A new buzzword in the health industry, clean eating seems to many of us like just another diet that classifies foods as “good” or “bad.” To the diet-weary among us, the words conjure up images of organic carrots, mung beans and plain brown rice. Many of us wonder if it’s just another weight-loss diet fad that will go out of favor in a few months.
What is Clean Eating?
The basic principle is simple: Eat whole foods, most of which are produced in a sustainable way. Translated, that means:
- Organic, unrefined foods such as plenty of produce, beans and whole grains (brown rice, whole grain breads, etc.)
- Grass-fed beef and other meats, pastured chickens and products that come from them (milk, cheese, eggs)
- Wild or sustainably-farmed fish
Clean eating is also about proportion of these healthful foods. The Plate Model for Healthy Eating is a perfect guide because it emphasizes:
- The importance of eating plenty of produce, using animal foods and starches almost as a condiment to our meals
- The need for balance, the power of which anyone who has been to Green Mountain can testify to
Why Eat Clean?
Clean eating addresses a growing concern among many health experts that we’re overloading our bodies with toxins while at the same time undersupplying them with the nutrients we need to detoxify.
Indeed, detox diets are another buzzword these days. Clean eating is a form of a detox diet that doesn’t pose any health risks as compared to fasts and other popular detox regimens.
Toxins are inevitable part of living. Besides getting them from our environment, our bodies even produce toxins as part of the metabolic process. As a result, we evolved to be efficient detoxifying machines…if we’re supporting the system. But we’re not.
- These days, we encounter more toxins than ever before in human history. We get them in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the packages we store our food in, the products we use to clean our surroundings, even the lotions and other skin care products we use.
- At the same time, we tend to eat highly-refined foods that have been stripped of many of the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients (plant chemicals) and fiber, all of which play a critical role in the detoxification process.
In a nutshell, clean eating decreases our exposure to toxins by reducing the amount we get in our foods and elsewhere, and at the same time, helps ensure we get the nutrients we need to detoxify the toxins we do encounter.
Animal products such as grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chicken are important to clean eating because they are produced in a healthier manner, which may mean less bacterial contamination. But perhaps more importantly, animals that eat grass as opposed to grain contain a higher percentage of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are important to the permeability of cell membranes, which is important to our ability to get nutrients into our cells to do their work, and to eliminate waste products, some of which of course are detoxified toxins.
More Clean Eating Considerations
In addition to the foods we eat, there are other sources of toxins we should be aware of and try to minimize. For example, look at what we cook and store our food in. Aim for BPA-free plastic, and store food in glass whenever possible. Choose stainless steel cookware, rather than non-stick, whenever possible.
Be sure to drink clean water, and use it for cooking, too. If you’re not sure how clean your water supply is, opt for water filters.
There’s Still Room for Ice Cream
All that said, eating clean doesn’t mean giving up foods we love. If anything, it’s a celebration of good food in its purest form. There is plenty of pleasure to be had in taking a trip to a farm stand and selecting your very own bunch of fresh spinach picked that morning. Then lightly sautéeing it in garlic and extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled with freshly-ground sea salt and black pepper. Many people find that fresh produce grown locally has much more flavor than conventional grocery store produce shipped from halfway around the world.
Still, real ice cream – not low fat or sugar free versions – can also qualify for clean eating. Experts encourage us to consider different versions of ice cream that are made from organic milk and other milks such as coconut and goat milk. Try those made with unrefined sources of sweeteners, too: maple syrup, agave nectar or syrup, date sugar and honey. Stevia is a natural zero-calorie sweetener that in its purest form is simply ground up leaves of the stevia plant. Whether stevia would be good as a sweetener in ice cream is questionable but many people enjoy it in beverages.
Bottom line with any sweetener or sweetened product: It’s all about how much and how often we eat it. Moderation is the byword.
Are you ready to start eating clean?
Consider Green Mountain at Fox Run, the healthy women’s lifestyle program since 1973