Canada’s new food guide trims down on dairy — should you?

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Canada’s new food guide: 5 things you should know
WATCH: 5 things you should know about Canada's new food guide – Jan 22, 2019

Canada’s new food guide is a major departure from the previous one consumers followed for years. One notable change is that it doesn’t feature cow’s milk as prominently as before.

READ MORE: Canada’s new food guide emphasizes eating plants, drinking water and cooking at home

The lack of milk and other dairy products was swiftly called out by the Dairy Farmers of Canada in a statement on Tuesday.

The group said it is “concerned” the food guide doesn’t reflect the “most recent and mounting scientific evidence” on the benefits of dairy.

LOOK: The evolution of Canada’s food guide

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In the statement, Dairy Farmers of Canada listed the benefits of milk and its products, noting that it is a leading source of calcium and other nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D and potassium.

WATCH: Soy milk is the best option to replace cow’s milk, expert says

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Soy milk is the best option to replace cow’s milk, expert says

Joanne Gallagher, the assistant director of nutrition at the Dairy Farmers of Canada, told Global News she still believes dairy products are “foundational foods.”

Gallagher said she’s pleased dairy products were listed as a protein source in the food guide.

“Canadians don’t often think of milk products as being a great source of protein, and obviously being grouped in a protein group brings attention to that positive element of dairy,” she said.

READ MORE: Health experts applaud Canada’s new food guide, though some question lack of portion sizes

What exactly does the food guide say?

“Milk and alternatives” and “meat and alternatives” were two of the four food groups in the last food guide, but this time, they are lumped together.

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Dairy definitely isn’t missing, as Health Canada provides lower-fat milk, yogurt, kefir and cheese as examples of protein food.

While the new food guide emphasizes choosing water over other drinks, it does still list unsweetened, lower-fat white milk as a “healthy drink option.”

READ MORE: Got nut milk? Here’s the nutritional value of ‘milk’ alternatives

Nutritionists weigh in

Toronto-based nutritionist Anar Allidina noted that the new food guide reflects recent changes in consumption.

“So many Canadians are not able to tolerate dairy — we can see this in the rise of nut milks,” Allidina said. “Dairy consumption has declined over the years and the food guide is reflective of this.”

Those who cannot tolerate dairy often feel symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, nausea and diarrhea, she explained.

“Approximately 65 per cent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy,” she said, noting that many see the intolerance develop in adulthood.

READ MORE: Processed meat lumped with cake, candy and alcohol in Belgium’s food guide

Allidina said that the food guide also focuses more on healthier fats, such as nuts and seeds and less saturated fats, such as cheeses.

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However, she added dairy is a known source of calcium, and Canadians who do not have an intolerance can include two servings per day.

Nutritionist Nazima Qureshi, also based in Toronto, explained that there is no reason for Canadians to avoid dairy, unless they are noticing digestive issues.

“If you are having digestive discomfort when consuming dairy, you can try dairy alternatives,” Qureshi told Global News. “You can also have a lactase pill before consuming dairy or try lactose-free milk.”

WATCH: The next trendy dairy alternative is camel milk

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Qureshi noted that she doesn’t believe the new food guide is recommending Canadians stop drinking milk or consuming dairy.

“I don’t see it as saying that you should stop drinking milk, that’s not what it’s saying. You can definitely eat healthy with or without milk,” she said.

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She added that the food guide, in general, shouldn’t be seen as a “prescription” or exact diet plan for Canadians to follow.

“It’s a good starting point for people to start thinking about how to eat healthier,” she said.

“I think depending on what your dietary requirements are, you can incorporate dairy, or you don’t have to.”

— With files from Global News reporter Leslie Young

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