Because it’s a recent buzzword, you may have gotten the impression that “eating clean” is the latest diet fad, but it’s actually a simple nutritional philosophy that’s easy to follow. Nutritionists like the term clean eating because it’s about going back to basics, stripping your diet of modern convenience foods and eating the old-fashioned way. And food that boosts energy and makes you feel good is a win-win. Here’s the basic clean eater’s credo:
1. Choose Whole Foods
When nutritionists talk about whole foods, they mean foods that are as close as possible to their natural state. This means shopping for building block ingredients – the kind your grandmother would have purchased – rather than foods that have been processed or prepared. Most of your grocery list should be fresh fruits and vegetables, herbs, meats, nuts, and grains such as brown rice and quinoa.
2. Whole Grains Only
Processed (factory-milled) grains, which include pasta, white rice, and unbleached flour are stripped of fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients during manufacturing, leaving behind simple carbohydrates or starches. Starches are absorbed in the gut very rapidly, just like sugars, and when consumed repeatedly, can lead to similar chronic inflammation and weight-related diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Go for whole grains and make your carbs count.
3. Just Say No to Sugar
There’s no easy way around this one; sugar is bad for you plain and simple, and eating clean means eating as little sugar as possible. Try these tips to satisfy your sweet tooth without sugar.
4. Focus on Fiber
Natural plant fiber, which is present in legumes such as beans, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, helps you feel full faster and satisfied for longer, which prevents you from overeating. Because fiber slows absorption of sugar in the intestines, it prevents insulin from surging, lowering your risk of developing diabetes and also easing the inflammatory effects of sugar.
Another important advantage of plant fiber is that it feeds our gut microbiome, the term for the millions of microbacteria that live in our lower intestine. A healthy, diverse microbiome helps our immune system fight infections and some cancers — and may help our brain to influence mood and cognitive activity.
5. Healthy Oils and Fats
It’s impossible to cook and prepare food without oil, but some oils are much, much better than others. To eat clean, you want to include only plant-sourced oils such as olive, avocado, sunflower, walnut, grapeseed, sesame, and canola oil and avoid saturated fats like butter and hydrogenated oils such as margarine. Hydrogenated oils are also in many store-bought baked goods.
6. Slow Down
When you slow down, chew your food thoroughly, and enjoy it, you’ll better recognize when you’re satisfied. Try eating smaller meals every two or three hours to help control and balance blood glucose levels throughout the day.