KEITH SQUIRES | INTERVIEW
With Veganuary once again upon us for those keen to submit, you could do worse than look to Anglesey’s Keith Squires as a model. He’s a nutritionist, herbalist, chef, cookbook author – and Carl Marsh interview subject.
People must throw so many questions at you, but I assume that two of the most common would be: “how can you live solely off plant-based food?” and “won’t going vegan be too expensive?”
To answer the first part, you can – vegetables are really important, as that’s where you are getting all of your nutritional fibre, and you’ve also got to think about protein, of course. So when people are eating unhealthfully, eating all sorts of rubbish, they’re not worried about nutrition at all. But as soon as they do change to plant-based, they want to know.
There is loads of protein in plant-based foods, and pulses are the best: beans, lentils, and all that sort of thing. They sound boring, but they’re so cheap, saving money. I can buy a pack of lentils for a pound, and that makes a whole pot of stew or soup that could feed the entire neighbourhood! It is food for sharing. It’s very hearty, and you can eat it with a bit of rice or bread, or something similar. There is plenty of protein there – and then you have the nuts and seeds. You really can live off the stews – this is how people always used to be with one-pot cooking with lentils and another with lots of vegetables.
But what is essential, and what people forget is even more critical, is your fats and oils. We all think that fats are just bad for us, but actually, they’re important as anything else. And that’s why you need your Omega 3 oils – you get them from linseed. If you get a good quality linseed oil, you should keep it stored in a fridge, as it goes off very quickly. Use that instead of putting tomato sauce on your meals. An even cheaper way is to grind up linseeds and use them fresh on your breakfast.
The most important thing I’ve learned from you is regarding Omega 3 oils – which I always understood were only available via fish?
Remember that the actual fish, in fish farms or the wild, get their Omega 3 from plants. By going plant-based, you’re just cutting out the middleman – i.e. the fish – by not having to eat the middleman, that fish!
Supermarkets still hike prices for plant-based prepared foods, as opposed to those that aren’t, but the way forward seems to be to cook from fresh – plant-based cooking has been around for a while in certain parts of the world, right?
It’s great that all the substitutes are there, making it easy to make the transition if you like – still, there’s a whole world of vegan food, especially in Asian cooking which doesn’t tend to use a lot of meat anyway. You’ve got almost a whole continent of vegetarians, and over 2,000 years of vegetarian cooking there – dishes that have stood the test of time. If you also look at how it is based in Ayurveda, the food can be both your medicine and nutrition.
There’s a continuing debate regarding soybeans, including in the mainstream media – the suggestion that their growth has decimated land. Still, you answer this on your blog…
Yes – people thinking that if you drink soya milk, you’re destroying the rainforest. Only about 5% of soya is produced for human consumption: a shocking 85% goes into meat production, as animal feed. So if you want to cut the destruction to the rainforest, then it’s really by eating less meat. There’s a lot of grazing happening there as well, but it’s a bit of a distraction to say that soya milk is causing it – plus most brands now use soya grown in Europe.
words CARL MARSH