So, what is all this hype about “clean eating” and what exactly does it mean? It has become quite the go-to term for everything relating to healthy eating. If you Google “eating clean” or “clean diet” you can probably find 100 different answers – everything from eating only organic and local, to juicing, to going vegan, to advising that we never eat anything that comes in a package. (I think we can all agree that last rule was clearly set by someone who doesn’t have kids…or a demanding job…or a hectic travel schedule…or all of the above.)
And what’s with all of the food allergies – why can’t we have peanuts on the plane anymore? Why does bottled water now have a gluten-free label?
Well, I’d like to offer up a broad definition of clean eating that will be the guiding principles throughout the content I provide.
Clean eating involves enjoying foods that:
- Aren’t likely to trigger sensitivities meaning upset your system in some way (e.g. gluten/wheat, dairy, corn, soy, yeast, peanuts or other food additives and categories).
Most people don’t even realize they have sensitivities to such foods because symptoms can be so subtle. But regularly consuming foods that your body reacts to, even slightly, can put you in a constant state of inflammation. And this inflammation is a trigger for a laundry list of chronic diseases. This topic is getting a bit overexposed in the mainstream media – with a particularly strong backlash on gluten – but know that these principles are supported in strong scientific evidence and that simple diet changes can have DRAMATIC, positive effects on your health.
- Are without pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or genetically modified organisms (GMO’s).
This subject deserves a blog post (or 10) to itself, but basically: regularly eating various toxins causes free-radical damage (read: premature aging of cells), hampers the immune system, decreases the nutritional content, can be carcinogenic, and prevents weight loss.
- Are nutrient dense.
This is the “what can you do for me” category. Items 1 and 2 above are all about avoiding, but there has to be balance. Think organic, bright-colored fruits and veggies, whole (gluten-free) grains, and unprocessed oils that provide critical vitamins, trace minerals, fiber and inflammation-fighting essential fatty acids. This category also can include fermented foods and supplementation to repair the underlying issues causing any food sensitivities.
- Are as fresh and unpackaged AS POSSIBLE.
In doing so, you avoid many of the pitfalls listed above. You’re doing what is best for our environment. However, that “AS POSSIBLE” is a big disclaimer for me. It would be great if all of our foods were local, seasonal and completely unprocessed. Wouldn’t it be amazing to grow your own vegetables and herbs, raise your own chickens, and have grass-fed cows grazing in the back yard? Alas, I assume most of you live on planet Earth like I do. I’m a girl on the go with two arms, 10 fingers, and 5,000 balls in the air at any given time. You do the math. We can only do what we can do, right? So, if there’s a respectable company out there who has already done the work for me, and can show me a clean ingredient list (and packaging), I’m going to saddle up that horse and ride it into my time-saving, clean eating sunset.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding how to eat for your optimal health. It is important to get your mind right before taking action. If you’re still gripping tightly onto that can of diet soda or container of [pasteurized, cow’s milk] low-fat yogurt, this may take some time to embrace. So, I leave you to marinate on this article for now.
In the wise words of Maya Angelou, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”