Why Canadians need to eat more seafood

Canada’s new Food Guide recognizes the health benefits of eating fish and seafood

By Fabian Dawson

Canada’s new Food Guide to support healthy dietary choices and practices wants you to substitute protein sources containing saturated fats in favour of those with unsaturated fats.

At a news conference today, Canada’s Minister of Health, Ginette Petitpas Taylor (pictured), said that healthy eating is about more than the foods Canadians eat.

“It’s about your whole relationship with food. The new Food Guide gets to the heart of this relationship and gives Canadians concrete advice that they can follow to make healthy eating part of their day,” said Petitpas Taylor.

The new guide moves away from the four food groups to broader eating habits while encouraging Canadians to consume more unsaturated fats to promote better cardiovascular health.

That is good news for Canada’s seafood industry.

Fish and seafood are low in saturated fat and represent important sources of protein, while being available in convenient formats such as fresh, frozen, canned and smoked, said Paul Lansbergen, President of the Fisheries Council of Canada.

“The nutritional and health benefits of fish and seafood are not in dispute. It’s low in saturated fat, high in omega-3s, an important source of Vitamins D and B12 and high in essential minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, copper, and iodine, and it’s a sustainable source of protein,” said Lansbergen.

The new Food Guide recognizes the health benefits of eating fish and seafood and it acknowledges its importance as a traditional food of Indigenous Canadians,” he said.

The weight of scientific opinion is that people should consume at least 150g of fish and seafood a week—about two servings.

But despite the scientifically well-documented benefits associated with regularly eating seafood, Canadians aren’t consuming nearly enough fish.

A 2011 survey found that 88 percent of Canadians aren’t consuming the recommended amount of fish and seafood, and five percent don’t eat fish and seafood at all.

“Studies have shown that if Canadians ate the recommended level of fish and seafood, the risk of coronary death would drop by 36 percent, and total mortality by 17 percent,” said Lansbergen.

“Beyond all the health benefits—it also comes down to quality and taste, and Canadian fish and seafood is second to none. We are spearheading efforts to promote Canadian seafood at home and abroad and we’ll continue to remind customers why Canadian fish and seafood are an excellent choice.”

The Heart & Stroke Foundation in applauding the new food guide said the food suggestions reflect the diversity of Canada today.

“It was designed to make preparing and sharing healthy food a pleasure, while improving our health,” said Yves Savoie, CEO of the Heart & Stroke Foundation.

The Foundation and its American counterparts maintain eating fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel, at least once a week may help prevent heart attacks and other serious cardiovascular problems.

The Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance (CAIA) said eating seafood twice a week contributes to a healthier diet and can play an important role in improving the health of Canadians of all ages.

“Farmed and wild fish offer the same health benefits, so you can feel good about choosing either. Farmed seafood has the additional benefit of being available fresh, year-round,” states CAIA, reaffirming long-held observations about the health benefits of seafood.

“All seafood, whether raised sustainably or caught responsibly can significantly improve overall health…our objective is to get people to eat more of it for their health,” Linda Cornish, president of the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, told Seawestnews, at last year’s BC Seafood Expo and Shellfish Festival on Vancouver Island.

 “Both farmed and wild salmon have similar amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids which improves brain function and overall health according to the USDA (US Department of Agriculture),” Cornish told SeaWestNews.


 Sustainable seafood, the solution for a healthier you

The Omega-3 factor for a healthy body

Aquaculture, a key driver for global food revolution – Lancet