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Applying Canada's Dietary Guidelines

Examples of nutritious foods that provide iron, calcium or that contain mostly unsaturated fat

Getting enough of certain nutrients may be difficult during some life stages. Examples from nutritious foods in Canada’s Dietary Guidelines that provide certain nutrients can help health professionals and policy makers when applying the Guidelines to different life stages.

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Examples of food sources of iron

Nutritious foods recommended in Canada’s Dietary Guidelines that contain iron include several types of protein foods, dark green vegetables and whole grains. These foods can be particularly important during childhood and adolescence, for most adult females and during pregnancy. The need for iron is higher for those eating vegetarian diets, because of the reduced bioavailability from plant-based foods.

Food sources of iron include:

  • nuts
  • seeds
  • legumes
  • eggs (yolk)
  • fish and shellfish 
  • dark green vegetables
  • lean red meat, including wild game
  • whole grains and whole grain foods

Iron in food comes in two forms: heme iron and non-heme iron.

Meat, fish and shellfish, eggs, and poultry contain both heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body.

Non-heme iron is found in plant-based foods.  

The absorption of non-heme iron from foods can be increased by including:

  • a source of vitamin C, such as from many vegetables or fruit
  • foods with heme iron, such as from meat, poultry, fish and shellfish

Some substances inhibit iron absorption. These include polyphenols from tea and coffee and large amounts of calcium. The effect of inhibitors can be reduced by recommending a wait of 1 to 2 hours after a meal before drinking tea or coffee or before taking calcium supplements.

Examples of food sources of calcium

Nutritious foods recommended in Canada’s Dietary Guidelines that are food sources of calcium include several types of protein foods and certain dark green vegetables.

A variety of food sources of calcium can help meet needs for this nutrient. Examples of food sources of calcium include:

  • tofu (prepared with calcium)
  • some fish and shellfish, such as
    • clams
    • shrimp
    • octopus
    • sardines
    • bass (freshwater)
    • pickerel (walleye)
    • perch (freshwater)
    • pollock (Atlantic or Alaska)
    • herring (Atlantic or Pacific)
    • salmon (canned with bones)
  • some dark green vegetables, such as
    • okra
    • rapini
    • bok choy
    • taro leaves
    • chinese broccoli
    • some seaweed, such as
      • kelp
      • dulse
      • wakame
    • some leafy greens, such as
      • kale
      • arugula
      • watercress
      • turnip greens
      • mustard greens
  • lower fat unsweetened milk, yogurt and kefir
  • many cheeses that are lower in fat and sodium
  • some legumes, such as
    • soybeans
    • edamame
    • navy beans
    • white beans
  • unsweetened fortified plant-based beverages, such as
    • oat
    • soy
    • cashew
    • almond

Fortified plant-based beverages, milk, yogurt, kefir, tofu (prepared with calcium) and cheeses can be an efficient way to help meet calcium needs, due to their high calcium content. This is an important consideration for children and adolescents, adult females and older adults, because their needs for calcium are higher than for other life stages. 

Using these foods as ingredients can also contribute small amounts of calcium and help meet needs for this nutrient. For example, adding dark green vegetables to a pasta sauce, or milk or fortified plant-based beverage to a soup, or tofu or yogurt to a dip can add to the total calcium content of the diet.

In choosing food sources of calcium, personal preferences, cultures and food traditions should be considered. 

Examples of foods that contain mostly unsaturated fat

Foods that contain mostly unsaturated fat should replace foods that contain mostly saturated fat. Foods that contain mostly unsaturated fat can also help young children meet their needs for calories and fat. Nutritious foods recommended in Canada’s Dietary Guidelines that contain mostly unsaturated fat include:

  • avocado
  • fatty fish, such as
    • trout
    • herring
    • salmon
    • sardines
    • mackerel
    • arctic char
  • hummus
  • soybeans
  • nuts and nut butters
  • tofu (firmer varieties)
  • seeds and seed butters
  • many vegetable oils, such as olive and canola oil
  • spreads made with unsaturated oils, such as soft margarine

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