Thinking about eating clean and actually starting to eat clean are two separate pieces of detoxifying your life. Where the first step might seem self-explanatory, “eating clean”, going from thinking to doing requires some knowledge and action you might not have considered.
Refreshing your diet is a learning experience – learning what whole foods to embrace, discovering how to recognize the best and healthiest options in each of the food groups, and preparing to cut back on refined grains, added sugars, and unhealthy fats are all part of the process.
It might sound like a lot of work, but its work that can be made easy with some preparation. Below are some tips to help you eat clean and detoxify your life:
Identify Your Eating Pattern
Identifying eating patterns can help someone take control of their diet regimen. For instance, those who skip breakfast each morning actually consume large quantities of food at later meals, and are less likely to regulate what foods they put into their bodies. (1)
Eating regularly and on a set schedule helps reduce snacking. Some experts say 3 meals a day, while others say 4 to 6 small meals a day. One thing is for certain though: eating sporadically has been shown to a higher calorie intake. (2) . Everyone is different, so try to figure out what times you usually get hungry and stick to those times to avoid overeating.
Avoid Processed Foods
More important than keeping a meal schedule is controlling what gets eaten on that schedule.
Without a regulated diet, 70% of daily calories can come from processed foods. (3) But where processed foods may contribute to food security, they do not safely contribute to nutritional security. Processed foods use ingredients high in preservatives, fats, and sodium’s to mass-produce foods and keep them fresh longer, but alter the dietary value of the food in the process.
Considering these foods raise cholesterol, which can lead to heart problems and stroke, a goal of clean eating needs to be moderate supplementation of processed foods with a higher mix of more nutrient-dense foods. (4)
Stick to Whole Foods
Clean eating and detoxification go hand in hand with fruits and vegetables. Together, they provide a wide spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
Vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and various bioactive compounds responsible for fueling the body with energy all day long. Irregular energy vs. regular energy is as simple as the difference between a carrot and a candy bar. Both will supply energy, but the carrot will be of the sustained kind, while the candy bar will be more of a quick burst and then a subsequent crash. Increasing vegetable intake also increases one’s energy density (availability of energy throughout a day). (5)
Most vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories, and provide essential nutrients that the body needs. Vitamin A keeps skin healthy and protects against infection, Vitamin C heals wounds, cuts, and aids in absorbing excess metals in the body. (6) Two examples of these, right at the next corner market, are tomatoes (Vitamin A) and bell peppers (Vitamin C).
Depending on the amount of calories a person needs to consume for their weight and level of activity, between 5 and 13 servings of vegetables (or fruits) should be consumed each day – the equivalent being around 2 ½ to 6 ½ cups. (7)
Fruits are an excellent way to boost energy levels without the use of false or ‘quick’ energy solutions (i.e. energy drinks and fast foods). Fruits in their natural solid forms contain smaller amounts of fructose than foods with processed sugars. Also, fruits sugars combine naturally with other nutrients and fibers, allowing the body to digest fruit more slowly for constant levels of energy all day long.
Fiber in fruits is one of the main reasons fruits are so cleansing for the body. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements, and delays the rise in blood pressure after meals. It acts as nature’s broom, sweeping away debris and food waste so that it can be expelled. As a bonus, fiber also delays gastric emptying, which means you stay fuller longer. (8)
Even with the subtle supplement of fruits, we’re constantly losing water from our bodies primarily through urine and sweat. Learn to trust thirst! When thirsty, it can’t hurt to take a drink of water, fill up the empty water bottle, or wander over to the drinking fountain. Unlike eating, water intake isn’t something that needs to be scheduled, so long as a person is getting their water requirement for the day. (9)
Statistically, an intake of 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women is suggested per daily. (9)
Water also cleanses the body of metals and toxins which work their way into the body through a person’s diet and environment. Coffee, tea, soda, sports drinks, and other sugary drinks contain unnatural ingredients which add to the build-up of waste material in the body. Adding habitual alcohol or nicotine intake into the mix could make your situation even worse. (12,13)
If you constantly crave for juice or sweet drinks, try detox water. Detox water has the flavor of fruits, but without the added calories from artificially sweetened beverages.
The keys to detoxification are knowledge and action: understanding the link between feeling toxicity and understanding where toxins come from, and understanding what you can do to help yourself. Staying properly hydrated is a huge part of that.
No More White Flour
Trade in the white flour, sugar, bread, and pasta for whole wheat flour, coconut or sucanat sugars, whole grain breads, rice, and pasta.
Grains, especially whole grains, are an essential part of a healthy diet. They are good source of complex carbohydrates, as well as some key vitamins and minerals. Whole grains are also naturally low in fat. (14)
How to Tell the Difference Between Grains
- Enriched grains. Enriched means some of the nutrients lost during processing are added back in. Some enriched grains are grains that have had B vitamins added back in, but not the lost natural fiber.
- Refined grains. Refined grains are milled, a process which strips out both bran and germ to give grains a finer texture and extend shelf life. The refining process also removes many nutrients, including fiber. – White flour, white rice, white bread and degermed cornflower.
- Whole grains. Unrefined grains haven’t had their bran and germ removed through milling. Whole grains are better sources of fiber and important nutrients such as selenium, potassium, and magnesium. – Brown rice, popcorn, and whole wheat in bread. (15,16,17)
Look for Healthy Sources of Fat
Fats are satisfying and help you feel fuller longer, which should prevent overeating. The trick is to find the sources of fat which are healthy and provide an ideal calorie intake.
Omega-3 is a type of fat found in many types of fish – salmon, albacore tuna, herring, anchovies, and sardines. Also found in eggs, walnuts, and vegetable oil, omega 3s have been linked to reduced inflammation and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. (18)
Nuts are a great source of fat, because not only do they provide essential fats, but also essential fibers, proteins, and minerals. Avocados can also provide a day’s essential fats, with the added benefits of fiber, folate, potassium, vitamins E, C, and B6. (19)
Observe the 80/20 Rule
For most people, eating 100 percent clean is close to impossible. Eating out, lunch at the office, fast food convenience, and accidental snacking are realities we all face at some point. Don’t stress too much over whether the food you’re eating is clean or not. What’s important is that you try to eat clean most of the time, so that the occasional food blunder will not set you back in the long run.
The Final Word
Clean eating isn’t rocket science, but it does take preparation, adjustment, and discipline. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional cheat meal, but your body and health will thank you for making the switch to cleaner, more nutrient-dense food.