The Dirty Secrets Behind Clean Eating

Donna Sullivan
Written by
Donna Sullivan

I recently made the conscious decision to take charge of my health and try clean eating. Let’s be honest, whether we like to admit it or not, we all know that the relationship between diet and health is important. And when you live with chronic illness, the idea of being able to take action that could help your body and give you some kind of control over your situation can mean some added hope.

As visions of the healthy new me (with endless energy and a taunt, tanned tummy) danced in my head, I channeled my inner Gwyneth Paltrow and headed out to the farmers market. But as I started down my path to wellness, I discovered some surprising facts about healthy foods. Even seemingly healthy, clean choices may not always be good for you.

So what is clean eating? It depends. Vegetarians may have a very different answer than someone who is vegan. I am celiac, so gluten free has to be part of my diet. I really enjoy my gluten free pasta. Are my beloved carbs now considered dirty?

The Basics

The main idea behind clean eating is to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible, or more simply put:

• Replacing processed foods with natural ones whenever you can.

• Reading ingredients on the processed foods you must eat, but selecting products that have the most natural form ingredients (or at least words you recognize!)

• Using homemade foods and sauces whenever possible.

The Unclean Truth

I was surprised to learn that natural foods can still be genetically modified. Thankfully genetically modified products are labeled in Europe, but in the U.S. genetically modified ingredients are used in everything from breakfast cereal to soy and of course, canola oil. If you are concerned about genetically modified foods, the Non-GMO project has a lot of useful information.

Even if you are eating lots of fruits and vegetables, you may still be putting unclean things in your body. Did you know that even certified organic food can contain preservatives and fillers? The word organic does not negate the importance of reading labels.

Pesticide residue is another factor that can make seemingly clean choices, dirty. The U.S. based Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a yearly report The Shoppers Guide To Pesticides in Produce, which can help you lower your pesticide intake and identify fruits and vegetables that may have higher levels of contamination. Buying organic helps. But as a girl on a budget, it is not always possible.

So I decided to ask Robyn Perry, a registered nutritionist, how she feeds her family and is clean eating really worth it? She explained that “if budget is an issue and you can’t afford to eat purely organic, try to stick to the EWG’s dirty dozen as well as eating the clean 15.”

The Dirty Dozen that she is referring to are foods that should be purchased organic when possible because they have a higher level of pesticide residue. The Clean 15 are fruits and vegetables likely to have lower contamination.

Perry explains, “I think the best clean eating is eating foods in the most whole form—little to no processing with additives and preservatives. If it is packaged, it is not typically a whole food or as whole as it could be. Locally grown produce is often best, from farm to table. And when it comes to clean, don’t forget that what you drink is equally important – drink water, all day long!

What are your thoughts on clean eating? Do you agree with this list? Share with us on Facebook.

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Donna Sullivan
Written by
Donna Sullivan
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