Clean eating is used to describe a style of diet that prevents you from consuming any empty calories. If you are familiar with a detox diet, the two are very similar.
Empty calories are energy from foods that are high in sugar and fat. For instance, food products that are high in saturated fats and refined sugars typically have high-calorie counts but very low nutritional value.
Consuming 250 calories can be as easy as eating one Snickers bar. (1) The problem is, those calories come from saturated fat and sugar. Eating 250 calories from 4 scrambled eggs (2) is a totally different deal. The eggs come packed with 24 grams of protein, 20 grams of good fat, no sugar or carbs and a healthy dose of 850mg of dietary cholesterol, (3) along with a boost of the antioxidants lutein and choline. (4,5)
Can you see the difference? One food is just pure empty calories that taste great, but upsets your blood-sugar levels, spikes the aging hormone; insulin causes inflammation in your organs and does nothing for your nutrition other than pack on fat mass. (6)
The other is a power food that is dense in quality calories, nutrients, and antioxidants. Which do you think would be the better food to eat for your health? That’s the general principle of a clean diet, remove the sugar and the saturated fats, and replace them with quality food sources that reduce inflammation in your system.
Inflammation is what we are trying to avoid at all costs. Eating acidic foods like sugar cause inflammation in the internal organs and throws your metabolism out of whack. This compromises your immune system and exposes you to disease. Taking the inflammatory foods out of your diet and eating clean, has huge benefits for your longevity and health. (7)
8 Excellent Tips & Fixes for Clean Eating
Change Your Carbs
Carbohydrates are the macro nutrient most responsible for glucose production in the body. Just as in the example of the snickers bar and the eggs above, not all carb sources are equal. Choosing quality tubers such as sweet potatoes over white potatoes, keeps inflammation at bay and gives you your daily requirement of fiber.
Stick to whole grains over refined flour, as they have a lower GI (Glycemic Index) and provide sustained energy release throughout the day. They also contain more fiber, so as not to stimulate excessive insulin production or spike blood sugar levels. (8)
Reduce Your Sugar Intake
This is a big one for most people. The body craves salt, sugar, and fat because it receives an endorphin reward at the end of satisfying the dopamine craving of the nervous system. What this means is that we actually develop a slight addiction to this inflammatory trio. Removing them completely from your diet might even end up like you are taking the happiness right out of your life.
This feeling fades after a few days of abstaining from sugar, sat fats and salt and you will begin to feel fewer hunger pangs during the day as your blood sugar returns to its baseline level. (9)
Fill Up on Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are important for a clean diet, they provide fibre that sweeps you clean and removes unwanted build-up and blockages of food in your intestinal tract. This helps tremendously with daily energy levels and a high fibre diet reduces the risk of colonic and intestinal disease from developing. (10)
Fruit is nature’s energy source. Certain berries and exotic fruits have been shown to have amazing antioxidant properties. Blueberries, kiwifruit, avocados and many others are all packed full of clean energy, disease-fighting antioxidants, and essential vitamins. (11)
Use MCT Oils
The fat in your diet is another area that requires better attention from you in successfully executing a clean diet. Using bad oils in cooking adds up to a lot of empty calories, as well as an increase in acidity and inflammation. It is the kind of saturated fat source we avoid like the plague.
Stop cooking with oil altogether, rather grill, bake or steam your food. Use quality medium and long chain triglyceride oils to dress up your food and give you some added healthy calories.
Coconut oil, olive oil, and flax oils are all great sources to use on salads and dishes like fresh baked salmon. (12)
Eat Lean Sources of Protein
Saturated animal fats are also another fat that needs to be avoided in a clean diet. Choosing the right protein sources is vital. Whole eggs, light meat tuna, salmon, whey protein powder, and chicken are complete proteins that have next to no saturated animal fats in them.
Red meats and dairy are the most common food that is packed with sat fats, so remove them from your diet and keep it clean. (13)
Drinking on your clean diet should be avoided. Alcohol is just more empty carbs that will lead to system inflammation. The alcohol is broken down by your liver into sugars that act just like a snickers bar would.
There’s nothing wrong with having a drink occasionally if you have to, just keep it to one. (14)
Drink Detox Water & Herbal Teas
Drinking water is essential to better health, but detox water is even more beneficial due to the added nutrients. When you are fully hydrated your skeletal, muscular and neural systems are protected and able to operate with maximum efficiency. Water keeps things moving and elevates your metabolic function.
A fantastic way to increase your water intake and take in some powerful antioxidants at the same time is to drink as much green tea as you can during the day. Tea assists digestion and green tea is filled with the polyphenols ECCG, ECG, and GCG. These antioxidants assist in immune function, metabolism, and removal of free radicals from the bloodstream. (15)
Preparation is Key
If you do not have a structured diet in place that you follow every day with the utmost diligence, then you are wandering around the woods without a compass. Having a plan in place is as important as executing on it. Preparing your food and meal plans ahead of time will keep you on track to eating clean.
5 Health Benefits of Clean Eating
Eating clean has a numerous health benefits. You may miss your fast food and sugar in the beginning but once your body has adapted to assimilating only clean foods, it becomes energetic, vibrant and full of life.
Here are our top 5 benefits of eating a clean diet.
Clean diets drop the empty calories from your diet, you will be thrilled as you see your waist size start to drop off quickly during the first four weeks. The reduced inflammation ramps up your metabolism and keeps blood sugar at baseline levels. (16)
Increase in Energy Levels
The reduced inflammation produces less free radicals and as your metabolism rises, you will feel more energetic, need less sleep, and you won’t be suffering from those mid-afternoon sugar crashes anymore. (17)
Think of it as an allocation of resources. When the body is working overtime to compensate for the damage caused by toxins, it does not have enough resources to power you through your day. Without those toxins wreaking havoc on your body, your energy levels are restored.
Less saturated fat and refined carbohydrates add up to a healthy heart. Eating clean reduces the levels of the bad cholesterol, LDL in your blood lipid profile while elevating the good cholesterol, HDL. (18)
According to statistics, heart attack and stroke are among the top causes of death in the U.S.. If you’re concerned about your health given the abundance of processed foods in the typical Western diet, you may want to switch over to clean eating for the sake of longevity.
Insulin is the body’s most powerful hormone. When you eat sugar or refined carbs, the hypothalamus signals the pancreas to secrete insulin. It finds its way into your bloodstream and leads to unwanted fat gain and inflammation.
Insulin is the hormone responsible for your skin aging. The more you curb its production, the more youthful your skin will look, stopping wrinkles and creases. (19)
Detox and Disease Prevention
Eating a clean diet is great for detoxifying the body of free radicals. These particles are hazardous to your health and well-being. Eating clean removes them from your system and increases your immune function, helping fight disease. (20)
Note: Watch Your Calorie Intake
For good health, you want to eat just enough to sustain your energy requirements for the day. Knowing your calorie number is an important part of eating clean.
The number of calories you consume is determined by your activity levels and your weight goals. If you are looking to lose a bit of weight, then eat 300 to 500 calories less than your daily requirement. (21)
How to Practice Clean Eating
Planning your clean diet can be fun. To start off, think of your body as a system that has spent your entire life accumulating waste. This build-up of toxins stops you up and prevents you from reaching peak biological performance.
A detox cleanse or flush can sweep your intestinal tract clean, putting you in a great position to start your diet anew.
You should spread your mealtimes into 6 to 8 meals a day spread two or three hours apart. In the mornings, focus on carbs in the morning and around your workout, the rest of the day should include lean proteins and quality fats.
A great example of good clean meals involves detox smoothies made with real fruit and power powders. Try a pineapple, peach and banana smoothie, mixed with moringa leaf powder for a groovy green way to start your day.
Focus on leafy green salads with rich MCT oils and nuts for your lunch, for dinner; lean tuna steak baked with lemon juice and drizzled with olive oil.
If you can’t live without a little fast food in your life, then schedule a cheat meal once a week to confuse your body and keep your metabolism burning at full power. (22)
Is Clean Eating Hard to Do?
You may have heard that nothing in life worth doing, is done easily. This may also seem like the case for anyone that wants to start eating clean. Giving up all of the comfort foods you love to go on a healthy clean diet may seem like going to nutritional jail.
However, there will come a point in your clean diet, at the 6 to 7-week mark where you may experience a brief lapse in dedication and decide to have a cheat meal. As soon as you swallow your first bite of that juicy burger or yummy pizza, pay attention to how your body reacts.
The excess saturated fat, gluten, and sugar will immediately be felt by your system. Your blood pressure will rise, your heart rate will elevate and you may begin to sweat a bit. After about a half an hour as the food enters your gut, it will feel like someone has stuffed a brick in your stomach.
At this stage, take a step back from the biological reaction that’s occurring within you and think of all of the days you were eating this sort of diet, without a second thought to the implications of your health.
The Final Word
Eating clean may not be fancy, trendy or romantic, but it promotes longevity, better health, and stable energy levels. All it takes is a bit of persistence and a plan, coupled with some dedication and commitment to see it through.
Clean eating isn’t hard to do. It’s just hard to mentally commit to it and get started. But, nothing ventured, noting gained, so why don’t you get started right now?