By Matt Rogan
From our affordable summer fashion, to our staycation holidaying, sustainable living affects every facet of our lives – and our nutrition is no exception. In order to help you apply a sustainable mind-set to your diet too, we’ve researched the four most popular ethical diets for you to consider adopting (spoiler: it doesn’t necessarily mean cutting out meat).
Before we delve into the more well-known ethical diets (ones that exclude or minimise the consumption of meat), it’s important to acknowledge that even those options aren’t completely innocent.
The production of palm oil, soya bean oil and rape oil are all vegan-approved but still questionably as damaging to the environment as the meat industry. So with this in mind, an ethical omnivore is someone that eats local, organic and humanely-reared meat.
There are many factors that can make meat-eating more ethical. These range from prohibiting the use of artificial fertilisers, to supporting soil organic matter, to nurturing livestock in an ethically-enhanced environment.
Clean eating (a diet that denounces processed foods) is also a strand of ethical omnivorism. Ultimately, they prefer to advocate for better standards of animal welfare than to eliminate their main source of protein.
Probably the least daunting diet on the list, flexitarianism is an increased intake of plant-based meals without completing banning meat entirely.
Whilst there are no set rules to being a flexitarian (you can take it as far as you’re willing to go), leaner meats like chicken and turkey are sacred staples. They have less calories and are a less environmentally damaging than sheep and cows because they don’t produce methane.
Since Public Health England advised in 2016 that Brits should consider halving their dairy intake and reducing the amount of meat in their meals, we have taken note and listened. Research has shown that a third of Britons have reduced eating meat in the last couple of years and one of the biggest incentives for it is having the flexibility to decide yourself.
You can feel like you’re making a positive contribution whilst not feeling limited to one particular lifestyle.
Vegetarianism is fairly self-explanatory but even today, there is still a degree of uncertainty towards its health benefits. One reason many people are reluctant to adopt a meat-free diet is that they believe it will contribute to a protein or iron deficiency. But this is just a myth.
Though soy protein is the most comparable to animal protein, you can find other alternatives that contain the essential amino acids in beans, legumes and nuts. As for trying to replicate the texture of meat in your recipes, try jackfruit or tofu.
With studies proving that a vegetarian diet can lower cholesterol and the risk of heart diseases, it’s no wonder that the number of vegetarians in the UK has quadrupled in the past 5 years alone.
A vegan is someone who doesn’t consume any form of animal derived foods, including by-products like milk, eggs and honey. It is assumed to be one of the strictest yet most ethical diets – and with good reason. Without the land, fertiliser and water needed to upkeep animal agriculture, it is the least carbon-reliant diet.
Clearly being a vegan does limit your options when browsing the supermarket shelves, and therefore it could impact on your daily intake of nutrients. However, this limitation could also have a reverse effect and widen your palate as you’ll be able to consume more calories, and therefore a more varied number of supplemental foods.
Not only is veganism affecting the food industry, but it’s also a major selling point for the fashion and cosmetic industries too. Materials such as silk, wool, leather and suede are also boycotted by vegans for (usually) being sourced through a channel of animal cruelty.
All of the four diets have grey areas around being completely ethically-conscious and perhaps it’s too idealistic to think there wouldn’t be. Regardless, one aspect that they do all claim to be resolving is the agricultural strain on climate change. Whether you want to go the extremes, or simply dip your toe in, we should all re-evaluate our current relationship with sustainable foods.