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Clean Eating: A Guide for Beginners

So much of the food we eat today is processed in some way. Much of it contains large amounts of added sugar. Just being able to find food as they exist in nature can be a challenge. This why so many people are making it a point to focus on clean eating. 

Clean eating has nothing to do with food that has been properly washed. It involves focusing your diet on whole, non-processed foods. Clean eating involves eating foods as they are meant to be eaten. 

One of the main and most obvious benefits of clean eating is removing processed junk and unnecessary sugar from your diet. Proponents claim that clean eating is the best route to better health and simply eating to feel better. 

But again, whole foods, foods that are not filled with processed junk—these things can be a challenge until you come to understand what these things mean. Clean eating involves doing a little homework on the foods you eat. 

But there are numerous benefits to clean eating. Proponents of clean eating swear by it and will never go back to eating junk foods that clutter our modern diet. This guide will give you the basic information to begin a diet of clean eating. We will show you the benefits of clean eating and give you the information you need to rid your diet of processed foods. 

What Does Clean Eating Mean?

Again, clean eating has nothing to do with food being clean or dirty in the conventional sense. Clean eating means choosing unprocessed or minimally processed foods that provide the most nutritional benefits. 

Clean eating simply means eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.

Many people who have turned toward clean eating refer to these foods as “real foods.” These are unprocessed single-ingredient foods that are free of chemical additives and rich in nutrition. Beyond the nutritional benefits, clean foods are also more ethical and sustainable than processed foods. 

Why Eat Clean?

We will get to some specifics on what constitutes a diet of clean eating below. For now, we need to make clear the benefits of clean eating. Clean eating has a positive impact on nearly every aspect of life. From your physical well-being to your mental health, your body and your mind will thank you for clean eating.

Some reasons to eat clean:

  1. Increased energy. A diet of whole, minimally processed foods retains all the nutritional value of these foods. Some nutrients retained in full in whole foods, like B-complex vitamins and iron, increase the number of energy cells can access and also assist with cellular functions. Clean eating can also help regulate blood sugar which fights fatigue that comes from the sugar spikes you get from foods that contain added sugar and processed carbohydrates. 
  2. Improved cardiovascular health. A healthy diet that is filled with fresh fruits and vegetables comes with high amounts of Vitamin C. This helps reduce your risk of heart disease by strengthening your blood vessels. The healthy oils that come from things like avocados and olive oil also reduce cholesterol levels in your blood. These benefits are the perfect counter to the saturated fats found in most processed foods. 
  3. Cancer prevention. I diet that relies on processed foods increases your risk of cancer. Processed meat and fried foods are the main culprits in increasing your risk of developing cancer. On the other hand, whole foods and fresh fruits and vegetables give you a natural boost of antioxidants which fight cancer. Cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and kale, are especially powerful for fighting cancer cell growth. 
  4. Improved mental health. Some vitamins, such as vitamin B-6, increase levels of dopamine. This is the so-called “feel good” chemical that improves your mood and fights depression. Whole foods are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which contain high levels of vitamin B-6. This can help boost your mood, reduce stress, and ward off depression. 

Since clean eating is built on a diet of whole foods and minimally processed foods, you will get the maximum levels of nutrients these foods naturally contain. As we can see these benefits have a positive effect on your body and your mind.

Foods Allowed on Clean Eating and Foods to Avoid on Clean Eating

It is important to note that clean eating is not a diet in the sense that you are focused on cutting calories or fat. Clean eating can mean eating the kinds of foods you enjoy. You simply need to make sure that you are not eating processed versions of these foods, and you are avoiding chemical additives and added sugar. 

But there are some things you should definitely include and exclude in a diet of clean eating.

  • Fruits and vegetables. Rather than including fruits and vegetables as side dishes, these need to become staples of your diet. Make sure you choose organic fruits and vegetables that have not been exposed to toxic pesticides and other chemicals. There is solid clinical evidence that shows that organic fruits and vegetables provide far more benefit to your health than produce that has been treated with pesticides. 
  • Limit or eliminate processed foods. Nearly all processed foods have lost important features like fiber and nutrients. Processed foods also generally contain added sugar and other chemicals, and other junk ingredients Some processed foods have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. 
  • Cut our refined carbs. Refined carbs are highly processed. They have little nutritional value and it is easy to overeat with them. The problems associated with refined carbs include inflammation, insulin resistance, fatty liver, and obesity
  • Whole grains and unrefined carbohydrates, on the other hand, are ideal sources of fiber. They may also promote intestinal health. One study showed that a diet of whole grains and unrefined carbs lad to reduced belly fat over a short time. 
  • Eliminate vegetable oils and spreads. These do not fit into the protocol of clean eating. Vegetable oils are highly processed and do not fit the clean eating criteria. Many of these oils also contain high levels of omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid. This has been linked to inflammation and may increase your risk of gaining weight 
  • It is impossible to avoid fats entirely. Stick to things like fatty fish, nuts, and avocadoes. Olive oil is acceptable. 
  • Avoid added sugar in any form. This means you need to start reading food labels carefully. So many foods contain added sugar that it has become difficult to avoid. Added sugars have been linked to obesity, fatty liver, cancer, and a number of other health problems. Simply avoid all added sugar. Consuming food in its most natural state is a major feature of clean eating. 

The Pros and Cons of a Clean Eating Diet

Cleaning eating just intuitively makes sense, and we have seen that there are wound scientific reasons to maintain a diet of clean eating. It is difficult to imagine how there could be any disadvantages to clean eating. In the service of providing all the information you need, here are some pros and cons of clean eating. 

Pros:

  • Includes whole and natural foods like vegetables, fruits, unprocessed whole grains, and lean proteins. 
  • It can lead to weight loss.
  • Increased energy, cardiovascular health, and digestive functions.  
  • It can be a part of a reduced-calorie diet. 
  • It provides all the necessary nutrients for overall good health.

Cons:

  • It can be difficult for some people to adhere to, particularly where it comes to eliminating processed foods and sugars. 
  • It can be more expensive than processed foods. Organic and natural foods generally cost a little more. 
  • It is still possible to overeat with clean eating. 
  • You need to monitor your meals to make sure you are getting enough calories and balanced nutrition. 
  • Tends to involve more food preparation and cooking.

Most of these cons can be dealt with by planning and thinking ahead. Food prep, for example, simply requires some foresight with shopping and making time to cook. If we examine the big picture of your long-term health, the pros of clean eating are far more compelling than the cons. 

Tips on Eating Clean

Tips for cleaning eating are mostly just practical advice for eating well. Some of this can save you money, while other ideas may be totally new. In any case, clean eating involves some planning and possibly new ways of shopping. Below is a list:

Avoid all added sugars: Read the labels on foods and make certain there is no added sugar. This is rule number one for clean eating.

Get creative in the kitchen. This is your opportunity to take on some cooking challenges. So many of us have become accustomed to grabbing fast food or junkie snacks that we have forgotten how to cook. Clean eating means thinking ahead, planning meals, and cooking at home. With a little planning, this will become part of your lifestyle.

Stay on the perimeter. This means to shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Almost across the board, the perimeter of any grocery store has fruits and vegetables, fresh poultry and fish, and eggs and yogurt. The processed food is in the aisles. 

Buy local. Locally grown produce and local food sources are almost always great places to get fresh organic fruits and vegetables. These are also good sources of free-range poultry and humanely raised meats. If you have any doubts about these food sources, you can generally ask the farmer. 

No “diet” foods. These types of foods are often filled with artificial ingredients, artificial sweeteners and preservatives, and other chemical additives. Just replace these things with fresh low-fat items. 

Ditch refined carbs. Switch out refined carbs for whole foods like oats, barley, brown rice, and farro. These are cleaner foods. 

Nutrient-dense foods. Choose foods that are rich in nutrients like broccoli, berries, eggs, red bell peppers, seeds, and wild-caught salmon. These are not only nutrient-rich foods they are also filling and will keep you away from the snacks. 

Eating Clean Meal Plan Examples

Below is a plan for clean eating for just one day. One of the things you will notice is that you do not sacrifice flavors or satisfying foods by switching to clean eating. These types of meal plans require some planning and prep, but you do not need specialized culinary training to pull these things off. 

  • Breakfast: Banana and coconut smoothie made with organic bananas and coconut water Add organic yogurt if you like 
  • Lunch: Roasted Fennel, Asparagus, and Red Onions with Parmesan and Hard-Boiled Eggs
  • Dinner: Slow cooker chicken with salsa verde 
  • Snack: Boiled grapefruit with fresh coconut. 

This is one example of infinite combinations of fresh whole foods. Follow your own preferences and get creative.  

Conclusion

Most of us have become acutely aware of the way eat these days. It is just a feature of life today to have so much information at our fingertips. As a result, we are paying attention to not only how much we eat, but also the kinds of foods we eat. Clean eating is a logical outgrowth of this increased awareness regarding food.

Clean eating simply involves eating foods that are free of chemicals and additives. Processed foods are almost always filled with added sugars, preservatives, and other chemical additives, and we now know that these things cause problems. Everything from obesity to cancer has been linked to processed foods and the chemicals found in these foods. Clean eating is a natural reaction to these issues. 

When you switch to clean eating you will focus on whole foods, organic produce, and humanely raised meats. Rather than filling up on refined carbohydrates, you will focus on nutrient-rich foods. Clean eating, as we have seen above, can combat things like obesity by avoiding the foods that cause this problem and by actively fighting the metabolic problems that cause obesity.

Maybe the most obvious and immediate benefit of clean eating is that you will simply feel better. By eliminating junk, processed foods, and added sugars, your body will return to a more natural state of health. Clean eating may require a little more planning and cooking that grabbing fast food and easy snacks, but the payoffs of clean eating will soon outweigh the ease of convenience. 

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