By Lucia Weiler BSc, RD, PHEc
There is so much health related food and nutrition information out there. Do you struggle to make sense of it all? You’re not alone! It’s not easy to translate science and research into life-changing advice. Registered Dietitians are trusted credible experts who try to clearly communicate the power of food and nutrition and its connection to health. Here are some common myths related to Canadian food ingredients and the truths behind them.
MYTH: “Red Meat – is it Okay to eat?”
By red meat we mean beef, pork and lamb. And yes it’s okay to include some red meat in a healthy diet. Nutrition science is an evolving discipline and you may find that studies and headlines from time to time appear conflicting. The most reasonable recommendation is to consider the body of evidence which accumulates over time. Based on this premise, the best advice is to fill half your plate with vegetables / fruits, a quarter with whole grains, and a quarter with protein foods. As part of your protein options, choose lean meat and alternatives.
Lean red meat, cooked in a healthy way with little or no added salt, sugars or saturated fat is a nutrient-packed protein option. Just one 75 g ( 2 ½ oz) serving of cooked red meat is a source of important nutrients including protein, iron, Vitamin B12, and zinc. Consider the powerhouse of nutrients shown in the nutrition facts tables below for 75 g (2 ½ oz) serving of sirloin steak and pork tenderloin. Remember when reading the % Daily values, that 5% or less is a little and 15% or more is a lot.
When cooking with red meat, make it go further by mixing it with beans or mushrooms in stews, chilis and pasta sauces. In summer, serve cooked sliced red meat over a large bed of dark leafy greens & colourful veggies, then drizzle it with a light vinaigrette for full flavour and good nutrition.
Bottom line: Lean meat can be part of a healthy diet. Use the Half Plate Guideline that states half your plate with vegetables / fruits, a quarter with whole grains, and a quarter with protein foods such as lean meats!
MYTH: “There are Antibiotics in Meat”
Antibiotics are medicines used in human and veterinary health to fight bacterial infections. Farmers’ and veterinarians’ top priority is to keep animals healthy, but illnesses do happen from time to time. This is when antibiotics may be prescribed to treat sick animals just as we are sometimes prescribed antibiotics when we are sick. Farmers can also use antibiotics (with veterinary supervision) to prevent and manage diseases and promote overall health and growth.
That said, the meat we buy is not full of antibiotics! This is because the use of antibiotics is strictly regulated by Health Canada to protect human and animal health, and the safety of our food supply. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency monitors the use of antibiotics in food produced in Canada and other countries for prescribed safety levels.
You may have read concerns about antibiotic residues, which are traces of medication found in the animal that has been treated with medication. Health Canada sets maximum limits on the antibiotic residues that are based far below the amount that could pose a health risk even if a food is eaten every day over a person’s lifetime. Also, every animal medication has a defined withdrawal period to clear the medicine residues from meat. This withdrawal period is the specified amount of time a farmer must wait between the end of medical treatment and before sending an animal for processing.
Bottom line: Canadian farming practices ensure that your food is safe and free of antibiotic residues.
MYTH: “Milk has growth hormones”
Hormones are chemical messengers that help signal many functions, including growth and development. Because hormones occur naturally in people, animals and plants, there is no such thing as hormone-free food.
You may have seen statements on foods indicating ‘no added growth hormones’. This means that added hormones were not used in the food production. In Canada, growth hormones are not permitted for use in cows that produce milk. Therefore, all Canadian dairy farmers produce milk without using artificial growth hormones.
In the United States, milk production is different from Canada. The USA permits using added growth hormones in dairy cattle to increase milk production. Health Canada banned the use of growth hormone in the production of milk in 1999, not because it posed risks to human health, but over concerns about the negative health effect this practice has on milking cows, including increased risk of lameness and mastitis.
What makes milk and dairy foods special for many people is that dairy is an easy way to access important nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, and protein which help keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
Bottom line: Milk and dairy foods produced in Canada have NO added growth hormones.