Mind The Gap – Nutritional Voids in North America

Despite all of its advancements, there has been a nutritional erosion over the last century, where a shift has occurred in the make-up of the foods that are served up to us in daily life. Specifically, there has been an increase in the presence of what scientists refer to as “ultra-processed” foods. We’ve sort of known this was happening, but until a new study was released in the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research (Spring, 2014), we really didn’t know how bad it was.

Researchers tracked food consumption trends in Canada from 1938-2011. The ultra-processed foods they examined include, but are certainly not limited to, breads, salty snacks, canned and bottles sauces (eg. margarine), sweetened cereals, processed meats, sweetened beverages, pastries, cookies, ice cream, candies, chocolate, cake mixes…you get the idea. The contribution of these foods toward daily caloric intake has more than doubled. Perhaps most tellingly, there has been a 23-fold increase in the extent to which ready-to-heat foods make up our daily caloric intake. Unprocessed roots and tubers have seen a 5-fold decline, and unprocessed meats, legumes, milk and plain yogurt have also declined. If people are consuming more read-to-eat foods, then the types of culinary staples that allow for ‘from scratch’ home cooking must have declined – and that is precisely what the researchers found.

Ultra-processing = loss of nutrients, especially phytonutrients (the health-promoting chemicals that give plants their natural colours, taste and texture). On top of that, agricultural practices have selectively decreased the phytonutrients in our Western diet plant foods. Consider that edible plants like dandelion (found in greens+) have 7-fold more phytonutrients than the food we typically present as a nutritional powerhouse – spinach. Species of apple less common to North American supermarkets, but no less delicious, have 100 times more phytonutrients. Older variants of organic yellow corn had 60 times more beta-carotene. Deeply colored purple pigments – anthocyanins (also found in greens+) have been bred out of most North American potatoes.

Also on the note of agricultural practices, historical data show a decline in the nutrient (ie. vitamin and mineral) content within fresh produce. Data collected over the last half-century has noted declines that range as high as a 40% decline in vitamin and mineral content in select fruits and vegetables. Researchers have examined environmental changes, selective breeding that encourages carbohydrate increases at the expense of nutrients and phytonutrients, soil nutrient depletion or even the ways in which soil microbes have changed as reasons to explain this decline. But either way, the results are quite consistent.

So… can’t this simply be corrected by an emphasis on eating a variety of colourful foods?  Health Canada has been asserting that for years, but in the largest and most recent study (2013), 74% of the population aged 2 and older were not meeting minimum guidelines. These statistics also revealed that it was the dark green vegetable intake that really pulled back the curtain on the nutritional void – adults (age 18-50) in Canada manage only half a serving of dark greens per day.

Denial is the other gap between what people think they are doing nutritionally, and how they actually eat. Several years ago a nationwide survey examined fruit and vegetable consumption and they determined that 73% of Canadians were satisfied with their nutritional habits. Yet, of those who claimed to eat healthy, only 22% were eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables (a low bar considering Health Canada’s revision to 7 servings). A similar study of 800 North American firefighters (a demographic typically associated with good dietary habits) were only halfway toward what researchers consider to be solid adherence to a heart-healthy Mediterranean-style diet.

In today’s fast-pace, multi-tasking world, endless scheduling and responsibilities make aggressive advertising for ultra-processed foods difficult to resist. It is HARD to get the nourishment we need every day to thrive – but it doesn’t need to be! greens+ is the nutritional insurance policy – not only does it help to bridge the gap, it pays immediate dividends in so many ways. It does this simply – with 23 plant based ingredients, loaded with potent phytonutrients to protect and nourish the body completely. But beyond nourishment are therapeutic benefits: greens+ also balances the body, and its synergistic blend of botanicals have been proven to increase energy and vitality. Those are some pretty good “perks” not found in your ordinary policy.

 

 

Sources:

Moubarac JC, Batal M, Martins AP, Claro R, Levy RB, Cannon G, Monteiro C. Processed and ultra-processed food products: consumption trends in Canada from 1938 to 2011. Can J Diet Pract Res. 2014 Spring;75(1):15-21.

Davis D: Declining fruit and vegetable nutrient composition: what is the evidence? HortSci 2009, 44:15-19.

Mayer AM: Historical changes in the mineral content of fruits and vegetables. Br Food J 1997, 99:207-11.

Thomas D: Meat and dairy: where have all the minerals gone? Food 2006, 72:10.

Tan ZX, Lal R, Wiebe KD: Global soil nutrient depletion and yield reduction. J Sustain Agric 2005, 26:123-46.

Robinson J: Breeding the nutrition out of food. New York Times May 25, 2013.

Black JL, Billette JM. Do Canadians meet Canada’s Food Guide’s recommendations for fruits and vegetables? Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2013 Mar;38(3):234-42.

Ward E: Addressing nutritional gaps with multivitamin and mineral supplements. Nutr J. 2014 Jul 15;13(1):72.

So, what foods are Canadians eating and how healthy do they think they are eating? Ipsos Reid July 10th, 2002.