Why your health conscious food choices are bad news for the planet – and your wallet
The rise of the conscious eater (part 1)
By Zoey Henderson
'Healthy' eating is not per definition the same as 'conscious' eating. Nifty marketeers have made matter far more complicated than they should be, by convincing us that the only way to be truly healthy, is to eat things that come from the other side of the planet. Nothing could be further from the truth.
You don't need avocados and quinoa on a daily basis to be healthy - what you need is VARIETY
A 'super food' is little more than a marketing buzzword, spoiler alert; all naturally grown foods, from healthy soils with variation and consumed as close to source as possible are super good for yo. Hurrah!
One minute blueberries will reverse aging then quinoa (once everyone agreed on its pronunciation) was crowned the king of grains. Avocado in all its water hungry, air mile absorbing glory was hailed the fat you must have. This is not to dispel their proven nutritional values, yet to become a truly conscious eater, we must take into account more than just nutritional profiles.
By isolating a nutritional compound and putting the might of the clever marketing team behind it, we forgot about all the other important elements that make foods super: Environmental impact, farming practices and soil health. Massive overconsumption of fad foods by eaters thinking these are now essential to good health (they are not!) has had negative consequences socially and environmentally, not to mention on your wallet.
Avocados have fallen prey to criminal gangs in the America’s, dubbed 'the green gold in the race to supply smashed avocado on toast to ‘health’ obsessed westerners. Quinoa, a staple crop for indigenous Bolivianos, can no longer afford it, because of sky rocketing demand by western health fanatics. Barley, rye, or spelt are just as good, and grown in our own back yard. That's not to say you shouldn't ever eat quinoa or avos, but we must all understand that there is no such thing as a sustainable 'all you can eat' avo and quinoa buffet.
Become a conscious eater for the benefit of your health and the planet
So, becoming healthy through conscious eating is not about eating buzzwords or reducing foods to their micronutrients. It is about understanding where your foods came from and how they were grown. Help and support the farmers in your immediate region / country and eat the bulk of your foods in season.
We live in a digitally connected world where farmers can now communicate directly with consumers, online and bulk shopping is becoming the norm, especially in our post COVID world and choice and education can help us make more conscious decisions. Understand what is grown locally and eat a wide variety, help drive demand to enable farmers to grow a variety of crops, increasing soil biodiversity and health, along with your own.
Cook meals as much as you can from scratch with love, savour the flavours and taste of real foods and sharing that with your friends and family. If you pick a balance of fresh produce and whole foods, have little refined sugar and carbohydrates (think white) then nature will provide all the nutrients you need, she’s got this – let her do the hard work. Where we can help support that is by;
- Eat mostly the fruit and veggies that are in season
- Eat a broad variety of pulses and legumes (they are packed with essential fibres and protein, and are critical for good soil health as part of crop rotation – mono cultures are really bad news for soil and therefore your health too)
- Ideally buy fruit and veggies that are grown without the use of pesticides (one organic carrot typically has 5x the nutrient density of a conventionally grown carrot.. justifies the higher price)
- If you eat meat or fish choose the way of the bear: less but better quality (i.e. NEVER from factory farms) for flavour rather than bulk
Be more bear!
The pickle we do find ourselves in is the nutritionally driven, micronutrient focused food scape that creates this healthy eating confusion. Oh to be a bear, she never has this problem. She wanders through the forest picking what’s fresh and colourful, taking only what she needs. Never having awkward moments unwrapping her lunch (those claws are nightmare), reading long complicated ingredient lists or feeling emotionally persuaded that a low fat or diet product should be consumed to keep that bear body beach ready.
In agreement with Michael Pollen in his book in Defence of Food she understands ‘’ eat food, not too much, mostly plants”Eating seasonally, eating locally from natural farming methods, with respect and understanding of soil health and importantly enjoying your food all contribute to a ‘healthy’ plate. The battle we face is that the health marketing bemouth has become driven by a science that picks food apart into its constituent parts and wraps a marketing tale and ideally a new product USP around the foods we eat.
In part two we look at how to navigate our complicated foodie landscape and look a little deeper into some of our favourite foods.