I’m sure you have heard the term “clean eating” on many occasions recently, since it is everywhere these days and the topic of many discussions, but you may be asking, “what does it really mean”?
I asked myself the same question. I had a good idea of what it meant, but was I right? There are so many different ways of eating and more than a few conflicting opinions in the diet world, that I wasn’t sure.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the basic premise of clean eating is that you choose and eat foods that are as close to their natural form as possible, basically meaning simply – whole foods. That means no packaged, boxed, or factory-made foods.
Whole foods are nutrient dense, versus processed foods that are energy dense. The difference is that nutrient dense foods provide vital nutrients that the body needs, for example, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, without added sugar and fat; while energy dense foods are high in empty calories that provide little or no nutrition.
Simply put, eating clean means eating whole food, which is a food that consists of one ingredient and is unprocessed. Following are examples:
• Real butter versus margarine
• Black coffee versus Starbucks Mocha Frapuccino
• Whole vegetables versus veggie chips
• Slices of roast beef, chicken or turkey right from the roast or bird versus spam, hot dogs and processed lunch meats
• Grilled fish fillet versus fish sticks
• Whole fruit instead of fruit snacks
• An apple versus apple juice
• Whole chicken breast instead of chicken nuggets
While whole food can be cooked and combined with other whole food ingredients, the individual foods themselves maintain their whole integrity, because they are not altered from their original state. Whole foods are unprocessed, unrefined, and as pure as they possibly can be.
Health Benefits of Clean Eating
The Mayo Clinic points to the fact that one derives greater nutrition, dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals from consuming whole food. In addition, WebMD emphasizes the significant impact that clean eating has on cardiovascular diseases, many forms of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
The Harvard School of Public Health describes the benefits of eating vegetables, such as maintaining gastrointestinal health, fighting cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, and maintaining vision health. The nutrients in vegetables can prevent the two most common eye diseases that are related to aging: cataracts, and macular degeneration.
Additionally, tomatoes can help fight against prostate cancer, while lettuce and leafy greens can ward off throat, mouth, stomach, and esophageal cancers.
One of the benefits of eating clean that you may most appreciate, since you can see the results of your efforts every day, is that it provides you with endless energy, putting a spring in your step and improving your performance in everyday activities.
Benefits of Avoiding Processed Food
Some may have concerns that whole food is more expensive than processed food, but for the most part this is simply not true. It is true you may be doing more cooking, but preparing menus and shopping lists and eating more often at home, can actually save you money!
Eliminating processed food allows you to get more and better nutrients from food and eliminates preservatives, added sugar, excessive salt and often extra unnecessary calories. Clean foods are typically naturally low in salt and sugar.
Reading labels is vital to eating clean in order to avoid man-made ingredients like preservatives, sweeteners, and artificial colorings that have no place in clean eating.
Ideally though, you will be reading very few labels, as you will be purchasing meat, dairy, and eggs, preferably from a farmer’s market to ensure that the animals haven’t been given antibiotics or growth hormones. You will also be buying a lot of fruits and vegetables, organic whenever possible, which assures they are grown without pesticides.
Keep it simple by following these primary principles of clean eating:
• Eat real whole food
• Eat six small meals daily
• Eat breakfast every day within an hour of getting up
• Include lean protein at every meal
• Drink 100 ounces of water daily
• Have around 3 servings of healthy fats daily
• Use fresh fruits and vegetables as your source of fiber, nutrients, vitamins and enzymes
In summary, clean eating supports good health, weight loss, blood sugar control, reducing risks for heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
AND, guess what is the best benefit of all?
Clean eating fits beautifully with low carb eating, which has all the same health benefits!