The foundation of clean eating is to choose unrefined foods packaged in their most natural and nutrient-rich state. This means you want to go for corn instead of corn flakes or steel cut oats instead of a granola bar that is “made with oats” (but also made with a bunch of junk like high fructose corn syrup, processed corn oil, etc).
What Does it Mean to Eat Clean?
Basically, whole foods are unadulterated, all-natural, and nutrient-rich foods packaged the way nature intended—they come straight from the plant or animal (and preferably an animal that hasn’t been treated with hormones and antibiotics, and one that has been raised on food nature intended the animal to eat).
The ultimate clean foods diet is a vegan diet, but you can still enjoy modest amounts of high-quality animal foods (such as grass-fed beef) and still eat clean. However, the bulk of your diet should come from plant-based unrefined foods (lots of vegetables, fruits, unrefined whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts, legumes, etc.).
Sustainable seafood is also a good choice. And of course you should avoid processed foods; a large part of clean eating is avoiding stabilizers, preservatives, and artificial flavors found in processed foods.
Eat Clean Foods in their “Whole” Form to Get REAL Nutrients
Unlike the vast majority of highly processed foods overflowing on today’s supermarket shelves, whole foods will be brimming with nutrients in a natural and bioavailable form that your body can actually recognize and utilize. Real nutrients from real “whole foods” will help keep your body younger and healthier.
Since a nutrient-deficiency can also cause food cravings and interfere with your body’s ability to burn fat, “real’ nutrients from whole foods can also help you manage your weight. Some “real” nutrients (such as certain antioxidants, phytochemicals and essential fats) are highly anti-inflammatory and can help you control symptoms of inflammatory conditions (such multiple sclerosis, asthma, allergies, fibromyalgia, etc).
In comparison to “real” nutrients from real whole foods, your body can’t necessarily assimilate or recognize synthetic nutrients found in “enriched” processed foods. The word “enriched” is actually a keyword telling you the food has been processed and refined (start reading food labels and you’ll notice many manufactures of breads, cereals, pastas, etc actually promote the fact that their foods are “enriched”— as if it’s a good thing!).
Keep in mind whole foods don’t need to be “enriched” with synthetic vitamins and minerals because whole foods already contain these nutrients intact and in a bioavailable (useable) form!
What Can You Eat?!?!
One of the great things about clean eating is that it is not that difficult to do. Since whole foods are unrefined “real” foods you have tremendous choices. This means “real” foods like potatoes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, unrefined oils, beans, nuts, corn, soy, and fish are all allowed.
Although you don’t have to be a vegan to eat clean, we do strongly encourage you to choose mostly unrefined plant-based foods over animal foods (aiming for 80% plant based foods is a good goal.) Basically, any food that is not derived from an animal is a plant-based food (animal foods include meat, eggs, milk, cheese, chicken, etc).
However, you want to make sure you are eating plant based foods in their most natural form (that means corn not corn flakes!!) An overwhelming number of studies prove an all-natural, nutrient-rich, whole foods diet made up largely of unrefined plant based vegan foods is the optimal diet for preventing disease, maintaining good health and managing your weight.
Plant based foods are very rich in anti-aging antioxidants, fiber and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are plant sterols and flavonoids that are similar to antioxidants, but are only found in plant-based foods. Scientific evidence points to phytochemicals helping to prevent cancer, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Similar to antioxidants, phytochemicals also help reduce inflammation and improve the body’s ability to burn fat.
Easy Doable Daily Goals to Eat Clean & Boost Your Plant Food Consumption
1) Eat at least one large serving of vegetables with lunch and dinner
2) Drink one “green” drink each day
3) Eat at least two pieces of fruit per day
4) Eat one serving of beans or legumes each day
5) Limit animal food to 1 serving a day…2 max
Remember, clean eating isn’t something that needs to happen overnight! You can take baby steps and still get results.