Whether you are trying to lose weight or just eat healthier, you may want to consider clean eating. Clean eating involves eating mainly whole foods, with the exception of some precessed foods that don't contain artificial ingredients. This type of diet has some nutritional advantages over the typical American diet.
Clean eating involves eating no refined grains, no refined sugars and no artificial ingredients. Avoid preservatives, artificial colors and artificial sweeteners. Choose organic whenever possible, and avoid foods high in saturated or trans fats, choosing instead foods that contain essential omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Eat at least three meals and two to three small snacks spread evenly throughout the day, and eat your food slowly so you can savor it. Pay attention to portion sizes and drink at least 2 liters of water per day. Foods you can eat include lean protein, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains. You can even eat some of the less-processed sweeteners, including honey, maple syrup and evaporated cane juice, so you don't have to feel deprived if you like sweets.
Nutrition and Health Benefits
Whole grains, including oats, brown rice and whole wheat, contain more fiber, antioxidants, folate and vitamin B-6 than refined grains and lower your risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Many processed foods don't fit within the clean eating guidelines, so when you eat clean you are likely to consume less trans fat and sodium, both of which increase your risk for heart disease. This means a clean eating diet is more heart-healthy than the typical American diet.
Compared to USDA Guidelines
The emphasis on eating fresh, whole foods means you are more likely to meet your recommended intake of fruits and vegetables with a clean eating diet. When eating clean, all of your grain servings consist of whole grains, which fits with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's recommendation that at least half of your grain servings consist of whole grains. Since you avoid eating refined sweeteners when you eat clean, it's easier to stay below the recommended limit for daily sugar consumption for women, which is 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day, or about 100 calories per day from added sugars. However, you can still consume too much sugar from the less-refined sweeteners that are allowed. Although these sweeteners may sound healthier, nutritionally they are about the same as sugar, according to MayoClinic.com. You could also consume too much fat or cholesterol if you don't plan your diet well and eat too much meat or dairy.
Eating clean doesn't mean you have to cook all of your meals from scratch, it just means you have to pick your processed foods more carefully. Frozen vegetables and frozen fruits without added sugar are allowed, as are most whole-grain pastas and some whole-grain breads and low-sodium soups. Even some snack foods pass the clean eating test, although these options are a lot more limited. You will have the most luck finding processed foods without refined grains, refined sugars and preservatives or additives if you look in the organic and natural foods section of the grocery store.
- The Journal of Nutrition: Putting the Whole Grain Puzzle Together: Health Benefits Associated with Whole Grains—Summary of American Society for Nutrition 2010 Satellite Symposium
- HelpGuide.org: Heart Healthy Diet Tips
- Family Doctor: Added Sugar: What You Need To Know
- MayoClinic.com: Artificial Sweeteners and Other Sugar Substitutes
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.