the market research group Euromonitor, sales of diet soda drinks have dropped by nearly 20% since reaching a peak of $8.5 billion in 2009, and are expected to continue to slide. The bottom line is that aspartame is one of the most studied ingredients on the planet. With over 200 studies, there will most certainly be some contradiction and mixed opinions.

Aspartame is present in over 6000 products worldwide. Although this infographic was developed by coca-cola, it is worth a look to see the other side of the argument. Even if aspartame and other widely used artificial sweeteners such as sucralose or “Splenda” are considered safe, they are not inert substances and may have some negative impacts including potential hormonal and/or GI issues.

Regardless of the evidence (or lack there-of), artificial sweeteners are not the answer as they can keep people hooked on the “sweet-taste” in foods. Regardless whether this sweet craving is psychological or physical, it can be tough to kick the sugar-habit (or fake-sugar habit) altogether!

If you’re looking for a 0-calorie alternative, I personally use and recommend STEVIA. It is found in both liquid and powder form and can be used in coffee, tea, yogurt, among many other foods. More on stevia to come this year……

Processed Meat & Cancer Risk

This WHO compilated a number of different studies and came to the conclusion that processed meats can cause cancer. This is a wake up call for frequent users. The risk is relative even though processed meats are a “class-1-carcinogen” placed alongside smoking as asbestos. These info-graphics illustrate the message much better than I can say it!processed meats cancermeat vs smokingprocessed meat and cancer 2processed meat and cancer 1

Fat is Back

Forbes and CNN came out with bold headlines illustrating that “FAT IS BACK”. The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee suggested lifting the ban on total fat consumption. Both the US and Canada currently recommend consuming less than 35% of calories coming from fat. This change in thinking was based on an article out of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), rationalizing that fats, especially healthy plant-based fats are no longer the dietary devil. This may seem like a contradiction based on the above information….BUT….

“The primary rationale for limiting total fat was to lower saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, which were thought to increase cardiovascular risk by raising [LDL] or the “bad” cholesterol. ”  – JAMA

What does this really mean? How does this impact what you eat on a daily basis? Basically, this aligns with my favourite Michael Pollen quote “EAT FOOD. NOT TOO MUCH. MOSTLY PLANTS.”michael pollan

There seems to be little doubt that diets higher in healthful fats coming from nuts, avocado, fish and vegetable oils and are superior to those that contain refined carbohydrates and highly processed foods.healthy_fats

Fats provide flavour and help us feel full and satiated. This is actually beneficial for those people that want to manage their weight and overall energy (basically everyone!). The trick is to get the quantity right and not smother everything in butter and whipping cream!!

A few tips for looking at fat:

  • Use the label and look for ingredient quality instead of just the number of fat grams.
  • Eat and chew your fat from whole foods (nuts, avocado, eggs, seeds)
  • Avoid adding oils or liquid fats when it is unnecessary (ie. adding coconut oil to a smoothie!)
  • When buying any “low fat” or “fat free” product, check to see what the carb and sugar content is like.



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