I’m looking to local food for health benefits in 2016

You’ve likely heard some tasty – and not so tasty -- food trend predictions for this year, above and beyond higher prices for food.

For example, according to futurists, you might find yourself snacking on, among other things, a helping of insects ground into powder. They’re touted to be low-cost, environmentally sound and nutritious. And in a powered form, they’d be easy to slip into a variety of other dishes. What a way to surprise your dinner guests!

As well, for the first time, you might also be dining on Ontario-raised shrimp -- which an entrepreneur has received provincial support to develop, in a converted pig barn – as an alternative to imported shrimp raised under questionable environmental conditions.

It’s part of what University of Guelph agri-food economist Sylvain Charlebois calls choosing values over value, making food choices on the basis of your own values about animal welfare, food production or ethics, versus choosing food mainly on price, which has traditionally been the driver for most people.    

Of course, when you choose not to buy food from struggling farmers in developing countries, you’re making a value decision there as well. It’s a gray area, unless exporters can tell compelling stories about food coming from a sustainable coop or production system, one that truly supports farmers.

For me, the waning days of 2015 ended with a call from my long-time family doctor in Fergus, drawing my attention to some recent blood work results. They showed that for the first time, my cholesterol was rising. It’s still controllable by exercise and diet, but it needs to be addressed, now.

I know what to do, exercise-wise. But fortunately, cholesterol had never been a dietary concern. So with that in mind, where was I to turn?

Well, when it comes to food with potential health benefits, it turns out Ontario farmers have the prescription I need. And I don’t have to look far.

The list, supported by research studies, starts with fruit and vegetables. Tomatoes, for example, help with cholesterol, and are also renowned as superb antioxidants.

Brightly coloured berries – blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and cranberries, among them -- likewise have numerous health-related properties including cholesterol control. So do beans, carrots, apples, nuts, garlic, fish, grapes, and to some extent, the end product of fermented grapes, wine.

In fact, my daughter and son-in-law, who farm near Thamesville, are major producers of a significant cholesterol-lowering staple food -- soybeans. They and about 28,000 other Ontario farmers have made soybeans the province’s biggest cash crop.

Earlier in 2015, the Ontario Grain Farmers organization, which represents soybean, corn and wheat growers, expanded by becoming officially affiliated with another of the best cholesterol-lowering crops on the face of the Earth -- oats.

Other important cholesterol-controlling commodities predominantly come from other parts of Canada, particularly canola oil and salmon. In fact, only a few of the often-mentioned commodities for lowering cholesterol come from abroad, such as matcha tea, avocados, dark chocolate and olive oil. And of course, a variety of food products from Canadian farms, such as lean meat and a host of other commodities, have additional roles in health maintenance.

As nutrition experts repeatedly say, it’s all about balance.

Now, I’m waiting to hear what they have to say about insects.

Key word:  Owen Robert

Publish date: 
Tuesday, March 1, 2016

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