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Canadians Want More Natural Foods

Almost 60 percent of Canadians say they are making an effort to change their eating habits. Leaning towards more natural foods, we’re committed to eating less sugar, salt and fat, and are focusing more on fruit, vegetables, grains and lean protein. That’s good news for our long-term health.

If you’re in charge of choosing recipes in hospitals, cafeterias, retirement or long-term care settings, it’s vital to know what Canadians are looking for. The easiest way to support the goal towards healthy eating is to pick recipes with whole, minimally processed ingredients rather than ultra-processed products.

Processed, packaged?

In a recent survey of Canadian adults, over 60 percent said they are looking for products that are free of additives, preservatives, pesticides and hormones. Interestingly, when compared to younger Canadians, older adults are more likely to say that it’s important for their foods to be locally produced, free of additives, and to come from a known brand.

When planning menus, the ingredients you use in the recipes matter a lot. Canadian-produced foods with no additives is something to boast about on your menu! But how can you decide if an ingredient is really “natural?” Health Canada says natural foods should not to contain artificial flavouring or food additives, and “cannot have been submitted to processes that have significantly altered their original state.”

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Gluten-free has gone mainstream

The global gluten-free market is projected to reach US$6.2 billion by 2018, with North America contributing about 59% of the share. Canada’s own gluten-free market is about $450 million per year.

The demand for gluten-free products has seen tremendous growth over the past five years, in the ballpark of about 26%! Marketing experts predict a slower growth over the next five years, to about 10%. That’s likely because trusted health professionals are explaining that gluten-free diets are not a solution for obesity, and consumer perceptions of its healthfulness are slowly beginning to wane.

There will always be a market for gluten-free products that help add variety to the diet of people with celiac disease, wheat allergies or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which account for about 5% of the population. However, sales data indicate that about 22% of Canadians currently buy gluten-free products.

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Protein requirements: are seniors falling short?

Regardless of age, a meal without protein is like macaroni without cheese – it’s simply incomplete. While appetites may dictate that soup or buttered toast is an appropriate meal for older adults, long-term care guideless rightfully recommend protein at every meal throughout the day. But is it enough protein? Here’s the latest news on protein for seniors.

Why is protein so important?

Aging is associated with changes in body composition, including increases in fat mass and decreases in lean mass. The age-related loss of skeletal muscle, or sarcopenia, leads older adults to a greater risk of functional impairment and mortality. Adequate protein helps older adults retain muscle mass.

While many things contribute to sarcopenia, inadequate dietary protein intake may accelerate the process.

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Mushrooms on the Menu

Portobello mousse on truffled toast with pear and fennel compote. Sautéed shiitake and steak salad on a bed of microgreens. Crimini, arugula and Gruyère pizza. These delectable menu offerings have one thing in common: the mighty mushroom.

Nutrient-rich and incredibly versatile, mushrooms make a wonderful addition to any menu. Once harvested in the wild, today’s mushrooms are mostly cultivated indoors at more than 100 mushroom farms across Canada. And while button mushrooms are the most recognizable, there is a burgeoning business in varieties such as enoki, crimini, morel and oyster. It’s time to be creative with a multitude of mushrooms!


For only 25 calories, a 100-gram serving of mushrooms provides potassium, selenium and a range of B-vitamins including folate. Plus, button and shiitake mushrooms are the only vegetables that contain vitamin D. They contain a plant sterol called ergosterol, which is converted to vitamin D with the help of sunlight or artificial light in indoor farms.

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Brain-Boosting Foods

We often hear about foods that are good for heart health, but rarely think about foods that enrich the brain. That’s a shame since what we eat can impact our ability to think clearly and combat age-related conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s. The right foods can also combat brain fog and can enhance concentration, memory and alertness. Here’s what you need to have on your menu to boost brain power.

Start with protein: Not getting enough protein can lead to problems with mood, energy and metabolism. It can also cloud your thinking. Protein contains L-tyrosine, an amino acid that is important in the synthesis of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters help the brain send signals to the rest of the body that allow for alertness, clarity, memory and good mood. Protein also helps you stay on-task and aids concentration. Foods that are super-high in protein include beef, chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, veal and fish. Make sure to include a protein option at each meal. It will allow for clear thinking and consistent energy throughout the day.

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Shaking the salt habit

According to a 2008 survey conducted by the Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition, about 70 percent of Canadians say that they are influenced to select foods based on how much sodium they contain. Yet even with this high percentage of people claiming to be “salt conscious,” roughly 90 percent of Canadian men and 65 percent of women exceed Health Canada’s recommended sodium limit of 2300 milligrams per day. The average Canadian consumes 3,100 milligrams of sodium daily – so something is not adding up.

About 60 percent of Canadians say that they changed their eating habits in the past year, but only 12 percent of them say that their change included reducing sodium intake. This is problematic since about one million Canadians suffer from hypertension that is caused by excessive salt consumption. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a leading risk factor for both heart attacks and strokes and also increases the risk of developing heart disease. It’s important to bring sodium levels down at the public health level. Cutting salt consumption by 50 percent across the population could reduce the prevalence of hypertension by 20 percent, and decrease all-cause mortality by seven percent.


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