What Does Clean Eating Mean?
WHAT DOES CLEAN EATING MEAN?
Each year, more than six billion pounds of toxic chemicals are released into our environment. These chemicals and volatile compounds can accumulate in the body and impact overall health. Excess toxins and waste in the body leads to depression, lack of energy, skin conditions, weight gain, joint pain, headaches, muscle aches, chronic fatigue, allergies, gastrointestinal distress, and irritability. In addition to symptoms of toxin overload, there are chronic disease states that are correlated with high levels of toxins in the body, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, autoimmune conditions, ADHD, autism, cancer, and diabetes.
For more about how toxins affect the body and facilitate the need for regular detox (and by detox, we mean a “real food” detox, like Ali’s 10-Day Real Food Detox Virtual class), see our Detox blog and learn more about our Reset, Restore, Renew: Real Food 10-Day Detox virtual class.
Beyond participating in a regularly scheduled detox process, it’s important to think about what we can do about toxicity on a daily basis. Toxins are inevitable and ever increasing, surrounding us in our external environment. This increase of toxicity, paired with the rise in declining gut integrity and digestive stress, creates an imbalanced internal environment. Focusing on clean eating and avoidance of chemical additives, preservatives, artificial flavors/colorants, and antibiotics from conventional proteins is a great first step to reducing your toxic exposure.
Basically, we need to ask more questions about where our food is sourced and what we’re eating. Put simply, Eating Clean is the practice of avoiding processed and refined foods and basing your diet on whole foods. Let’s break it down!
1. Eat Whole Foods
Whole foods are foods that haven’t been tampered with, in a lab or in a manufacturing plant. Clean foods are straight from the farm: whole fruits and vegetables, grass-fed and pasture-raised meats, organic pasture-raised dairy products, raw or dry roasted nuts, and seeds.
What is a whole food?
When determining if a product is a whole food ask yourself the following:
How many ingredients does it have?
You can create nutrient-rich whole food dishes made up of all single ingredients, however; a whole food will have only one ingredient such as yogurt with the only ingredient as cultured whole fat milk vs. pasturized milk, guar gum, carrageenan, sugar, etc.
Are all of its edible parts are still intact?
Consider an orange with its white pith full of bitter flavinoids vs. orange juice
What has been done to it since harvest?
Compare a baby carrot stripped of its fiber and minerals dipped in a chemical preservative solution vs a carrot with its greens intact in its most vital nourishing form.
2. Avoid Processed Foods
If you can’t pronounce an ingredient on a label, chances are you don’t want to eat it. Additives, preservatives, industrialized oils, artificial flavors and colorants are simply not good for us providing no nutritional value while disrupting metabolism, leaching nutrients – and many of them are toxins building up in our fat stores leading to disruption!
3. Eliminate Refined Sugar
Highly refined and processed forms of sugar including table sugar, maltose, dextrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and many more additive ingredients end up as what some call “empty calories” with zero nutritional value. What’s worse is these refined sugars are far from empty, they are addictive and rob your body of energy and health in myriad ways, thus having negative – not neutral effects. See our blog on Taming Sugar Cravings for more info on the issues with sugar.
4. Clean Protein Sources
When selecting a protein source, consider the diet of the animal to determine the nutritional density and to limit the toxicity. Choose sources that eat a traditional diet such as pasture-raised for poultry and pork, grass-fed for beef and dairy products, and wild-caught for fish and seafood. These options will be higher in omega-3 fatty acids, minerals, and antioxidants while ensuring the item is free of GMO-ingredients. Based on season and drought, some pasture-raised or grass-fed proteins will be provided supplemental feed to maintain optimal nutrition. This is acceptable but be sure to determine the source of grain and optimally avoid GMO-soy, GMO-corn, and GMO-alfalfa.
Resources to find clean proteins: www.eatwild.com and www.grasslandbeef.com. Also be sure to visit your local farmer’s market and talk to your butcher. At Whole Foods, they have a numbering system of 1-4 where number 4 will be pasture-raised or grass-fed and 3 will be organic. Choose #4 whenever possible.
For fruits and vegetables, choose organic or locally grown whenever possible, especially for the “dirty dozen” that should always be organic, based on the work of the non-profit Environmental Working Group, which advocates for polices that protect global and individual health. The group bases the list on the results of pesticide tests performed on produce and collected by federal agencies over a decade. The “dirty dozen” or those items highest in pesticide residue include items with thin skin, high water content, or high permeability roots. This includes apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, nectarines (imported), cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas (imported), potatoes plus these two which may contain organophosphate insecticides, which the EWG characterizes as “highly toxic” and of special concern: hot peppers and blueberries (domestic).
There is a growing consensus in the scientific community that small doses of pesticides and other chemicals can have adverse effects on health, which makes total sense, of course. A great place to source your produce that is superior to even your health food store is likely your local farmers market. Here you can meet the growers and learn about their use of compost, crop rotation, and other sustainable farming methods that provide nutritional density beyond that of organic! Also, when you buy local you are able to get great prices on the produce that is in season while supporting your local food economy. Supporting local farmers promotes the greatest security to food-as-medicine as it ensures crop diversity and more heirloom varietals vs. mono-cropping in big-AG organic which is prone to lower nutritional density feeding the top soil vs. working with crop rotation and growing limitations with plant genetics!
Aside from asking questions at local restaurants about the sourcing of ingredients and making more thoughtful decisions about where to eat, eating clean requires us to get back into the kitchen! Instead of buying meals in a box or grabbing food to-go, cook meals from scratch! It’s not as hard as it sounds! Clean, whole foods need little preparation to make satisfying, delicious meals that your family will love. As a bonus, food-as-medicine will help to prevent the underlying causes of chronic illness and disease. Ready to be inspired about clean eating and cooking at home? Check out our new Naturally Nourished – Food As Medicine Solutions for Optimal Health cookbook!