‘Clean eating’ is really just the idea of eating real food, in it’s most natural state. Foods that haven’t been processed, altered, added to, or chemically changed. Food that’s actually, well…food.
Though there may be different definitions and different levels of eating clean, we like this one best: stick to foods that have ingredients you recognize and can pronounce. In fact, the more foods we can eat that don’t even have labels on them, the better.
What are some foods with no labels? Things like like fruit, veggies, and whole grains. And if food does have a label, less is more when it comes to ingredients.
‘Food’ that’s not really food
How did we get to a place where some of our “food” isn’t really food any more?
It seems that as we have evolved, at least in the U.S., our society is on a mission for faster, easier, and cheaper in pretty much all areas of our lives. Eating and meal time are no exception.
What are processed foods? Think frozen dinners and fast food restaurants. It’s food that’s made in a factory or processed in a lab, altered from its original state with added ingredients, chemicals, additives, preservatives, and generally things that are simply not made to be eaten or consumed.
Are processed foods faster? Easier and more convenient? Cheaper? Yep. And that’s what makes them so appealing. But with that said, something is missing in this equation. Something outside of fast, easy, and cheap.
The bottom line on clean eating
Here’s the thing. Food is meant to fuel, and even heal our bodies.
Overly processed foods, on the other hand, have actually been ripped of their nutrients. They are often filled with ingredients that #1 aren’t even food to begin with and #2 are actually harmful to our bodies. When we eat processed foods, we’re missing both the fuel and the healing effects of real food.
When we are no longer fueling our bodies with real food, our bodies do not function optimally. In fact, when our bodies don’t recognize a nonfood ingredient like chemicals found in processed foods, we turn that foreign substance into fat for storage (i.e. weight gain), rather than being able to use the nutrients in food what it’s intended for: fuel for our bodies.
But it gets much worse. Eating processed foods can lead to long-term health issues as well as these chemicals, additives and preservatives may actually act as poison to our bodies (think cancer, diabetes, heart disease).
How can we ‘clean’ up our food?
In a nutshell, all clean eating means is being able to recognize what we’re putting into our bodies. We can apply this concept by opting for foods that don’t have add-ins that we are unable to pronounce or chemicals that aren’t food at all. We can choose foods with no labels (fruits and veggies). If food does have a label, we can opt for foods with the least number of ingredients, and we can make sure we are able to pronounce and recognize the words on the label.
But what if I’m paleo/vegetarian/low-carb/gluten-free/etc?
Let’s be real. There are tons of diets and options out there when it comes to eating – paleo, vegetarian, low-carb, gluten-free to name a few. And any of them may be a great fit your specific nutritional needs.
But here’s the super cool thing about clean eating: it applies to pretty much any diet out there. Cutting out the chemicals, add-ins, preservatives and processed foods fits with any of these plans.
Eating real food is something we can all agree on.