Take the fight out of food

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March is National Nutrition Month, an annual reminder of the importance of diet on our overall health.

For National Nutrition Month 2017, the Dietitians of Canada advise taking the fight out of food – to spot the problem, get the facts and seek support. Local registered dietitian Emily Mardell said her organization has noticed that people struggle with information overload about fad diets, or how to manage conditions like diabetes or digestive woes. So this year’s campaign is set up to encourage people to identify what their ‘food fight’ is.

“We want people to be mindful. If they’re self-monitoring a digestive problem, we want them to examine what they eat and when. Is it a dairy issue? Gluten? Be mindful of that, and then get the facts on the issue. Talk to reputable sources like your doctor, a dietitian or nutritionist. And then seek support from family and friends,” she said. “We don’t want people to self-diagnose – it can lead to unnecessary food and nutrient restriction – but to work with those who can help work through the problem.”

Fact sheets on the website (nutritionmonth2017.ca) work through several common problems using the three-pronged advice: spot the problem, get the facts, seek support. In the case of suspected gluten sensitivity or even celiac disease, for example, dietitians advise not to simply eliminate gluten from the diet without knowing if that is the problem; a person must maintain gluten in the diet to correctly test for gluten intolerance. Professionals can examine symptoms, see which foods might be causing discomfort, and create a balanced, nutritious diet.

National Nutrition Month is a more than 30-year-old campaign designed to focus on bettering food choices and developing improved eating and physical activity habits for Canadians. According to StatsCan in 2014, 20.8 per cent of Canadians over 18 were classified as obese, with poor eating choices cited as a major contributor. To help incorporate more nutrient-based items into Canadian diets, Victoria based chef Heather Pace shares five lesser-known ingredients that put flavour and function into everyday recipes.

Maca (or Peruvian Ginseng) is good for memory, focus and energy, according to Pace, and its pleasant malty taste is a good addition to desserts and smoothies. Turmeric, a spice from the ginger family, has become a known ‘superfood’ for its anti-inflammatory properties. Most commonly found in curry dishes, turmeric has a strong taste and deep yellow colour that can enhance soups, dips, salad dressings and even desserts.

“Avocado oil is being dubbed the healthiest new oil, for its lack of cholesterol, trans fats and high content of vitamin E. Made from the flesh, not seed, this oil can help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and it’s a great option for salad dressings, dips, baking and cooking,” says Pace.

The chef also likes chaga (high in antioxidants, minerals, vitamins B, K and D); and hibiscus tea, which comes from the hibiscus flower and is high in vitamin C with a tangy, cranberry-like flavour said to boost immunity and decrease inflammation.

“Many of these can be incorporated into smoothies or desserts. They have enzymes, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants and help the body respond positively to stress. Nutrition month is a great time to introduce lesser-known foods into your diet,” she says.

Nutrition for Seniors

Nutritional needs change with age, and several programs in St. Albert look at age-specific ways to maintain health through diet and exercise. Check the St. Albert Seniors Association, St. Albert Public Library and Servus Place for programs. As well, the St. Albert and Sturgeon PCN has a doctor-referred program that uses exercise, mindfulness and nutrition to help address adult nutritional issues and balance/core strength/flexibility. Also look for the PCN’s ongoing two-hour program on the Mediterranean Diet, which emphasizes healthy oils, lean meat, fish and whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

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About Author

Lucy Haines

Lucy Haines has been a freelancer writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2012. She writes features on travel, food, seniors, homes and gardens.