We hear a lot about eating clean these days, and I myself am a keen proponent of clean eating, but what does it actually mean?
Dr Mark Hyman, the guru of clean eats, uses just three words to describe clean food: “Real. Whole. Fresh”. He doesn’t believe in junk food; for him there is junk, and then there is food.
So clean food, is real food, as close to its original state as possible (ie whole) and eaten as quickly as possible after it has been harvested.
There is a reason why you have been hearing so much about eating clean. Ask any of the leading lights of Functional Medicine about what is behind the epidemic of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, alzheimers, ADHS, autism, depression and all the other chronic ‘lifestyle’ diseases that are plaguing us today, and they will all tell you – processed food. Especially low-fat, high-sugar, packaged food. Our highly industrialised, over processed food industry has meant that we are eating de-natured food that our bodies can’t understand and don’t know what to do with. And this makes us sick.
The problem is compounded because technology has enabled us to take certain cheap-to-produce foods like wheat, corn and soya, split them down into their component parts and reconstitute them into multiple other ingredients. So, not only are foods de-natured, but the same ones are put into EVERYTHING.
Let’s take one of those cheap foods as an example. When do you think was the last time you ate corn? It was probably much more recently than you imagine. If you have had any mayonnaise or ketchup, brushed your teeth or used mouthwash, drunk any carbonated soft drinks, eaten any bread or other baked goods, you will have consumed corn in some form or another. Here is a list of just a few of the common (and surprising) ingredients we can find on food labels that are derived from corn:
- Ascorbic Acid
- Baking Powder
- ‘Caramel’ Colouring
- Citrate – Calcium Citrate, Magnesium Citrate, Potassium Citrate etc)
- Dextrin, maltodextrin
- Flavourings (especially those marked as ‘natural’)
- High Fructose Corn Syrup (which is everywhere)
- Hydrolised Vegetable Protein (HVP)
- Iodized salt
- Malic acid
- Modified Food Starch
- Monosodium Glutamate
- Polydextrose (a bulking agent facilitating ‘high fibre’ claims)
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E)
- Vanilla Extract
- Vinegar (White Distilled)
- Xanthum gum
In addition to corn, the other foods that are used extensively in processed food are wheat, soy and palm oil derivatives. This causes four major health problems:
- We are not designed to live almost exclusively off 3 or 4 foods endlessly combined and re-combined in multiple variations on the same theme. Essentially we are being forced to eat the same food day in day out, irrespective of season or weather. This removes us too far from our ancestors, who had a diet that was varied and diverse on a daily, monthly and seasonal basis. This lack of variety means that we are missing out on essential vitamins and phytonutrients that each work in concert with the others to balance our regulatory systems and facilitate immune function.
- Over-consumption of the same foods leads to food sensitivities and allergies. We are programmed for and need a varied diet. If we don’t get it our body starts to send signals (bloating, pain, indigestion, depression) which, de-coded, mean “PLEASE eat something else.”
- Most of these ingredients get broken down and ‘read’ by our bodies as sugar. That means that our liver and pancreas are on constant alert manufacturing and releasing insulin and converting all that sugar into fat. Eventually we become resistant to the amount of insulin we produce so our body has to make more, and then we become resistant to that. At this point our bodies become inflamed at a cellular level and start to break down – arthritis, obesity, organ failure, degenerative brain diseases, cancer are all the result of this forced and un-witting over consumption of sugar.
- Processed foods often contain fats that have been hydrolised in order to stabilise them and extend shelf life. This makes them very unnatural substances that our bodies cannot use efficiently. This causes by-products, or toxins, which over-tax the liver and other de-tox pathways. The fact that processed foods are almost exclusively very low in fibre, means there is nothing present in our digestive tracts to help escort these toxins out of the body. So what happens? They get converted into fat and stored far out of harm’s way, on your thighs. Even when under extreme pressure, your body is still trying to save your life, even if it does mean a bit of cellulite!
The final issue with processed food is all the additives it contains. Preservatives, ‘improvers’, flavourings and colourings have been variously associated with cancers, brain dis-orders, immune dis-functions and heart disease. When regulators look at the levels of these chemicals that are ‘safe’ they do not neccesarily take into account the huge cumulative effect of consuming this stuff 24/7. The fact is that neither we as individuals nor ‘they’ as regulators and manufacturers have a clue what we are actually consuming, in what volumes, and what it is doing to us on a daily basis.
So eating clean, is simply de-risking our lives by stepping away from all that over-processed, de-natured food. It is about rejecting the over industrialisation of our food-supply system whether that be in relation to the rearing of animals, the hybridisation of crops or the fundamental undermining of food itself.
Clean Eating aficionados opt for fresh whole foods that do not come with lists of ingredients, because they are the ingredient. Simple, real foods that our bodies have been designed to consume and that have been designed themselves to nourish us in all our complexity.
Variety and bulk are important to Clean Eaters (did you know that our ancestors ate up to 12lbs of food a day, most of which was fibre?). The eco-system that is our gut is absolutely dependent for its health on our consumption of the sort of soluble fibre that is found naturally in veggies, beans, pulses and whole grains.
Nobody fully understands exactly how phytonutrients work in our bodies all we do know is that variety is important and that more is never enough. All the different colours in fruits and vegetables are indicative of a different range of micro-nutrients, each of which work in collaboration with the others in magical ways to ensure that our brain, blood, bone, nerve and skin cells are all fully optimised.
Because it re-connects you with they way your body wants things to be, eating clean is the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to lose weight, balance hormones and boost immunity. And I am here to show you how! If you would like to find out more, download my free Transformation Toolkit by clicking the link. In it you will find an outline of the Prϋv Protocol, an easy way to transition to clean eating, mealplans, shopping lists and recipes to help you kickstart your own clean eating programme.
I wish you joy and health!