I have previously blogged about my interest in nutrition. As I continue to develop my knowledge, both through reading various books and working through my nutrition course I can feel myself becoming both more knowledgeable and more confused.
It is no wonder many don’t know what to do for the best when it comes to nutrition. I mean what research is correct?
The information you get with regards to diet very much depends on the source of that information. It is no surprise that research funded by big corporates that sell ‘unhealthy foods’ suggests the obesity problem is a result of our ever increasing sedentary lifestyle more than a result of diet. However those of you that have tried to gain abs in the gym know that only 30% of the work is training, the other 70% is diet.
With abs aside, what about vegan vs non vegan diets? Which is best? Well I think that depends. Whilst I 100% believe that our consumption of meat is leading to health and sustainability issues I don’t think it is quite that clear cut.
Overall I still think there is a place for meat at our table, well my table at least. I know I am opening myself up here for a bit of backlash from the vegan community but hear me out.
We have been eating meat as a species for a very long time, I mean 2.5 million years (according to certain research), however what has changed is the frequency and source. This applies to all food groups as well, not just meat.
It could be that the everyday diet is the biggest culprit with regards to our personal health and the health of our planet. As a species we didn’t evolve to be in a constant state of feeding. When food was scarce our ancestors would perhaps eat every few days or even less frequently opposed to our multiple times a day habit. Diets would be seasonal rather than the way we eat now which is all year round. Food would have always been organic, free range and natural.
Our food sources today are designed to meet our constant desires. We want our cake and we want to eat it… everyday.
Much of the food we find on the selves of our supermarkets is processed in some way, we have added preservatives, sugar, oils, bulking agents and many more things to what was previously natural ingredients. Aside from how we process and prepare our foods we use intensive farming, genetic modification and pesticides just to get food to our plates.
Our bodies and planet are being exposed to an array of chemicals and substances that are not naturally occurring and neither our bodies or planet can handle it.
From a physical health perspective, in my opinion consumption of over processed foods and the way we rear animals (heavy use of antibiotics and feeding them on junk food) is more of an issue than the consumption of meat as a whole. Let’s not forget that vegan , vegetarian and any other exclusion diet is only healthy if you stick to eating clean (ie free from add sugar, added salt, processing, preservatives etc.)
However from a sustainability view point being vegan is clearly beneficial, intensive farming is a drain on water resource, grain and contributes heavily to global warming. We can eat meat in a sustainable way if we cut down our consumption, as a consumer demand sustainably farmed meat and demand ethical and humane treatment of animals.
So to my point, if we take a more conscious approach to eating and ate organic seasonal fruit, vegetables and grains and only grass fed, locally farmed and organic meat then I believe we would find ourselves and the planet in better health.
So what should we do? The above is easier said than done, as many supermarkets do not offer these options or if they do it is limited. Below are my top tips to eating organic, sustainably and ethically:
1. Go to the high street not the supermarket. You will find local grocers and butchers.You are more likely to find local seasonal produce (with less plastic packaging) which is more likely to be organic.
2. Ask. If you are unsure ask, if you are using local businesses ask about the produce. Most will be knowledgable in the origin and will be more than happy to talk to you about it.
3. Grow your own. Okay so that might sound a bit daunting and time consuming but actually it might be easier than you think, and save you some money. Growing your own is increasingly popular and you will be able to go to your local garden centre and get yourself started. Do a bit of upfront research on the easiest things to grow and how best to do it to dip your toes into the water. There are solutions for growing your own fruit a vegetables whether you have acres of land or a small balcony if you live in a flat. Failing that you can even grow something on your widow sill.
4. Bulk buy. Struggling to find what you need on the high street? Look to online. I have found some great businesses providing grass fed organic meat and the price isn’t as high as you might think. Do your research.
5. ”Be the change you want to see in the world” Speak out. Can’t find what you are looking for either in the supermarket, on the high street or online. Write to providers, businesses will naturally change as consumer habits do.
Briefly back to my point on meat, whilst I continue to eat meat I do so in moderation. I limit red meat to once a month and chicken/ fish maybe 1 portion a week. I don’t eat pork or lamb. I have chosen to eat some red meat to supplement my iron intake. Whilst you can get iron from a vegan diet, heme iron (from animals) is more easily absorbed by the body and I struggle with low iron levels in relation to my arthritis.