The term ‘clean eating’ has become quite controversial because of its links with evangelism. In certain cases proponents have used it to mask eating disorders. Some experts believe that cutting out whole food groups is causing deficiencies.
But in fact clean eating is very healthy and has a positive impact on your wellbeing and long-term vitality. Depending on the week and who’s talking about it, clean eating can be used to refer to a vegan diet, a raw food diet, or a paleo diet – but really, the term clean eating just means cutting out unhealthy foods that are full of additives, sugar and salt. It means eating food in its most natural state and having a variety of different foods – healthy proteins, seeds, dairy, pulses and fruit and veg. If it’s got added sugar, sodium, preservatives, chemical flavourings and artificial colours, don’t put it in your body.
Clean eating also means eating organic and knowing the provenance of your food – no mass-produced meat or farmed fish. Ideally you should be getting your foods from a farm shop or farmers’ market, and knowing how the animals are treated. At the very least buy organic from your supermarket. If the food you eat comes from a packet or tin and contains additives or ingredients that aren’t recognizable whole foods, it’s not clean eating. So baked beans, for example, are a no-no, because of the sauce and additives. At least you know that a chicken breast comes from a chicken and – if it’s organic – will be full of nutrients, not additives. Whereas processed food can contain all kinds of rubbish.
Brown or wild rice are fine but not white rice, and pasta is a no-no because with clean eating you need to base your meals around protein and veg, not carbohydrates. The only carbs allowed are unprocessed ones like sweet potato, bulgur wheat and quinoa, which are whole grain and unprocessed. And don’t fear animal fats. Animal fats and dairy products have had a bad rap over the past few decades, but new research says it’s sugar, processed foods and trans fats, not animal fats, that give you high cholesterol. If you eat meat then stick to good quality organic and only have red meat 1-2 times a week.
My own personal ‘clean eating’ schedule is to eat clean Monday to Friday, then have two days of eating and drinking what I want. Most people find this is manageable. The benefits of clean eating are that you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs, as long as you vary it – ie, don’t eat roughly the same meal every day, but have a variety of healthy foods. Your metabolism functions better and your body works more efficiently when you eat clean. This has a positive effect on your sleep, energy, mood, skin, hair, weight and sex life. So yes, clean eating is very healthy indeed.