Q:What is clean eating? I keep hearing about it and am unsure if it is for me. What are the benefits/risks?
Clean eating is an umbrella term that is interpreted differently by different people. For the purpose of this Q&A, I will give you the broadest definition. Basically, clean eating means eating whole foods, as close to their natural form as possible without added chemicals or preservatives. Some consider this to be a primarily plant based diet. Others choose to eat a wider variety of foods but most of them organic. No matter which way you choose to interpret it, eating foods in their natural form is still going to be the best option.
Here are some of the benefits of clean eating:
- More Energy When your body is being fueled properly and given foods that it knows what to do with, it can use that food more effectively for energy. When you eat foods with high levels of chemicals, your body can have a hard time converting those foods into energy.
- Weight Loss When you are eating foods with a great deal of chemicals, the liver has to work hard to process them. When the liver is overtaxed dealing with the chemicals, it has less time to process the loss of fat from your body. Eating whole foods in their original form can allow the body to let go of excess weight.
- Decreased Disease Risk It is no secret that we should be choosing fruits and vegetables over packaged snacks for this reason. Research has continued to show that that the vitamins, minerals in fruits and vegetables increase our bodys immune response, lower blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease, and so many other great benefits.
- Less Blood Sugar Spikes – Blood sugar spikes lead to insulin spikes, fat storage, and cycles of cravings. When you eat foods in their natural form, your body has to work hard to break them down as they are not already processed before they go into your body. That means that the blood sugar will rise more evenly than if you ate a high sugar food (like a cookie) that is already broken down before it goes into your body.
There really are no real risks to eating clean. The only thing to watch out for is the high calorie nature of some clean recipesthat you might find on the internet. Many of them use large amounts of flax seeds and butter (both wonderful items to use in moderate quantities). These types of recipes are nutritionally better than diet foods but should be eaten with moderation and not consumed too often as they can be very high calorie when eaten in large quantities. Other than that, eating clean is an AMAZING thing to do for your body.
To get started, begin making simple changes. Any change that you make quickly or on a grand scale is likely to end up not sticking. Here are a few small changes that might help you get started:
- Switch your bread to Ezekial sprouted grain bread (toasted with almond butter wonderful). Because Ezekial is a minimally processed bread, it is less likely to cause cravings for more carbohydrates and is very satisfying.
- Reset your definition of portable food. Trade your granola bar for an apple. (An apple is just as portable). Always keep a piece of fruit with you in case of hunger emergency.
- If you usually have bread with a meal, consider substitutingbrown rice or small potatoes instead.
- Trade your morning cereal for steel cut oats with berries andwalnuts. You can even make these in the microwave.
- Sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice instead of soda
- Air popped popcorn instead of chips or crackers
- Eat more healthy fats. Fats found in foods like walnuts andsalmon are amazing for your body. Choose these types of fats over the fats in baked goods.
- Eat a fruit or vegetable and a protein EVERY TIME YOU EAT. That means 3-5 times a day! If you are doing this, it leaves less room for the foods that are not as clean. I cannot stress how powerful this habit is to get into.
- When choosing packaged foods, look for ones with 5 ingredients or less or at least ones that contain ingredients you can pronounce.
As with any new change, focus on those small changes. Nobody is perfect, and thats ok. Even if you dont choose to eat a completely clean diet, making whole food choices will still benefit you greatly.