Yet just like fashion and home furnishing, there are trends in the grocery store. Food growers, producers and processors are constantly looking for new foods and products to entice us.
Prebiotics are food ingredients that are not digested by the body. They work to increase the growth of good microorganisms in the digestive system. Beta glucan and inulin are two examples. Beta glucan is a starch or long sugar found on the outside of plants. Bran, the outside portion of grain, and cellulose, the part of a plant that helps give it structure, are sources of beta glucans. Inulin is another starch or long sugar, found in the roots of some plants.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that protect the body and prevent disease. They can be added to food or occur naturally. These organisms help protect 'good bugs' in the digestive system, especially when people are taking antibiotics. Lactobacillus acidophilus is the best known. There are other types of 'good bugs', each needed in a different amount to provide health benefits.
The prebiotics beta glucan and inulin are added to processed foods like Oasis® Health Break Immuniforce™ juice and Kellogg's® Fibre Plus® granola bars. The probiotic, Lactobacillus acidophilus is available in yogurt, yogurt drinks, acidophilus milk and nutritional supplements. Litehouse® salad dressings with kefir also contain probiotics.
Both pre and probiotics probably work, but the exact amount needed is not known. They are not harmful.
Phytosterols are a natural part of all plant foods. They attach to cholesterol from food in the digestive system and stop it from being absorbed into the body and the blood stream.
Two grams of phytosterols per day are recommended to lower blood cholesterol by 10 to 15 per cent.
They are found naturally in the largest amounts in nuts, seeds and legumes. However, these foods still do not have enough phytosterols to lower cholesterol.
To provide more phytosterols in the diet, they have been added to:
Each label lists the amount of that food or drink that supplies the amount of phytosterols needed to reduce cholesterol. New products continue to be added to the market.
Yes. If eaten in the quantity recommended, they will reduce cholesterol. Most of these products cost slightly more than similar versions without phytosterols.
Salt is the chemical sodium chloride. Whether rock, sea, kosher or table salt, all contain sodium chloride. The flavour of each is slightly different from the others because, except for table salt, they contain other minerals like magnesium. In one gram of salt, there are 400 milligrams (mg) of sodium.
Sodium is found naturally in many foods and is also added during food processing, often as salt. Salt preserves food and adds or brings out flavour. Although many of us need less sodium, it can be hard to remove from food.
Adults should try to limit sodium to 1500 mg per day, and have no more than 2300 mg. One teaspoon of table salt contains 2400 mg of sodium. On average, Canadian adults eat 3400 mg of sodium a day. A high sodium diet is linked with high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.
Health Canada is working with the food industry to meet a goal of reducing the sodium Canadians eat to less than 2300 mg a day by 2016. To do this, sodium in processed foods must be reduced.
Many products in the grocery store already have less sodium. Some are marked with a stripe or flag to alert consumers to this information. Other products have been quietly changed without advertising.
Does a low sodium diet work?
Lowering the amount of sodium in food will reduce the chance of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Over time, you can get used to and begin to enjoy the taste of food with less sodium.
Antioxidants are substances made in the body or eaten that combine with chemicals known as free radicals. Free radicals are damaging chemicals created by the body. Antioxidants combine with free radicals and neutralize them so they will not do harm. Some vitamins act as antioxidants.
Antioxidants are found naturally in fruits and vegetables. They are highest in brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. 'Superfruits' are considered the best sources of antioxidants. Acai, goji berries, pomegranate, mangosteen, and berries (especially blueberries) are among the superfruits. Half a cup makes a serving.
Generally, eating the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables provides antioxidants. Women aged 19 to 50 should have seven to eight servings each day, men of the same age eight to ten servings, and adults over age 51 seven servings a day.
Antioxidants are thought to reduce the risk of cancer and an eye disease called age-related macular degeneration.
For years, dietitians have advised eating fish two or three times a week. Health Canada supports that idea. Nutritionally this is ideal, but there are concerns with this advice.
Mercury and other harmful chemicals like PCBs have been found in seafood. These are especially harmful to infants, children, and women of childbearing age. The fish highest in these harmful chemicals are ones high on the food chain that eat smaller fish. They include swordfish, mackerel, some albacore and yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna, farmed Atlantic salmon, sea bass, orange roughy and shark. Species of tuna and salmon not included in this list are lower in mercury or PCBs.
Some types of fish have been managed well and are abundant. Some are caught in ways that are environmentally friendly, and that sustain their habitat. They are ideal choices to get the nutritional benefits of fish two or three times a week.
Sustainable Seafood Canada has created a document called Canada's Seafood Guide. It uses a traffic light system to provide information to consumers about the best seafood choices. Green choices are best. Yellow choices have some concerns, and red choices should be avoided. The guide is available from www.seachoice.org and from some retail grocery stores.
Over the past year, it has become trendy to try to eat only foods produced within 100 miles of home. In all of Canada, this is a challenge. We value the oranges that need tropical heat. We have learned to enjoy more exotic fruits like mango and pineapple. We are so used to having these foods that we do not think of them as exotic.
Some grocery stores try to source as many fruits and vegetables as possible from producers living close by. While it may not be within 100 miles, it does mean offering Canadian-grown produce, and labelling the province or region it comes from. This means that food is not transported such long distances, so there is less loss of nutrition.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are processed within hours of picking. They also provide good nutrition.
So look to the new products in the store. Buy them, take them home and try them. You might be pleasantly surprised. It's worth trying something new that can bring health benefits to you and your family.