Last week I was interviewed on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme about the great courgette “crisis”. The word “crisis” is questionable, but courgettes are indeed hard to come by; snow in Spain and extreme cold in Italy has killed many crops and brought others to a halt. Predictably, I advocated eating instead seasonal veg grown closer to home, but recent hard frosts have left greens of all sorts in short supply, even in Devon.
I suspect the term “crisis” refers to the followers of “clean eating” and in particular those fond of spiralizing courgettes. I am inherently resistant to claims of ‘superfoods’ and most dietary dogma as I question whether the healthiness, or otherwise, of a food can be defined by one parameter, whether salt, saturated fat, carbs, alkalinity or even organicness; I hope I have never made outlandish claims for my cabbages or cardoons. Yet with 40 years of scientific advice to switch from unprocessed “natural” animal fats like butter to factory-made unsaturated fats like margarine now looking questionable at best, some skepticism of conventional scientific advice is understandable. It is unfortunate that the highly-processed foods we should avoid have the biggest budgets for advertising, lobbying and sponsoring the research which shapes advice and our choices.
So who should we trust? Instinct might have been a guide (as it is for most animals) but probably not when standing in a supermarket aisle where it is corrupted beyond usefulness by advertising, packaging, the food choices presented, plus a media more prone to extremes than balance. Our government’s “Eat Well Guide” is a good start, though even here I suspect commercial
influence in places. Beware of anyone with a product or brand to sell and anyone quoting gurus, absolutes and pseudo-science (having said that I detect a bitter misogyny behind the recent slating of the Hemsleys, Deliciously Ella etc.) Instead I reckon Michael Pollan’s (I paraphrase) “Eat less, mostly plants, and only things your grandmother would recognise as food” is an intelligible place to start.