Benefits of clean eating

By Donna J Davis | Healthy Eating

Have you heard the phrase “clean eating”? Do you know what clean eating means, or does it feel like the latest buzz word?

Back in the early 90’s when I had candida, I started my clean eating journey even though that phrase wasn’t even popular back then. Doctors were not able to identify why I was feeling so terrible and so I did a lot of reading. I decided to eliminate a lot of foods that could be triggering my symptoms. My results were AMAZING. I felt so much better when I eliminated wheat, sugar, and dairy.

Eating clean isn’t a diet and it’s not even a new way of eating. It’s all about eating whole foods and eliminating junk and processed foods.

Clean eating embraces fresh veggies and fruits, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. This is a way of eating and it’s not really a diet. Many people do lose weight, increase their energy, and see tummy troubles lessen or disappear when they switch to eating this way.

Our society has created a nation of people that are overweight, and have a long list of health challenges. The typical American diet is filled with processed foods, fried foods, and high salt and sugar in all sorts of foods.

According to Fitness.gov (Source: http://www.fitness.gov/resource-center/facts-and-statistics/), the typical American diet exceeds the recommended intake levels or limits in four categories: calories from solid fats and added sugars, refined grains, sodium, and saturated fat.

  • Americans eat less than the recommended amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, dairy products, and oils.
  • About 90% of Americans eat more sodium than is recommended for a healthy diet.
  • Reducing the sodium Americans eat by 1,200mg per day on could save up to $20 billion a year in medical costs.

Lifestyle diseases

Wikipedia defines “lifestyle diseases” as “diseases linked with the way people live their life.”  The top lifestyle diseases include heart disease, stroke, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes And did you know that by making changes in what we eat and and how much we move our bodies can have a significant affect on our health?

Here are some statistics from a report by Kansas State University:

  • 37 percent of Americans have cardiovascular disease.
  • 34 percent of U.S. adults have hypertension, which is a major risk factor for stroke and heart disease.
  • 36 percent of American adults have prehypertension — blood pressure numbers that are higher than normal, but not in the hypertension range yet.
  • 41 percent of the population will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

(Source: http://www.k-state.edu/today/announcement.php?id=8989)

The World Health Organization states that at least 80 percent of all heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes, and up to 40 percent of cancer could be prevented if people ate better, engaged in more physical activity and quit using tobacco. 80%!

So if you could reduce your chances of facing those serious health problems, doesn’t it just make sense to explore eating better? (And I share many tips on my blog about how to save time and still eat healthy.)

What Is Clean Eating?

Clean eating started gaining popularity back in the mid-1990’s. Consumers were starting to pay attention to how foods were processed and grown. Health food stores were becoming more mainstream.

So when you think about clean eating, think about eating foods with less than five ingredients. So instead of eating a banana nut muffin, eat a banana and nuts instead. It means using foods that have only all natural ingredients.

Whole natural foods provide the necessary vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed for the body to function at its best. Nutrients are the foundation for everything our body does. How well it functions is all connected by the fuel it’s getting (or not getting).

The Basics of Clean Eating

So what can you eat and what should you eliminated if you want to eat clean? Here’s a summary:

  • Nothing white. No sugar, no white flour (bread, pasta, etc), and no white rice. The only white allowed is white vegetables. Read labels and ingredient lists.
  • No alcohol. Alcohol is high in sugar and that has many negative effects on the body.
  • Only healthy sources of fats. Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and nut oils are perfect. Other good sources include wild caught fish, and other foods rich in Omega-3 fats.
  • Lots of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains.

If you are struggling with any health condition, my philosophy is that to get well again, it starts with food. If you are facing a serious health challenge and following your doctor’s instructions, improving what you eat can help your body in so many ways.

Benefits of Clean Eating

So let’s take a look at the numerous benefits of clean eating.

  • More energy. Eating foods that are healthy and natural will make you feel better. Clean foods boost energy with foods that slowly release natural sugar. Whole vegetables, fruits and lean proteins balance your energy levels, which leaves you feeling great all day. When you eat clean, you are able to absorb nutrients better and your energy levels skyrocket.
  • Stronger hair and nails. Healthy foods promote cell growth, which in turn makes your skin, hair and nails stronger, shinier and healthier.
  • Healthy weight. Eating clean is the best way to sustain a healthy weight. You lose weight by eating a diet high in vegetables, fruits, lean meats and whole grains. When you start to eat more whole foods, you are giving your body the nutrients it needs to stablize. When I eliminated the gluten, sugar, and dairy from my diet, the stubborn weight I’d been carrying around for 20 years, literally melted off. My husband lost 70 pounds over 8 months when we changed what we ate.
  • Stronger immune system. With good nutrient-dense foods, your body gets stronger and so will your immune system. It will be able to fight off illnesses more naturally and recover more quickly if you do face an illness.
  • No more fuzzy brain! Your thinking becomes clearer. Processed and junk food clouds you mind and can make you feel sluggish. On the other hand, eating clean, whole foods high in healthy fats like Omega 3 fatty acids keeps your brain functioning at peak ability. Your brain needs a balance of nutrients like proteins and healthy fats to function properly. Foods like spinach, kale, broccoli, beets, bell peppers and eggplants are rich in high level antioxidants. Prunes, raisins, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, grapes and cherries protect the brain cells. Salmon and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and nuts boost Vitamin E levels.
  • No energy dips.  When I was younger, it seemed that I had to have that caffeine in the morning and then again a few hours later. We often turn to caffeine and sugar for a quick energy boost. This type of boost is actually a quick spike in your blood sugar that’s just a quickly followed by a crash. Foods that create a gentle and steady release of sugar include fruit combined with oatmeal or yogurt, cheese and natural crackers, apple slices and peanut butter or cottage cheese with veggies.
  • Better sleep. The vitamins and minerals found in natural foods allow your body to regulate hormonal functions during the day, allowing you to sleep deeper at night. Clean eating foods calm your nervous system and trigger sleep hormones that help you rest better at night.

If you’re new to the concept of clean eating, start by simply becoming aware of what you are eating. If you use canned or frozen foods, read the labels. How much sugar and sodium is in that food. How many ingredients are there? Can you pronounce all of the ingredients?

Then choose to add one healthy food to your meal. Maybe that’s a salad. Maybe it’s a small handful of raw almonds or sunflower seeds. Start by incorporating more of the good stuff and check back for more details on how to revamp your eating without needing to spend 2 hours in the kitchen!