Nutrition

Sex and Gender-based Analysis of this topic

Definition
Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating defines a nutritious diet as one that includes a variety of foods and emphasizes vegetables and fruit, cereals, bread and grain products as well as lower-fat dairy products, leaner meats and food prepared with little or not fat. The guide recommends that salt, high-fat foods, alcohol, and caffeine be limited [1]. Poor nutrition can lead to increased or lowered body weight, decreased body strength, lower resistance to infection and poorer quality of life [2], and increases the risk for chronic diseases, disability, and premature death [3]. Information here is based on research and analyses measured against the 1992 Canada Food Guide.
 
 
Sex Issues
Individual daily caloric requirements depend on height, weight, age, sex, and activity level among other factors. Women need more calories per day when pregnant and breastfeeding, for instance. Women have a greater chance of developing osteoporosis, which is linked to inadequate calcium and vitamin D intake [4]. Women are at greater risk than men of developing iron and vitamin deficiency anemias, particularly as a result of blood and iron loss during menstruation and increased blood volume during pregnancy [5]. There is also evidence to suggest that a diet high in fat is linked to women’s risk of developing breast cancer [6].
 
 
Gender Issues

Females 14 years or older are less likely then males to report eating the recommended 5+ servings of vegetables a day. As well, females in general are less likely than men to consume the recommended amount of grain products [7]. Only 25% of females over the age of 17 report consuming the daily recommended servings of milk and dairy products. Although some dietary fat is required for good health, excess fat consumption is a significant problem for women aged 30-50 years; a quarter of this age group derives more than 35% of their calorie intake from fat [8]. ‘Other foods’, a category that includes condiments, alcohol, coffee and soft drinks, represents the second largest source of women’s energy, accounting for 22% of total calories consumed [8].

 
 
Diversity

Consumption patterns of the food groups vary among women depending on income; women with higher incomes report greater consumption of fruits, vegetables, meats, and meat alternatives [7]. While most Canadian women have enough to eat, there is still a portion of the population that reports being food insecure [7]. It is not uncommon for low income women to forgo their own eating in order for their children to eat better and/or to afford other basic needs, such as adequate housing [9, 10].

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), Santé Quebec [11] and the results from the First Nations Regional Longitudinal Health Survey [12] provide information on the nutritional status of some of the First Nation and Inuit communities of Canada. In the communities surveyed women did not consume the recommended portions of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products and had a higher intake of fat, sugar, and protein than recommended. Intake of calcium, magnesium, folate, vitamin C and Vitamin A were also lower than recommended levels [12]. It is not clear if a country diet (based on traditional foods) is or should be directly relatable to the Food Guide.

Women who live in northern and remote parts of Canada report having to buy unhealthy foods because healthier alternatives are often too expensive [9, 13].

 
 
Critique

The appropriateness of Canada’s Food Guide for all citizens has been the source of some contention. The development of the 2007 Food Guide has been an attempt to reconcile these differences, as it is includes distinct portion sizes and culturally specific foods. The Guide continues to be criticized because of the representation from food marketing boards on the advisory committee.

Explorations of the nutrition for Aboriginal peoples, one sub-population which can be identified in the data, are sporadic and typically exclude those on-Reserve in the Canadian Community Health Survey, or in the case of the Regional Health Survey, those off-Reserve, Métis, and Inuit.

 
 
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health determinants > nutrition