One quick search online or one quick visit to Instagram and you’ll see #cleaneating but what does that actually mean? Through marketing and social media certain foods have been labelled as “clean” which is supposed to be synonymous with “healthy” but that it not the case. These “clean” foods are marketed to us as healthy because they typically contain 0g of sugar, low fat, high protein and moderately low carbohydrate. And at some point, these were decidedly “healthy” categories. The problem with these foods is that Diet Coke (to use an example) would fall into “clean” as a 0 calorie, 0g sugar product. How many times have you seen an “influencer” in the health industry drinking 0 calorie drinks and diet pop? ALL THE TIME. These drinks are made with artificial sweeteners that have animal research to support carcinogenic effects. The biggest problem with “clean eating” is that it can lead to Orthorexia which is a term that means an individual does not get adequate nutrition because of food rules they set out for themselves.
Another issue I have with the term “clean eating” is that the words “cheat meal” are also used. Cheat is an ethical term and should not be associated with foods. It indicates you’re doing something wrong, something bad. This creates a negative mindset around that food. For example, having a cupcake if your are “clean eating” would be considered a “cheat meal”. This sets you up for thinking you are being bad when you eat a cupcake. Yes, cupcakes are not typically nutrient-dense but no one should be chastised for eating one cupcake.
Low fat is also promoted to us through “clean eating” especially through fitness influencers and the HUGE problem here is, our bodies NEED fat. Our brains are made of fat, our hormones are made of fat, our cell membranes are made of fat. Our bodies can literally not function properly without fat in our diets.
The foundation of any diet should be whole (real) foods and mostly plant-based. Eating fad diets or following specific plans like keto, low FODMAP, intermittent fasting, paleo etc will not work for everyone but what does work for everyone is eating real foods.
Real foods are nutrient-dense foods that fuel and support the functions of our body. Fats like avocado, coconut, ghee, nuts and seeds are nutrient-dense foods that provide our bodies with additional micronutrients and trace minerals. Fish and eggs are also great sources of fat (and protein) that again, provide our bodies with more than just macronutrients. There are trace minerals and vitamins present in these foods that our bodies need.
My take home message is don’t fall prey to marketing and influencers as their messages are typically driven by money and not coming from a place of education. Make decisions for yourself based on what makes your body feel the best. When you choose real, nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, organic meats and fish, eggs, nuts, legumes and seeds you have more energy, a clear mind, clear skin, inflammation is reduced, mood improves, joint pain goes away, your gut heals and so so much more!