You may have seen it on one of your social media feeds, or heard a celebrity like Katy Perry or Gwyneth Paltrow spout off its virtues. There are even cafes in tony neighborhoods that advertise it in their menus. So what is clean eating? It is a way of thinking about eating. This is not a philosophy of consuming more of this and less of that. Instead, it is more of a focus of where food comes from. This is about avoiding processed foods, and instead embracing “real” or natural ones. If you are trying to eat food as close to its natural state as possible, you are already eating clean. Though it sounds simple, actually the way our food is grown, processed, distributed and sold, makes eating clean harder than you think. So if you are avoiding processed food, what does processed actually mean? Adding salt, sugar, or anything to give food a certain look or feel are forms of processing. Adding preservatives to give food longevity is, too. Vitamin enrichment, though generally regarded as a good thing, is also a form of processing. Anything that was done to food in a lab is processing. It can even be altering food from its natural state, such as separating wheat from germ.
Processing can remove bacteria or toxins, so it isn’t always bad. A vegetable smoothie, instant oatmeal, and pasteurized milk are all processed to a certain extent. But that does not put them on par with hot dogs, chips, or instant noodles. It’s the hyper-processed foods you have to watch out for. Another thing, be on the lookout for genetically modified foods (GMOs) as some have been linked to infertility and cancer. Processing food generally adds calories while stripping it of vital nutrients. Instead, try and stick to a mostly plant-based diet. If the majority of what you consume during the day is fresh fruits and vegetables, you are eating clean. Frozen is okay too. Instead of chips, choose unsalted nuts. Go for legumes, beans, and other plant-based proteins over meat, occasionally. When you do eat meat, make sure it’s hormone free, unprocessed and grass fed over grain fed. For fish, choose fresh caught over farm raised. Try to select farm-fresh eggs. Unrefined grains are far healthier than refined ones. Choose brown rice, quinoa, steel cut oats, whole grain breads, and whole wheat pasta. Prepare your own meals, instead of getting them out of a box. Eating clean is not only healthy, it’s delicious, and makes you feel better, too.