Clean eating is a term that has been popularised in the health world on social media. But, it can mean different things to different people and often has different interpretations. For some, it means eating cleaner or healthier alternatives to common foods. Think wholegrain bread instead of white bread. While for others, it’s the removal of foods that cause inflammation in the body.
So let’s have a look at what we mean by the term clean eating and why we recommend a nutrient dense wholefoods diet.
Our philosophy focuses on eating nutrient dense whole foods that support your health while reducing inflammation and illness. This means eating an abundance of fresh seasonal vegetables, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, meat, soaked gluten free whole-grains and legumes while avoiding gluten, refined grains, refined sugars and highly processed vegetable oils.
It’s not our intention to be dogmatic and to never eat foods that contain sugar, alcohol or other less-than-ideal foods. These foods are fine if they don’t form the basis of our diet. Meaning for most people, enjoying them occasionally works well. It’s not our intention to suck the joy out of living (although you will see that eating healthy food can be delicious and enjoyable) but to give you the greatest amount of energy, health and vitality to let you live the life you want.
When beginning to include more nutrient dense foods into your diet it can be helpful to think of the mantra “progress not perfection.” Much like we discussed in the movement pillar of health, finding foods you enjoy eating is crucial to forming a sustainable, consistent habit.
Eating a wholefood diet reduces inflammation within your body caused by processed foods. Foods that are high in trans fats, refined grains, sugar, preservatives and emulsifiers can cause gut dysfunction, poor memory, foggy thinking, chronic aches pains and poor sleep. Inflammation is the body's attempt to heal itself after an injury; defend itself against foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria; and repair damaged tissue. When we have high levels of inflammation within our bodies we cannot experience optimal energy or health.
Stabilising blood sugars
Eating a wholefood diet helps to stabilise your blood sugar levels. Because wholefoods have a low glycaemic load - that is the rate at which your body uses energy - they will keep you fuller for longer. This can help with cravings and energy as well as being necessary for managing metabolic conditions such as type two diabetes. This also helps with weight management and improving your body composition if this is your goal.
Increase nutrient uptake
Whole foods, when prepared properly, have a low level of antinutrients, meaning your body is easily able to absorb - and use - the nutrients from your food. Proteins found in certain foods can block the absorption of other nutrients when eaten. For instance, the proteins found in gluten-containing foods have been shown to prevent the uptake of iron, calcium zinc and magnesium when eaten alongside foods rich in these nutrients. This means even if you eat a well constructed diet, or you take nutritional support your body may not be able to store or use these nutrients if you regularly consume gluten.
As mentioned above, eating a whole foods based diet is extremely beneficial to your health. However, what we add in (vegetables, soaked whole grains, legumes, meat, eggs, fish, nuts and seeds) is only part of the puzzle. What we leave out is just as important for your health.
Here are three common foods we recommend moving away from as much as possible. Remember that everybody is individual. Some other foods, such as dairy and gluten free whole grains will depend entirely on your personal tolerance. It can be overwhelming trying to change everything all at once, so we suggest starting with the three outlined below.
For many people grains - especially gluten-containing grains - can cause problems affecting everything from digestion, mood, skin disorders like rashes and eczema, to joint pain, weight gain, migraines and thyroid disorders.
At our BePure clinic in Hawke’s Bay, I am yet to see a person with a thyroid disorder whose symptoms have not drastically improved on a gluten free diet.
For an extensive list of gluten-related symptoms, check out this list. Interestingly, you’ll see that many of these symptoms do not relate to digestion! It can be confusing when starting on a gluten-free diet. However there are still plenty of carbohydrates to choose from, many of which are far more nutrient-dense than gluten-based products. Things like starchy vegetables, legumes, fruit and soaked whole grains that do not contain gluten are great options for nourishing your body without the inflammatory properties of gluten.
Refined grains such as pasta, flour, breakfast cereals, crackers, processed breads and biscuits spike your blood sugar levels, are highly processed and striped of their nutrients. Perhaps surprisingly cereals such as cornflakes and rice bubbles are higher on the glycaemic index than straight table sugar! Some amount of carbohydrate dependant on your own unique genetics is vital. They help with energy production and brain function. However, you can get all the benefits of complex carbohydrates from whole food sources such as root vegetables, fruit, legumes and soaked gluten free grains. Concentrated doses of refined grains can lead to poor digestion, metabolic dysregulation, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and weight gain.
Recently the World Health Organisation (WHO) findings have confirmed what we all knew - we're eating far too much sugar.
Kiwi's are consuming, on average, 37 teaspoons of the stuff daily! That's 31 teaspoons over the amount recommended by the WHO, and about 34 teaspoons over the amount I recommend. Eating sugar triggers the release of opioids in the brain, this makes you feel good and want more and more sugar. This is a problem because our bodies are only designed to process a small amount of fructose (a sugar molecule) in our livers. Biologically we haven’t evolved from traditional times when the only sugar we were exposed to was fruit found in nature which was highly beneficial for energy and nutrients.
Now, we are bombarded with sugar everywhere from pasta sauce, bread, cereals, tinned vegetables and even salt and vinegar chips (to balance out the vinegar!) Our exposure to processed foods means our bodies cannot keep up and so we store this excess sugar as fat. Too much sugar can affect your mood, your blood sugar control, your hormonal health, fertility, body composition and so much more. Click on the link above to read my handy tips for cutting down on refined sugar.
I always like to say it can take time and experimentation to find the right way of eating that is nourishing and enjoyable to you. Ultimately, the right diet for you is one based around whole foods that keeps you the fullest the longest.
Use this list of what to 'eat most' of and what to 'avoid' if you need a guide to refer to.
Vegetables (Preferably home-grown, spray-free or organic)
Free-range nutrient dense meat (Choose meat that has limited processing, additives and preservatives. Don’t trim off the fat)
Free-range organic eggs
Raw nuts and seeds
Herbs and spices
Organic spray-free fruits
Cold-pressed extra virgin coconut oil (high heat cooking)
Organic butter (medium heat cooking)
Extra virgin olive oil (low heat cooking)
Water with lemon juice
Unsweetened cranberry juice
Sparkling water (with mint and cucumber)
Apple cider vinegar
Low fat food options
Gluten, wheat and refined grains
Refined sugar (only use natural sweeteners in small amounts such as raw honey, real maple syrup, stevia and dates)
Bread, crackers, pastry and wraps
Raw or processed soy (except tamari)
Soft drinks (all fizzy drinks except sparkling water)
Vegetable oils eg. corn, soy, canola and sunflower
Anything with added flavours, artificial sweeteners and preservatives
When using dairy use whole dairy (avoid low fat or reduced fat), choose raw milk if possible.
If you’re ready to start making some changes to your nutrition join us in our simple challenge this week to try going gluten free for 7 days. I’ve never met a person with an autoimmune condition, poor energy, or health concern who didn’t benefit from going gluten free. Try it for yourself for 7 days and see how you feel.
It can seem daunting initially, but we have lots of great recipes and resources here to help make it easier for you to go gluten free.
Be sure to check in to our BePure - Ben Warren Facebook page as we will be posting helpful tips and inspiration for this challenge as well as a weekly prize.
We’d also love to see all the delicious gluten free creations you make. Share your pics with us on Instagram using #bepurebenwarren.
This blog is part of our 10 pillars of health series. Each week we will deliver content, recipes and challenges relevant to each pillar of health that we believe are the foundations for living a healthier, happier, more energised life. The idea being that if we focus on making progress in one area each week it will be easier, and more sustainable, over the long-term.
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