Health & Wellness

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What is clean eating all about?

Clean eating is a growing trend among people focused on health and wellness. A relatively simple concept of selecting foods that are minimally processed, clean eating intends to instill a greater understanding of the pathway between a food's origins and the final products that end up on grocery store shelves and dinner tables.

Choosing whole or "real" foods that are as close to their natural forms as possible is a staple of clean eating. The availability of convenience food products has never been greater, and not all packaged foods are unhealthy. But clean eating encourages consumers to be more aware of the ingredients in the foods they eat while selecting those foods that are minimally processed. Many foods designated as "clean," including vegetables and fruits, whole grains, free-range meats, low-fat dairy products, unsalted nuts, and whole seeds, are straight from the farm.

Another component of clean eating is eliminating or greatly reducing the consumption of refined sugar. Many health experts advise that refined sugar is a large contributor to unnecessary calories. Many people can get all the energy they need by consuming foods with natural sugars.

If an ingredient list includes names you cannot recognize or if the natural form of the food has been changed (i.e. removing the bran from whole grains), it cannot be included in a clean-eating plan. Also, foods that have a lot of additives, including salt, sugar and fat, are not classified as clean.

Jessica Fanzo, assistant professor of nutrition at Columbia University, advises that not all food processing is bad. Processing is sometimes necessary to prevent pathogens that can lead to illness. For example, pasteurizing milk is a processing method, but one that is necessary to stop the proliferation of bacteria. Even steaming foods is processing in some form, but it is not on par with some of the overly processed foods available.

The benefits to clean eating are numerous. Increasing intake of fruits and vegetables can boost your immune system and serve as a nutritious way to maintain a healthy weight. Clean eating may help you become more conscious of everything from meal ingredients to portion sizes.

Those interested in clean eating can begin slowly. Start to introduce more fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and farm-fresh foods into your diet. Look for foods in their natural form, such as whole oats and other grains. Avoid highly refined ingredients and limit sugar and salt intake. Opt for fresh herbs and spices to season food. Over time you can make other changes.

Adopting a clean-eating approach to their diet is a great way for men and women to start living healthy lifestyles. Speak with a doctor or nutritionist about healthy and effective ways to transition to clean eating.