Frequently Asked Questions on Healthy Foods and Ingredients

  • 1. What are healthy foods?

    A: Healthy foods contain lower amounts of salt, sugar, saturated fat, cholesterol and most of trans fats, but higher amounts of fibre and certain minerals and vitamins. Consumers also do not prefer synthetic chemicals such as preservatives, flavours, colours or antioxidants in healthy food products. Allergen-free foods, such as gluten and lactose free products, are also considered healthy for certain group of consumers.

  • 2. How I can recognize healthy foods?

    A: One of the resources is Nutrition Facts Education Campaign initiated by Health Canada in 2010. Other resources include Health Check Program, Whole Grain logo, Gluten Free Certification and Sodium 101, among many others. Many food processors are using the above resources to attract consumers and increase sales volume. Private retailers logos, such as PC blue menu products, are also promoted as healthy food choices.

  • 3. What are healthy food ingredients?

    A: Healthy ingredients include omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from plant and marine sources, phytosterols, natural colours and antioxidants, probiotics, prebiotics, soluble and insoluble fibre, protein concentrates from various sources and some trans fatty acids such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Healthy food ingredients are also known as functional food ingredients (FFI), nutraceuticals and/or natural health products (NHP).

  • 4. How can I recognize healthy food ingredients?

    A: More precise definitions, examples and categories of functional food ingredients, nutraceuticals and NHP can be found at these links: What are Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals and Natural Health Products and Functional Foods.

  • 5. Why is salt or sodium getting special attention?

    A: Sodium is a nutrient found in table salt (Sodium chloride). Other sources include monosodium glutamate, sodium benzoate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, sodium nitrite and sodium acid pyrophosphate. Salts are used as seasoning, preservative, binding agents, color controller and texture aid as well as in prevention of functional failure and as a career of other ingredients. While the body needs some sodium to function, too much may lead to high blood pressure or hypertension (4.6 million in Canada and 53.9 million in USA), which is a major risk factor for stroke, heart and kidney disease. It is estimated that almost 30% of hypertension can be attributed to excess dietary sodium. While consumers (aged 9 to 50 years) should not consume more than 2300 mg (upper tolerable level) of sodium per day (present in 1 teaspoon or 6 g of table salt), the current average sodium intake in Canada is 3400 mg. This amount is more than twice the daily sodium recommended adequate intake (1500 mg/day). Numerous studies indicated that reduction of sodium intake in general population to a range between 1500 and 2300 mg would significantly reduce heart, stroke and kidney disease among general populations saving many lives and unnecessary expensive health care costs. Therefore, sodium working group, established by Health Canada in 2007, recommended in 2010 reducing the daily sodium consumption of adult Canadians to 2300 mg (from 3400 mg, about 5% each year) by 2016 and between 1500 and 2300 mg by January 2020 using the following six strategies:

      1. Set gradual sodium targets based on food categories.

      2. Monitor progress report by 2012 and 2016.

      3. Establish an efficient system to monitor the sodium intake in the diet of Canadians.

      4. Educate Canadians on the health risks of diets too rich in sodium and ways to reduce intake.

      5. Provide incentives to the food industry.

      6. See that health professionals understand the necessity of reducing dietary sodium intake and that their respective associations educate members on the health risks and ways to reducing them.

    While these recommendations are voluntary, public health officials, health professionals, health ministers, and consumers’ advocacy groups are strongly lobbying the provincial and federal governments to introduce mandatory salt reduction regulations.

    Many not-for-profit organizations in Canada joined the effort to reduce salt consumption in general population in Canada including “Hypertension Canada”, “Heart and Stroke Foundation”, “Canadian Stroke Network” and “Centre for Science in the Public Interest”.

  • 6. What food and ingredient health claims are permitted in Canada?

    A: Canada’s regulatory system for foods and ingredients with health benefits are summarized in this link (pdf file). More detail can be found at the following links:

    Function Claims and Probiotic Claims for Food (pdf file)
    Canadian Food Health Claim Road Map - Part 1
    Canadian Food Health Claim Road Map - Part 2

    See the Food Health Claims section for more specific examples.

  • 7. Who are interested in healthy foods and ingredients and WHY?

    A: Dramatic increase of obesity rates among adults and children in Canada and around the globe are major concern for health authorities due to adverse health complication to individuals and high costs associated with prevention and control of obesity (over 300 billion US dollars in USA by 2018). Other food related preventable health complications include heart and stroke clinical disorders, diabetes, and high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, among others. Therefore, public health authorities, consumers’ advocacy groups and health conscious consumers are demanding that the food processing industries provide healthier food choices. Consumption of healthy foods and ingredients is important factor for health and wellness of consumers, which in turn can contribute to reduction of staggering costs of health care system.

  • 8. Why should agri-food businesses in Saskatchewan be interested in development and production of healthy foods and ingredients?

    A: Saskatchewan is a nutritional powerhouse just waiting to be tapped into. There are many opportunities available:

      - To capture unlimited market opportunities in healthy food and ingredient sectors. This will increase competitiveness and profitability of Saskatchewan agri-food business.

      - To fulfill current and future healthy foods and ingredients regulatory requirements. Currently, most of these requirements are voluntary, but local and national food regulatory agencies are seriously considering imposing mandatory regulations on food processing industries. Failure to comply with food regulations can lead to significant losses to Saskatchewan agri-food business.

      - To utilize unlimited agriculture resources in the province (cereals, oilseeds, pulses, meats, fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, specialty crops, dairy, honey and wild plants, among many others).

      - To contribute to health and wellness of consumers and thus reduction of health care costs.

      - To help reduce carbon emissions and benefits the environment.

  • 9. What are the main strategies to develop and produce healthy foods and ingredients in Saskatchewan?

    A: The following are the five major strategies that can be applied by agri-food businesses in Saskatchewan to develop and produce healthy foods and ingredients:

      1. Understand and apply food and ingredient health claims permitted in Canada.

      2. Search and analyze healthy foods and ingredients available in Saskatchewan and Canada. Focus on your sector/interest (cereal, pulses, honey, meat, dairy, FFI, NHP, etc.).

      3. Reformulate existing food products to reduce salt, fat and/or sugar to attract health conscious consumers and meet potential future food regulatory requirements.

      4. Fortify existing food products with certain vitamins, minerals and/or FFI to increase their nutritional profile.

      5. Innovate new line of healthy food products and ingredients from Saskatchewan vast agricultural raw materials.

  • 10. Can the Food Centre assist agri-businesses in Saskatchewan to develop and produce healthy food products and ingredients?

    A: The Food Centre has unique expertise and technological capacities to assist interested agri-food business in Saskatchewan in reformulating and fortifying existing food products to improve their healthy profile as well as in development and commercialization of functional food Ingredients, nutraceuticals and natural health products. We also communicate with other not-for-profit organization, health authorities, university researchers, industry partners to acquire updated information, technologies and regulations related to healthy foods and ingredients.

  • 11. What healthy foods categories can be developed at the Food Centre?

    A: All healthy food categories, with few exceptions, can be developed and produced at the Food Centre. Some examples include:

      - Low sodium or sodium free products (bread, baby foods, processed meat products, pasta, cheese, milk products, gravies and sauces, soups, breakfast cereal (cold and hot), egg products, fish products, all type of snacks, pickled products, candy products, nutritional and energy bars, cakes mixtures, vegetable juices and pulse products, etc.)

      - Low fat (trans fats, cholesterol and saturated fats) products such as vegetable based dips, salad dressings, mayonnaise and margarines.

      - Low sugar, with natural sweetener or no added sugar products. Examples include fruit juices, value added honey products, jams, jellies, fruit sauces, dried fruits, fruit sheets and bars, grain and pulses based beverages, baked products and dairy products.

      - Fresh produce (fruits and vegetables) cut to different shapes (slices, cubes, shreds, etc.).

      - Other specialty products such as vegetable based extruded products (simulated meat burgers, strips, meat balls, etc.), gluten-free products, etc.

      - Any other innovative products that satisfy the business needs of our clients. The Food Centre will make every effort to acquire state-of-the art technologies to benefit agri-foods business in Saskatchewan to develop and produce healthy foods.

  • 12. What healthy food ingredients can be developed at the Food Centre?

    A: The Food Centre can develop and produce healthy ingredients with potential anti-aging and anti -inflammation, bone, eye, digestive and heart health characteristics as well as weight management, cognitive and immunity enhancing properties. Some example include:

      - Fibre and protein fractions from grains and pulses using dry and solvent free fractionation and concentration technologies.

      - Bio active ingredients (antioxidants, colorants, antimicrobials, etc.) from berries, cherries, spices and herbs using solvent free high pressure water extraction.

      3. Bioactive lipids from various sources using mechanical pressure.

      - Protein concentrates from fish industry by-products.

  • 13. Is there any funding available to develop healthy foods and ingredients in Saskatchewan?

    A: Both provincial and federal governments strongly support development and production of healthy foods and ingredients. Please visit the funding section to obtain more information. We also help clients to apply for appropriate funding agencies.

  • 14. What is the FIRST step to develop healthy foods and ingredients in Saskatchewan?

    A: Contact the Food Centre's Product Development Manager, Sara Lui (306) 933-7822 or email: to explore opportunities in developing healthy foods and ingredients. Initial consultations are FREE!

  • 15. What services are provided through development of healthy foods and ingredients program at the Food Centre?

    A: The program can offer the following services for clients:

      1. Quick literature review

      2. Identifying opportunities

      3. Regulation updates

      4. Product reformulation solutions

      5. Product development innovations

      6. Assist with funding applications

      7. Extension program

      8. Access latest food and ingredient processing technologies

      9. Provide innovative packaging options for retail, test marketing and tradeshows

      10. Access analytical support services (chemical, physical, nutritional, microbiological and sensory)

      11. Source functional and healthy food ingredients

      12. Laboratory, kitchen and pilot scale trials

      13. Production options

  • 1