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What is the Impact of Food Fads on our Health and the Environment?

23rd May 2019

Over recent years, certain foods have even become embedded in the culture and identity of a generation. Healthy eating and nutrition has turned into a lifestyle, and this has lead to the emergence of the ‘superfood’. It’s a tantalising idea, that certain foods are ultra healthy and can work wonders for a person’s diet. But superfoods have become culturally significant, their impact on both our health and our environment has largely gone unnoticed.

What is a superfood?

Superfood is a bit of a catch-all to cover certain fruits and vegetables thought to have significant nutritional value compared to more ‘standard’ foodstuffs. They are the superheroes of healthy foods. Avocados, chia seeds, kale — even seaweed — people have their own go-to superfood that they won’t go a day without eating. But what makes a superfood super?

Most superfoods aren’t that much different to standard healthy foods. They are packed with nutrients and vitamins, yet their ‘super’ nature is largely marketing spiel. Kale, while high in iron, vitamins and fibre, doesn’t do anything that spinach — or other dark, leafy greens — doesn’t do. But there’s no denying the power of buzzwords, and by placing a certain fruit or vegetable in the superfood category, it becomes exalted.

The downside of superfoods

Most consumers focus on the nutritional content of superfoods to justify their place in their diet. However, behind the scenes, many superfoods are having a significant negative impact on our environment. Avocados are a prime example. The booming avocado demand has lead to intense deforestation in Mexico, and avocado trees require massive amounts of water. Then there’s the shipping to think about.

In the end, how much better for you is an avocado over other foods? While its high monounsaturated fat content is good for your heart, this is something you could be getting easily elsewhere. Avocados also have a high calorie count, so unchecked eating might not be as beneficial as you’d hope.

While other superfoods are less of a strain on the environment — especially if you grow them yourself — many just don’t have clear health benefits beyond the normal fare. Superfoods are a modern food fad, but like all food fads before, the issue is moderation.

Are food fads an unhealthy obsession?

By definition, fads come and go. The reason food fads come, and stick around for as long as they do, relies on the idea that someone can find an easy way to stay healthy. Nutrition is hugely complex and differs from person to person. This can be seen with diet plans.

Some people have great success following a strict diet routine, while others come out worse off or seeing no changes whatsoever. Veganism, freeganism, Atkins, Paleo — sticking to one particular path without careful consideration can cause more harm than good. Vitamin deficiency can lead to sickness and prolonged poor health.

Following a certain diet just because it’s in fashion is unlikely to do your body any good; in the journey to better health, it’s vital to find out what works for you. That might mean following a diet, it might mean being more conscious of what you eat, but it’s important to consider why something is being seen as a fad, rather than being caught up in it immediately.

Ethical concerns

The superfood fad does bring about some ethical concerns, too. While a vegan diet comes from the ethics behind animal rearing and animal rights, the focus on superfoods has largely ignored the ethical consequences lurking in the background.

We have already mentioned deforestation with regard to avocados, but this is a signifier of how the growing demand for imported food like this can be a real strain on different cultures and the environment.

Explosive demand of foods such as quinoa has had adverse effects on the native farming communities. The superfood fad, in particular, relies on importing food from exotic countries, and with this rapid increase in demand comes significant changes to farming processes and working culture. The human and environmental impact of what is, on the surface, a well-intentioned lifestyle choice, is sufficiently far away for people either not to be aware of or to ignore. Fields are taken over to meet the growing demand, which is further intensified through use of chemicals to ensure high yields of good quality – thus undercutting the clean and pure appeal of the superfood. Fads, spurred on by marketing, will often leave little room for standards, and this is where true environmental and ethical consequences take form.

To avoid issues like this, people are better off taking stock of what they actually need to maintain a sustainable, healthy lifestyle. Many foods can be grown yourself or sourced organically. Taking the time to look past the fad and working at your own pace will mean a more ethical, healthier relationship with food — and with ourselves.

At Kruger Cowne, we work with a number of inspiring individuals who can shed light on modern environmental concerns that many may be unaware of. From healthy eating and lifestyle choices, to personalities who have first hand experience viewing ethical and environmental issues worldwide, if you need a voice to discuss important personal and global issues at an event, our knowledgeable team can help you find the right one. Simply contact us today for more information.

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