Opinion: Canada Needs a Healthy Eating Strategy

MAry L’Abbe wrote . . . . . . . .

The long process of updating Canada’s Food Guide and reforms to nutrition labelling will soon become a reality. Collectively called Canada’s healthy eating strategy, the proposals by Health Canada have been open to public consultation— and, unfortunately, industry lobbying.

No one is arguing with the rights of all Canadians to be heard on policies proposed by governments, but we must ensure decisions are based on neutral scientific evidence, not the persuasiveness or lobbying budgets of the processed food manufacturing sector.

We need to make sure conflict of interest is identified and not allowed to influence publichealth decisions.

Many might wonder why government proclamations are crucial. After all, Canadians generally don’t carry the food guide with them to a restaurant or grocery store. Some will say they don’t want the government telling them what to eat. The goal of these policies is not to mandate what Canadians must eat, but to allow informed choices to lead to better health.

Along with being used by individuals, Canada’s Food Guide is the foundation for nutrition curriculums in schools across Canada and the basis for meal planning in most institutions: military bases, prisons, daycares, hospitals and retirement residences. It is one of the most powerful policy and education tools available to influence diets and impact our individual and collective health.

Similarly, food-packaging requirements are important and do influence food choices, as has been shown in many studies. But, unfortunately, as confirmed in a study I conducted last year with colleagues at the University of Toronto, what’s stated now on the package often doesn’t give consumers the full picture.

For example, many consumers seeing “no added sugar” on the front of a package mistakenly think it means the product has no sugar. But our study found that while over one-third of fruit drinks made the no-added-sugar claim, 99 per cent of them contained excess free sugar. Free sugars are those added to foods as well as those naturally present in syrup, honey and fruit juice; they are different from the intrinsic sugars found in whole foods such as fruit and vegetables.

Additionally, we found 85 per cent of products claiming “reduced in sugar” still contained excess sugar levels. Most food products making reduced-sugar or no-added-sugar claims did not have reduced

calories, which studies show most consumers expect on foods with such claims.

It is not for nothing that the food industry invests so much in developing and refining their packaging. The information mandated by government directly impacts what we buy and what we eat.

The current proposals for prominent and clear front-of-package labelling to identify products high in saturated fat, salt or sugar are sensible and important requirements to allow people in Canada to more easily make informed choices.

The long-term impact of these policies is what makes the process used by the federal government for these changes so vital.

A group of 26 of the most prominent nutrition experts from around theworld recently sent a letter to Health Canada stressing that the science is clear that excess consumption of foods and beverages high in energy, added sugar, sodium and saturated fat has a negative impact on our health. This knowledgeable group has come out in strong support of frontof- package warning labels as a way to curb consumption of these unhealthy products, most of which are processed “junk” foods.

We cannot afford to have this work undermined by food manufacturers bending the planned policies to favour their products— their short-term gain over Canadians’ longtermhealth. Millions of people in Canada are living with diet-related disease, costing $26 billion a year and causing 47,000 deaths in 2016. Almost one in three children are overweight or obese. Critics of the proposed policies use scare tactics that claim the goal of the changes is to force food choices on Canadians and to hurt Canadian agriculture. The goal, of course, is to inform choices, not restrict choices. Canadian agriculture has a crucial role in supplying the many nutritious foods we all need and eat every day. That will never change.

What certainly does need to change is our steady march as a society towards obesity and diet-related sickness. Canada’s new Healthy Eating Strategy is a much-needed turn away from that fate.

Source: Winnipeg Free Press Newspaper

Chinese-style Thick Hearty Soup with Eel and Pickled Vegetable


7 oz eel, sliced
2 cups chicken stock
3 clovers garlic, sliced
1/2 oz dried daylily (金针), soaked and trimmed
3 dried black mushrooms, soaked and sliced
2/3 cup sliced fresh button mushrooms
1/4 cup soaked and sliced pickled mustard greens
1/2 tomato, diced
2 green onions, shredded
1 tbsp chopped cilantro


2 tbsp cooking wine
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper


1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar

Cornstarch Solution

1 tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tbsp water


  1. Combine eel and marinade ingredients in a bowl. Stir to coat. Let stand 30 minutes.
  2. Combine seasoning ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Bring chicken stock to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Keep broth at a simmer.
  4. Heat 1 tbsp cooking oil in a hot wok over high heat. Add garlic, stir-fry 1 minute or until fragrant and golden brown.
  5. Add eel, daylily and black mushrooms. Cook 1 minute. Add broth and bring to a boil.
  6. Add button mushrooms, pickled mustard greens and tomato. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes.
  7. Add seasonings and cornstarch solution. Cook, stirring, until soup thickens, add green onions and cilantro, mix well. Serve hot.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Source: Gourmet Do It Yourself

In Pictures: Fugu Cuisine (ふぐ料理)

Lunch or Dinner Set with Other Seafood


Hot Pot

Miso Soup




Fugu (Pufferfish), Japan’s Deadly Delicacy

Chris Dwyer wrote . . . . . . . .

In the corner of a Japanese fish market bustling with visitors, the vending machine selling Hyper Aqua water features a cartoon. The image looking back at me – in fact, winking at me – is of a smiling pufferfish, known as fugu, its pink lips drinking from a bottle balanced on one of its fins. It’s a typically cute Japanese advertising ploy, but one using a cartoon fish with a dark secret.

The lure of the pufferfish, a rare and expensive delicacy, is down to tetrodotoxin, a poison which, when ingested, can potentially induce symptoms including numbness and paralysis, before a terrifying, agonising death by respiratory failure, the poor victim conscious until the horrible end.

It’s surprising then that people willingly consume dishes that could – in theory – contain this neurotoxin. It’s also a fish sold at auction in a truly remarkable way.

The history of eating fugu in Japan is said to date back more than 3,000 years with fossilised remnants found across the country in archaeological digs and in mounds that served as ancient rubbish dumps. The famed 17th century Japanese poet known as Basho even composed traditional haiku poems about it – with a wry sense of humour: “I enjoyed fugu and soup yesterday. Luckily, nothing has happened.”

It is said that the Japanese emperor was historically forbidden to eat fugu because of the risks, as the tissues of some of the fish’s internal organs – notably the liver – can be more than 1,000 times more lethal than cyanide.

Indeed, eating fugu was banned in the 16th century and only became legal in 1888 on the orders of the first prime minister of Japan, Hirobumi Ito.

Ito was born in the picturesque city of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture at the westernmost tip of Japan’s largest island, Honshu. He lifted the ban partly to spur the region’s economic development, as Shimonoseki is Japan’s undisputed home of fugu.

The waters of the Kanmon Straits, on which the city lies, are renowned spawning grounds for tiger pufferfish. As a result, the dozens of fugu restaurants there have since become known as the country’s best, attracting domestic travellers and curious international visitors. But Shimonoseki is also home to Japan’s most unusual pufferfish auction, a secretive, predawn event known as fukuro zeri – or bag auction.

While Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market is a famously popular destination for tourists, few visitors ever make the very early morning journey to the docks of Shimonoseki to witness the unique auction.

So, at a somewhat painful 2.50am, I was joined by a translator and an official from Shimonoseki Council as we pulled up at an unremarkable warehouse near the harbour. It houses Haedomari Market, where around 80 per cent of Japan’s fugu is landed and sold, making it by far the nation’s largest pufferfish auction and the only place to use the strange selling method.

Inside, workers in coloured waterproof overalls and maroon baseball caps – to distinguish themselves from the buyers in yellow caps – were busy loading and stacking blue crates of pufferfish. The men – all of them were men – worked diligently in near silence, occasionally standing on stone pens that held the different types of pufferfish.

At times they used a long wooden pole to move the crates or a net to transfer the fish, sorting them by size and type before weighing them.

Buyers milled around, peering down and squatting to get close to the most prized and expensive torafugu, or wild tiger fish, so named for their unique, beautiful markings, that had been laid out on black tarpaulin. These top-quality fish can be found across Japan but are comparatively rare, meaning they only number around 100 in total per auction and can therefore fetch about 30,000 yen per kilo (US$275) when in perfect condition. Some emitted occasional disconcerting squeaks, while others puffed up, to show the famed defence mechanism they use in the wild.

The market, which has operated on this site since 1974, takes place six days a week during the season that runs from late October to late March. There are 17 types of fugu caught around Japan and this market usually sells 13 of them, the most popular and cheapest being mafugu.

Today mafugu (purple puffer) is largely farmed, with the prices of around US$50 per kilogram agreed on before the main event. The serious bidding action happens around the remaining 10-15 per cent of the day’s sales – wild fish, which are more expensive and served in more exclusive restaurants across Japan.

To the sound of seagulls screeching behind a trawler that was coming into the port, at precisely 3.20am the auctioneer Yoshi Yanagawa, simply dressed despite the cold in a white T-shirt, navy blue trousers, black wellies and a maroon cap, rang a bell to start the auction of Japan’s most infamous delicacy.

He took a sleeve of black material, about two feet long, and placed his right hand and forearm into it. Next, he used his left hand to hold it in place, thereby ensuring his right hand was completely covered. Then the extraordinary transaction process began.

Blue crates were lined up on the floor, each containing between 15 and 20 wild pufferfish of similar sizes, many of which were still moving. Some lots, especially those of the most prized plump specimens, were sold per crate, while other lots consisted of multiple crates.

Standing by each lot in turn, he asked the bidders, “Will you buy this one?” before a handful of the 15 or so buyers present, both from restaurants and wholesalers, raised their hands to signal that they wanted to bid.

They then walked up to the auctioneer, one by one, to tell him precisely how much they were willing to pay through intricate signals made by touching his right hand and fingers under the material. No prices were mentioned, and there were none of the shouts and cries heard in fish and produce markets all over the world; in fact, the auctioneer was for the most part the only one talking.

Once the buyers had made their secret bids, Yanagawa pointed to the one successful winner, who would nod in recognition, before the group moved on to the next lot.

Incredibly, as Yanagawa explained in an interview following the auction, when there’s an exact tie in bids – an occasional occurrence – then the two highest bidders face off for the lot, again by using hand signals – this time not in secret, but by playing the children’s game of rock-paper-scissors.

In Japanese the game is known as janken, and is used everywhere from playgrounds to the business world, having even been used to settle corporate disputes.

As soon as the auction ended, the fugu were packed into polystyrene crates to be taken away to the 10 licensed processing centres around the city, where the fish have all toxins removed in a process that follows rigorous legal guidelines.

As market workers hosed down the floors or sipped coffee from vending machines, I joined the auctioneer in a small office as he sat on a black plastic sofa by an ancient gas heater, surrounded by posters of fish.

Yanagawa told me that he had been working in the market for 15 years, before explaining that the bids differ, in part, according to the pressure exerted on his hand and arm by the fingers of the bidders.

Numerous theories abound as to the genesis of the unique secret selling method, but he said he learned that the technique originated in Korea and was first used at horse auctions, and used a bigger sleeve, like that on a kimono.

He then proceeded to demonstrate some of the bewildering succession of touches used in the bidding process, holding his fingers in different orders and combinations to denote different prices.

“96 is the most difficult number to communicate, while the numbers up to 99 are also pretty difficult,” he said.

I asked whether some people use special techniques or unique ways to bid, but he explained that everyone uses the same signs and expressions, which they learn as part of their training. I also wondered about his safety, being surrounded daily by thousands of fish, each of which can carry enough poison to kill up to 30 adults.

“The poison actually comes from the shellfish that the fish eat as it accumulates in their liver. There’s no threat in touching them – but the fugu will bite you,” he said.

He explained with evident pride that Yamaguchi prefecture has not seen a poisoning case in decades; most of the incidents involve amateurs wrongly thinking that they can safely prepare the dish. Such are the local standards that only fugu prepared in Shimonoseki is allowed into the United States, while domestically the Japanese public can even order it online (with poison removed) before cooking it at home.

Unlike the crab fisherman I once interviewed who admitted he hated crab, the auctioneer is a big fan of fugu, preferring it in different guises, including “as sashimi marinated in ponzu, or in rice porridge. The bones are good fried as a snack with beer or also when it’s served as shirako soft roe.”

“Soft roe” is a somewhat poetic term for what is actually the milt – or sperm sacs – of fugu (and other fish). It’s fair to say it’s an acquired texture, borne out by my lunch later that day at the beautiful and historic Shimonoseki fugu restaurant Shunpanro.

The sacs were just one of multiple ways the fish was served. Tessa fugu (sashimi) was so thinly sliced that it was transparent, allowing diners to appreciate the beautiful porcelain design on which it is served. Using a special knife called a hochi, chefs train for years to slice the sashimi.

The sashimi’s taste was unremarkable, having no distinct flavour until the ponzu sauce that accompanied it was added, but to far more discerning Japanese palates it is held up as one of the country’s truly great delicacies.

Perhaps my British upbringing and love of fish and chips made the deep-fried karaage version particularly memorable, while hirezake, a dish where the fish’s fins are grilled before being served in an elegant ceramic cup of hot sake, was another culinary first for me.

A hotpot-style dish called chirinabe, and fugu sushi, the fish lightly charred, were both excellent, but neither delivered what some have claimed is a classic sign of fugu, namely that a diner’s lips become ever so slightly numb.

Maybe, just like a fish sold in such strange secrecy, it was an effect that was still waiting to reveal itself.

Source : SCMP

Weight Loss May Reverse Course of Atrial Fibrillation

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . . . . .

Weight loss might help reverse progression of a common heart arrhythmia in obese adults, a new study shows.

Researchers found that when obese adults with atrial fibrillation (a-fib) shed at least 10 percent of their starting weight, most saw the course of their condition reverse. More than half became a-fib-free during the study period.

Experts said the findings underscore the value of sustained weight loss for obese a-fib patients.

“The fact that as little as a 10 percent weight loss resulted in such dramatic change is impressive,” said Dr. Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, a cardiologist who specializes in treating heart arrhythmias.

“The benefits can be amazing,” he said.

Lakkireddy, who was not involved in the study, is chairman-elect of the American College of Cardiology’s electrophysiology section.

Weight loss is critical, he explained, because obesity feeds many of the factors that contribute to atrial fibrillation — including high blood pressure, diabetes and the nighttime breathing disorder sleep apnea.

“So if you target the root cause,” Lakkireddy said, “you can address these issues in one shot.”

Past research had shown weight loss can ease a-fib symptoms and keep episodes from recurring.

But the new study is the first to show it can also reverse the course of the disease, according to the Australian researchers, led by Melissa Middeldorp of the University of Adelaide.

Atrial fibrillation affects anywhere from 3 million to 6 million Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It arises when the heart’s upper chambers beat erratically instead of maintaining a steady, normal rhythm. Though the problem is not immediately life-threatening, if it persists over time, it can raise the risk of stroke or heart failure.

The new findings, published recently in the journal Europace, are based on 355 obese a-fib patients who were offered a structured weight-loss program.

It included individualized diet and lifestyle advice. But in general, patients cut down on calories and processed, high-carbohydrate foods. They also started exercising: First, they took on low-intensity activity three or four times a week, then built toward sessions of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking. The goal was 200 minutes per week, or about 30 minutes each day.

They also received help with managing all their a-fib risk factors such as monitoring their blood pressure, getting their blood sugar levels down, and treating sleep apnea.

Four years later, the study found, people who’d managed to lose at least 10 percent of their weight were faring best.

Overall, 135 people lost that much weight. And 88 percent of them had been either free of a-fib in the past year, or had gone from persistent a-fib episodes to “paroxysmal” a-fib.

Persistent a-fib episodes last for at least a week, or even months. They may require treatment — with either drugs or an electrical “shock” to the heart — to end them.

In contrast, paroxysmal episodes last less than a week and go away on their own.

The picture was different for patients who lost little weight. Of the 116 who lost less than 3 percent of their weight, 41 percent progressed from paroxysmal a-fib to persistent. Only one patient improved from persistent to paroxysmal a-fib.

“Progression of the disease is shown to have a direct link with the degree of weight loss,” Middeldorp said in a statement. “Without weight loss, there is a progression of AF [a-fib] to more persistent forms of AF.”

Doctors already encourage obese a-fib patients to lose weight, according to Lakkireddy. But, he noted, it is notoriously difficult to keep excess pounds off.

The patients in this study went through a fairly intensive formal weight-loss program — and that may be what it takes. Lakkireddy said a-fib patients who need to lose weight can start by asking their doctor for resources to help them.

“Don’t be lured by these fad diets,” he cautioned. Certain diets could be dangerous for people with a-fib. Imbalances in nutrients like potassium and magnesium can spur heart rhythm disturbances.

Instead, Lakkireddy said, go for healthy, sustainable changes.

“In general,” he said, “people will benefit from reducing portion sizes, cutting out sugar and eating more vegetables and lean protein.”

Source: HealthDay

Today’s Comic