Has kale had its chirps? The great clean vs conscious food debate
From goat meat to edible crickets, let's munch through the ethical quandaries of trying to eat green
So much for Veganuary, then. According to figures published last week by shopping analyst Kantar Worldpanel, in the month when a record 3.5 million Brits claimed to have committed themselves to a plant-only diet, there was precisely no dip in the sales of meat, fish and poultry.
While beetroot burgers, pulled jackfruit and tofu nuggets flew off the shelves, so too did more traditional steaks and joints. It appears that, sometimes, even vegans tell porkies.
But then, to misquote a famous puppet frog, it isn’t easy eating green.
Being true to clean-eating principles – choosing “whole” natural foods and minimising processed foods – takes application. And a lot of label-reading in the supermarket. So, instead of eating clean, should we simply be eating more consciously?
It’s an approach that broadly boils down to eating the freshest in-season foods with the greatest nutritional value that have taken the shortest pathway to our plates. In the tussle between eating clean and eating consciously, who wins out? Clean vs conscious: who’s more environmentally friendly?
The latest ethical food trend we’ll all supposedly be trying in 2019 is goat meat. Jamaicans have been stewing it in delicious curries for years but, despite being naturally lean and low in cholesterol, it has been slow to take hold in elsewhere. As a result, 100,000 young male goats, which are surplus to the production of goat’s cheese, are euthanised every year. To address this wastage and to encourage more people to reduce their intake of environmentally questionable, overfarmed red meat, British supermarkets are testing a number of new ranges, including goat sausages, meatballs and ready meals. There is even talk of a month-long promotional push: “Goatober”.
Clean-eating vegans might not approve, but surely it is far better all round to eat goat meat “consciously” than let it go to waste? There is a popular school of thought that says it is more environmentally friendly to encourage sustainable forms of meat and dairy production than be seduced into eating products made from industrially grown soya, maize and grains. You can be pretty sure your almond milk latte has a fair few more air miles behind it than one made with goat semi-skimmed.
Clean vs conscious: who eats more seasonally?
Setting concerns about the planet aside for a moment, it’s worth conceding that going flexitarian (filling your shopping trolley with more veg and less meat) can only be good for your health. But we still need to be asking where our food has come from.
Pomegranates and mangoes from India, lentils from Canada, green beans from Brazil, goji berries from China ... they all look perfect, but they’re out of season, have been flown from the other side of the planet, and taste of, really, very little. But if you follow the conscious-eating mantra and buy seasonal and exclusively local produce, you’ll be eating tastier, more nutritious and more ethical food.
Some experts also think there are huge health benefits to eating seasonally, that the kinds of foods we crave at different times of year not only reflect what is available, but also what our bodies need.
Clean vs conscious: which is better for you?
Moringa, cannabidiol, Amazonian camu camu ... in case you weren’t aware, these are the superfoods to see you through 2019. It used to be that a handful of blueberries and half a bag of spinach was enough to stay up-to-date with the superfoodies. But now kale is yesterday’s news and edible crickets are in.
The current big thing for clean eaters is moringa powder, made from the desiccated leaf of a plant called the miracle tree; presumably, Gwyneth Paltrow has an entire orchard growing in her LA garden. Native to the foothills of the Himalayas, every bit of the tree is densely packed with vitamins and minerals. Just a few leaves are said to contain seven times the vitamin C of an orange, as well as significantly higher calcium levels than milk, and more beta-carotene than carrots.
Clean eaters have been busy adding it to their smoothies. They’re also big on watermelon seeds, with nutritionists recommending them as a healthy alternative to crisps and nuts. A handful of watermelon seeds is only 20 calories, and contains lots of fibre and healthy fats, along with some vitamin E and other goodies. The trouble is, all these superfoods come at great expense, with very little real science behind their supposedly extraordinary properties.
They also inevitably rely on being flown in, and are often ecologically dodgy to farm. Seaweed has become one of the fastest-growing food trends, but in the Philippines and Tanzania, mangroves have been chopped down to make way for seaweed farming.
As for veganism, the health benefits of a well-balanced, plant-based diet are undeniable. But even Dr Michael Mosley, co-creator of the 5:2 diet, says being a veggie or vegan isn’t necessarily associated with living any longer. If that’s the case, I think I’d rather not live out the rest of my days existing on watermelon seeds and seitan, if it’s all the same to you.
– © The Sunday Telegraph