What “Eating Clean” Is All About
If you’ve paid attention to the world of nutrition and fitness, in particular people like Tony Horton, you will hear the phrase “eating clean” a lot. It sounds a bit odd and refers nothing to whether your food is dirty or not!
So I’m going to give you my “eating clean” definition, and people can jump in with what they think as well.
Eating clean simply refers to eating whole foods, healthy foods, and staying away from processed or refined foods. One way to think of it is this: The less the food has been touched by machines, the cleaner it is. Or, if the food was produced by nature and not in a laboratory, then it can be considered clean.
So let’s break down a few of the food groups and discuss “clean eating.”
This is an area that is hard to go wrong with clean eating. I’m sure there are synthesized proteins out there, but most people get their proteins from animal sources or certain plants. The problem with protein isn’t in the clean/unclean debate but the amount of saturated fats that get included in certain cuts of meat.
For example, most poultry is fairly good. Chicken and turkey are very good for you, in particular the white meat areas.
Pork and beef is where things start breaking down a bit. Both animals store high amounts of fat on their bodies. And depending on where you get your cut of meat, you may be taking in too many fats, in particular, saturated fats. For pork, I stick to “loin” based cuts, in particular, tenderloin. It is juicy and tender and has a lower fat content than most of the rest of the animal. With beef, you have a few more options. I prefer sirloin or tenderloin (again, sticking with the “loin” category on the animal) but certain other cuts are not too bad, such as top round.
If you get ground beef, you can get leaner cuts. I prefer going with something around 96/4 lean.
Dairy is always a huge debate. Some argue that any milk source other than human milk was not meant to be ingested. And it appears that some science agrees. However, it is hard to deny milk’s ability to deliver quality calories.
The big issue with dairy is that it is almost all processed to a point. Milk is pasteurized which may break down some of the healthier qualities of it. We all know cheeses are processed. And all alternate sources of dairy also involve some processing (i.e. almond and soy milk).
So choose wisely when it comes to dairy. My personal feeling is I have nothing wrong with consuming it in moderates amount as long as it is lowered fat or fat free. The bigger problem from dairy again comes from high saturated fat contents.
The bottom line: Dairy can be a tripping point when it comes to eating clean, but moderate amounts are not too bad.
Carbs can be broken down into four main sources: Vegetable, fruit, grains, and sugars.
Veggies are a lot like meats: It’s hard to go wrong when eating clean. The less cooked the veggies are the more they retain their natural nutrients. Of course, do not take the liberty of frying these in butters and fat-heavy oils and think you can still consider yourself eating well. Veggies are healthy because the have no fat, good fiber, and a lot of vitamins and minerals. Frying takes these foods from healthy to (over time) deadly.
Fruits are like veggies: It is hard to go wrong. Of course, with fruits, you do have larger amounts of fructose, a naturally occurring sugar. Fructose in moderation is good. To much fructose is not. While juices from 100% fruit source are not bad for you, they have to be consumed even less. The juices consist of water and fructose. When you actually eat a piece of fruit, you are also getting fiber, which will help regulate the insulin spike that comes with taking in sugars.
Grains are where the breakdown between clean and not-clean really occur in the carbohydrates section.
The most popular grain is wheat (with potato being a close second). This grain is often times overly processed and broken down into nothing more than a simple sugar. White bread is a great example of an unclean grain. During the process for enriching the flour, the grain is stripped of all of the healthy qualities. When your body digest this, it digest it just like it does a sugar: It spikes your insulin.
Bread is one of the most heavily processed foods around, regardless of the type it is. However, whole wheat bread is, in my opinion, clean enough for consumption. Beware of things that say they use “wheat flour.” This is typically just a marketing term for white flour (i.e. sugar).
Finally, let’s talk sugar. Unless you get it from a fruit or some veggies (or a handful of other natural sources), I would avoid these. Most sugars are refined. Most sugars do not contain fiber. Therefore, all sugars case your insulin to spike. And why is this bad (since I’ve mentioned it a few times now)? If your insulin spikes and you do not burn those calories, they store as fat.
4. Oils And Fats
I’ll keep this one simple: Derive your fats from these sources: Olive oil, canola oil, avocados, nuts, flax, and other natural and less-processed sources. Avoid heavily process oils and fats like butter (that spans both dairy and fats categories), vegetable oil, etc.
Natural fats are good for you, in particular monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
So, there’s my rough outline to eating clean. Just remember, unprocessed and natural is good, processed, not so good.