You may have heard the term ‘clean eating’ popping up everywhere lately. There are entire blogs, websites and magazine dedicated to it. Even though it has been getting a lot of hype, many people still do not know exactly what clean eating is, or how it can benefit their health. Below, we will take a look at what clean eating is and how it can help you achieve optimal health.
What is Clean Eating?
Basically, clean eating is consuming food as close to its natural state as possible. It is not simply just a diet, but an entire lifestyle that focuses on whole, natural, unprocessed foods. For example, instead of eating a banana nut muffin for breakfast, try having a fresh banana and a handful of raw almonds.
The main focus of leading a clean eating lifestyle is paying attention to product ingredient labels. Never consume a boxed or packaged food without reading the ingredient label. This is the one and only way to truly know what the food you are eating is made of. The label should read like a recipe that you could create yourself in your own kitchen, with all of the ingredients being recognizable. For example, a box of crackers contains sodium acid pyrophosphate, monocalcium phosphate and tertiary butylhydroquinone.
Now, this isn’t saying that you can’t have crackers on a clean eating diet. You should simply look for a brand that contains more recognizable ingredients, such as flax seeds, sunflower seeds and quinoa.
Aside from reading every item on a label, automatically reject any food that contains artificial sweeteners, preservatives and colors. By doing this, you can drastically cut down on the amount of time you spend reading every ingredient listed on a product’s label.
The Benefits of Clean Eating
- Improves Cardiovascular Health: One of the main benefits of clean eating is the positive effect it has on cardiovascular health. Typically, a clean eating diet contains more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables than the standard daily diet of most individuals. Most of these foods are high in vitamin C, which helps to maintain blood vessel strength. Because of their high fiber content, fruits and vegetables also help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. By cutting out processed foods and eating more healthy fats such as those found in salmon and avocado, you are lowering your cholesterol levels and protecting yourself against cardiovascular disease.
- Reduces Your Risk: The Colorado State University Extension explains that a diet high in processed foods increases your risk for developing various forms of cancer. However, a clean diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables increases your intake of antioxidants and phytonutrients, which are known to support your immune system and other parts of your body systems.
- Supports Mental Health: Many fruits and vegetables contain high levels of vitamin B6, which plays a key role in the brain’s ability to create dopamine, a chemical that is responsible for the feeling of happiness or pleasure. Consuming Omega 3 fatty-acids, such as those found in salmon, helps to alleviate mood and suppress depression.
Now that you know a few of the benefits that following a clean eating lifestyle can provide, you may be wondering how you can start eating cleaner. It’s actually not as hard as you may think. There are a few basic steps to follow to get you on the road to cleaner eating and optimal health.
Getting Started with Clean Eating
- Clean out your pantry and refrigerator. Read the ingredient list on every food product you own. Throw out anything with unrecognizable ingredients, added sweeteners or artificial flavorings.
- Make a shopping list. This can be the tricky part. Stocking a kitchen with healthy foods can be a bit on the costly side if you have to start completely over. Start with the basics, such as lean meats and a few of your favorite fruits and vegetables.
- Buy a cooler. A small, portable cooler is invaluable when starting a new clean eating lifestyle. You always want to have a supply of fresh, healthy foods available at all times so you won’t be tempted to grab processed, convenience foods. Pack your lunch the night before, and make sure to include several healthy snacks.
- Drink plenty of fresh water. Stay away from sodas and other sugary drinks. Drinking plenty of fresh water helps your body to flush out toxins and keep you properly hydrated.
Living a clean eating lifestyle has many benefits and is easy to follow once you plan your meals in advance and always stick to your shopping list. Remember, it takes time to adapt to an entirely new way of eating. Allow yourself plenty of time to familiarize yourself with which foods are the best and healthiest choices, and you will be living a completely clean eating lifestyle in no time.
- Eat 5 to 6 times per day. Eating smaller meals throughout the day allows your body to fully absorb and utilize all of the nutrients from your food. This provides you with more sustained energy throughout the day and keeps hunger pangs at bay.
- Avoid processed and refined foods. Steer clear of white sugar, white flour, pasta and bread.
- Choose organic foods when possible. One of the main components of clean eating is to avoid foods that have been grown using pesticides.
- Eat only healthy fats. Fat is an important dietary staple. However, trans- fats are your enemy. Instead of processed or fried foods, consume healthy fats such as avocado, walnuts and salmon.