The Clean Eating Lowdown
Fitness and nutrition are always the hottest topics on the Internet. Food blogs, health blogs, and whole YouTube channels are dedicated to achieving the perfect body through diet and exercise. In a world where we are constantly bombarded by the “perfect body”, it is no wonder that people desire to change their lifestyle to fit what is considered peak health. That’s where we get into clean eating…
What is clean eating?
Dieting plays an important role in leading a healthy lifestyle and there are many different diets promoted to help people achieve this goal. Clean eating is the latest diet fad that has become popular and while there is a lot of good helpful information, there is also a lot of misinformation being given to unsuspecting dieters. In this article, we will look at what clean eating is and whether it is really good for you.
What does clean eating mean? According to one fitness magazine, it can be defined as:
Being mindful of the food’s pathway between its origin and your plate.
A simpler way to put it is that clean eating is about eating whole foods compared to processed foods. A lot of the food available to us is processed from cereals to hot dogs and even healthy options such as instant oatmeal and ready-made pasta sauce.
Clean Eating Confusion
What often confuses consumers is that there are many different types of processed food. Instant oats cannot be compared to fizzy drinks (known as ultra-processed) in how they are made and their nutritional benefits. Ultra-processed foods are often more likely to be stripped of any nutritional benefits and will have several additives added to change the taste and even the look of the food.
The clean eating diet is a complete break from processed food to ensure that only whole foods as they naturally come are consumed.
From the previous paragraph, clean eating sounds great and in many ways it is. Filling your diet with whole foods has numerous health benefits such as fighting chronic disease and supporting healthy cell functions. Livestrong, an online health blog made a list of four health benefits which are feeling more energetic, improving cardiovascular health, preventing cancer, and supporting mental health.
All these benefits come from the nutrients that are in whole foods. Eating unprocessed meat and fish is also the best way for gym users to build muscle and fitness as they are getting good quality protein.
If clean eating has all these benefits then how can we be questioning whether it is good for you? Recent reports on the subject have shown some interesting and worrying facts about a clean eating diet. Writing in The Guardian, mental health experts have warned that the clean eating diet is having a negative effect on teenagers, young people, and those with eating disorders. They state that the culture of clean eating has created an idealized lifestyle that many people cannot afford to follow.
In fact, one mental health expert states that health bloggers, often portrayed as rich and successful, are giving out advice with no scientific backing and imposing their lifestyle on others. At the extreme end of the spectrum, young people are so rigidly following the rules that the idea of eating a biscuit can cause an anxiety attack.
An expert working for the National Center of Eating Disorders states that a number of bulimic and anorexic sufferers see clean eating as a way to becoming healthy without comprising on eating more. Clean eating can become an obsession rather than a health benefit.
There is a lot of misdirection that can have a negative effect on the choices people make when dieting. One big example of this is cutting out gluten. UK magazine Vice informs that there is not an automatic benefit to cutting out gluten unless it’s a medical requirement.
Not only is the promotion that gluten is bad unproductive, but it is also expensive with Vice reporting that gluten-free products are on average 242% more expensive. This can lead to an influx of misinformation with many sports blogs labeling gluten as an evil product that should be avoided at all costs. This in turn leads to a culture of fear that can mean people are avoiding perfectly healthy foods.
As with most things in life, balance is the best option.
Clean eating does have enormous health benefits, but it should be part of a diet rather than the whole. Eating healthy is never a bad thing but when it is joined with negative stereotypes then it can become abused by young people who are aspiring to eat their way to the perfect body.
The best health and nutrition advice to follow is the five fruit and vegetable a day. This gives the body a healthy balance of nutrients and can be incorporated into a balanced diet easily. There are many recipes that are both healthy and tasty. For example, mango fruit pops are healthy while still retaining the element of fun and balance that obsessive clean eating can destroy.
There is nothing wrong with eating cleaner and in most cases, it is encouraged, but there has to be an awareness of the negative mental side that can quickly turn a good intention into a bad obsession.