Clean eating might seem to be another diet trend among many diet trends that have gained popularity in recent years but the concept of clean eating just basically takes us back to what we are meant to eat.
It’s based on the premise that humans are supposed to eat “real” food. The human body is designed to consume whole and natural foods, or at the least, minimally processed or unprocessed foods. Forget all the foods that are man-made, artificial, genetically engineered or produced using modern technology.
That might be a difficult task these days when the market is filled with food products that have been altered, handled or created to cater to the enormous demand for commercial food products that are extremely affordable and at times may seem to sell themselves as health foods.
Case in point – Aspartame. Aspartame was developed as a substitute for sugar mainly to help people reduce their sugar intake. It is used as a sugar substitute for some popular food and drinks which label themselves as “sugar-free” or “diet” foods.
Though still not scientifically proven, a lot of people have expressed concerns about the possible ill effects of aspartame to overall health and studies are continually being conducted to determine this. Critics of aspartame claim there are links to its consumption and the development of some major diseases such as cancer, birth defects, lupus and Alzheimer’s disease among others.
Although clean eating advocates consuming whole and natural foods, not all processed foods are bad for your health. Some foods require minimal processing to remove toxins or bacteria especially in foods that are frozen or canned for us to be able to have them during the off-season.
The key is to avoid ultra-processed food or any food that has undergone extensive processing such as “ready-to-heat” food and foods made to appear like real food.
Foods containing genetically modified organisms have been found to cause cancer and infertility. They may also contain additives that stimulate the production of the “pleasure” hormone, dopamine, which is responsible for making us feel good when eating a bag of chips to satisfy our cravings for junk food.
Likewise, ultra-processed foods have been stripped off valuable nutrients and are riddled with added sugar, salt or fats that keep us from being healthy. They include most food products such as frozen meals, sodas, instant noodles, chicken nuggets and packaged foods.
Clean eating may require you to prepare your own food to make sure that you consume only whole and natural foods which will boost your overall health and may even help you lose weight but investing time and money on what you eat will prove to be beneficial to you in the long run.
How do you get started with a clean eating diet? Here are some basic steps to help you get started.
1. When grocery shopping, start with the perimeter of the store
Break the habit of going into the middle of the grocery store where most processed foods are displayed. Pay attention to where the good stuff are located. Most grocery stores are designed to entice you to buy stuff that you don’t really need and most of them are located towards the middle or the center of the store where we gravitate to.
The perimeter of the grocery store is where you will find fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat and produce. Scrutinize every single food you choose to put in your cart taking into consideration how it was handled or produced. Interior aisles are where you find most stuff that are unhealthy such as chips, soda, candy and most other processed foods.
When you start your grocery shopping within the perimeter of the store, you will tend to fill your cart with food that really matters leaving you with natural foods that will help you with your clean eating diet.
2. Read the labels
The food industry has flooded the market with all sorts of food products to fill the demand for food to satisfy our needs. Marketing and advertising play an important part in selling food to the consumers. A lot of these marketing efforts are geared towards promoting supposedly healthy food to target goals such as weight loss or healthy eating.
It becomes confusing at times when products are promoted as health foods when in fact they really aren’t and might even do more harm than good. Be wary of foods that market themselves as “sugar-free”, “fat-free” or diet-friendly. When in doubt, always read the labels.
If there is anything in the list of ingredients that might be difficult to read or pronounce, you can be assured it’s been ultra-processed and contains so many additives that will surely harm you. That should be a red flag against clean eating.
3. Eat more greens
The building block of every clean eating diet is the amount of leafy greens you include in your meals. Dark, leafy greens to be exact. Leafy greens pack more fiber, vitamins and minerals than any other food and provides our bodies with the energy it needs.
It’s best to have your greens fresh or even better – organic and free from pesticides, but in instances when you are not able to, make sure you get the least processed ones when choosing either frozen or canned. Short of actually being a vegan, a clean, plant-based diet will do wonders for your health and wellness.
Load up on salad greens such as spinach, arugula or kale at least once or twice a day to make sure your body gets the right nourishment it needs to fight off unwanted diseases.
4. Drink clean
Hydration is vital to ensure a properly functioning body system. Water is life. It washes away toxins and free radicals that find its way into our bodies everyday.
Drink as much water as you can everyday. It is not only a healthy habit but it also prevents us from the dangers of dehydration.
There are times however, when we crave drinks that have some flavor. That explains the proliferation of flavored drinks that are loaded with sugar. When you find yourself craving for a flavored drink, choose to go clean by opting to have either coffee, tea or any freshly squeezed fruit drink.
If you do choose to have your coffee or tea fix, make sure to skip the sugar. Freshly ground coffee beans are best for black coffee. Same goes for tea. Green Matcha tea is best.
The benefits of drinking coffee and tea are well-known but in order for you to reap the benefits from these, you need to skip the sugar and cream. It might take some getting used to but with constant intake, you will acquire a taste for it.
5. Eat more whole grains
Whole grains provide you with the necessary carbohydrates to keep your energy levels. It is best to take them rather than refined carbs that include white bread, pasta and rice that lose their nutrients when processed.
Whole grains provide our bodies with fiber, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients. They include mostly grains that are unprocessed such as quinoa, brown rice, oats and barley.
Whole grains help keep our bodies healthy by providing us with numerous benefits such as aiding digestion, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, controlling our weight and regulating blood sugar levels.
Eating clean is a lifestyle you will need to adopt if you wish to live a healthier life. By shifting to a diet of eating clean, unprocessed foods, you alter your overall health and wellness and significantly reduce your risk for major diseases.
Eating clean will also help you lose weight and effectively maintain it. A happier, healthier lifestyle will be easier to achieve by choosing to eat clean.