Food fashion has led us all to count calories and seek out far flung berries deemed the holy grail of health.
Healthy living magazines and misleading miracle diets lead us to believe that every few months a new tonic to immortality has been found in a bush somewhere in Chile. One week it’s pomegranates, the next it’s Goji berries or kale.
Armed with scepticism, I gave Leeds’ healthiest lunch a try at the ultra health-conscious, uber fashionable Filmore and Union (F&U) cafe in Leeds’s Victoria Quarter.
The growing appetite for all that is gluten free and vitamin-packed has seen the Yorkshire firm blossom into an eight cafe empire, selling homegrown and homemade superfood-based produce, in just three years.
A baked red lentil, feta, kale and macadamia loaf with seasonal kale, carrots, couscous and mint yoghurt awaited me, with a potent-sounding broccoli, spinach, celery, cucumber, apple, pineapple and ginger ‘Oxygenator’ smoothie to wash it down.
Having consumed what felt like 25 of my five-a-day, I’m surprised and pleased to report that it was delicious. I genuinely went back to work refreshed.
“It’s not food fashion, people are becoming more aware of food that’s good for them,” Filmore and Union founder Adele Ashley said.
The ex-recruitment worker, from Wetherby, founded F&U with her Michelin star-trained nephew after studying wellness and finding her diet was making her ill. In truth the formula worked for me – I’ve rarely felt as productive post-lunch – but it did cost around £14, which isn’t cheap.
Adele added: “Some see us as a treat and others as an extension of what they’re eating at home – our menu is a bit more innovative than what you might cook at home.”
Eating gluten free, as my meal was, is admittedly expensive. F&U use gluten substitutes like almond flour, which drive up cost, but eating well at home can be simple.
Dr Iona McCleery, lecturer in medieval history at the University of Leeds, led a ‘You Are What You Ate’ project aimed at tackling childhood obesity up to last year.
It spread the word of healthy eating learning from history, stating that in medieval times peasants ate far more healthily than their rich counterparts by living on seasonal produce.
“A lot of what’s seen as cuisine these days was once considered peasant food – take oysters and kale for example,” she said. “It’s all about eating seasonally and in moderation.”
The truth is that you don’t need to consume a garden centre in greens or venture to outer Mongolia for nutrition.
I genuinely felt the benefit of a more balanced meal than I’ve probably ever had before, but devouring an Oxygenator is likely to be more of a wellness treat than my daily staple.