At CLEAN.FIT, we’re passionate about eating clean.
But what exactly IS “eating clean”?
Spoiler alert: it’s really just a fancy way of saying “eat REAL foods”. We believe in embracing foods as close to their natural state as possible, such as fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, and consciously-sourced protein.
It also means limiting refined and processed foods, which often contain hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and high levels of salt and sugar. Highly processed foods also usually contain many artificial ingredients that are difficult for the body to break down and absorb; and therefore can impair the body’s ability to regulate hormones, which can lead to major health issues such as:
First, let’s get clear on what we mean by “processed”.
Yes, most foods that we eat are “processed” in some way. Oranges are squeezed into juice, fish gets fileted, and olives are pressed into oil. “Processing” to a degree is a natural part of food preparation.
But those are all examples of mechanical processing. Chemical processing, on the other hand, is what we want to avoid. Chemically processed foods are made with ingredients that have been heavily refined (with chemicals) or synthetically created. That’s what we consider “processed food”. Think: potato chips, cereals, store-bought baked goods, frozen dinners, etc.
Ok, what sort of “artificial ingredients” are we talking about?
Check out the nutrition label for an Atkins low-carb bar, which is marketed as “healthy”:
If you’re like us, you probably only recognize a handful of those ingredients. Scary!
A good rule of thumb: if you can’t pronounce it, you probably shouldn’t eat it. If you don’t recognize it, your body probably won’t either! Food manufacturers often put cheap additives in food (usually artificial, or at the very least, chemically processed) to “bulk” it up, bind it together, or make it last longer (aka preservatives).
Here are just a few of the common fillers/additives/preservatives to be on the lookout for:
Check out this comprehensive list of food additives.
These synthetic additives are not easily processed by our bodies, provide no nutritional value, and can even cause harm when consumed at high levels - leading to the health problems mentioned above.
GMO’s - oh my!
What is a GMO? According to the non-GMO project, “Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.”
Basically, due to the demands for cheap, massive food production, many agricultural companies have turned to genetic engineering (GMO’s) to create heartier crops that are resistant to bugs, weeds, and disease. For example, GMO plants are created so that farmers can spray pesticides directly onto their crop (where as the pesticide would otherwise kill a non-GMO plant)... Of course, that means later on we are consuming those pesticides, which have been shown to cause serious negative health effects, including dermatological, gastrointestinal, neurological, carcinogenic, respiratory, reproductive, and endocrine effects.
The top genetically modified foods in the US are corn, soy, and cotton. It’s no wonder that so many of the cheap fillers found in processed foods come from these 3 crops - for example, corn syrup, maltodextrin, soy lecithin, cottonseed oil, “vegetable” oil, and many artificial sweeteners are all from these 3 crops. It’s estimated that as much as 80% of processed foods on supermarket shelves these days contain GMO ingredients.
64 countries, including Australia, Japan, and all of the EU require food manufacturers to indicate whether GMO ingredients have been used in a product. It hasn’t historically been that way in the U.S. - but in December 2018, the U.S. finally passed a law that some - but not all - genetically modified foods must be labeled as such by 2022.
There have been no credible, independent long-term studies done on the safety of GMOs, so risks are unknown. Here at CLEAN.FIT, we’d prefer to err on the side of caution (and nature!), by avoiding GMO’s as much as possible.
What else should we beware of in processed foods?
Many processed foods are high-calorie, high-carb, and very low in nutrients. Now, carbs are not bad - BUT carbs are energy, and they must be used (burned calories) or else they will be stored by your body into fat. Further, most processed foods don’t contain healthy micronutrients that help your body function optimally.
Additionally, refined sugars and grains, like white flour, (which are often found in high levels in processed foods) are considered high glycemic foods. The Glycemic Index (GI) rates how fast a food breaks down and raises blood sugar. High glycemic foods break down quickly, causing blood sugar spikes and triggering the body’s hormones (insulin) to correct it, while low GI foods break down slowly and help to maintain stable blood sugar levels. This is why you feel an energy spike followed by a slump after eating processed sugars and wheat products.
When your blood sugar level is elevated constantly, this puts a lot of strain on your body (and can lead to Type 2 Diabetes). Further, and it can even lead to many other issues such as skin problems, eye damage, kidney damage, nerve damage, heart disease or heart attack, and stroke.
So what benefits can come from a clean eating diet?
You can help your body perform optimally with a clean eating lifestyle. Countless studies have highlighted links between a whole food diet and decreased risk of disease and illness.
Here are some of the many benefits to maintaining a clean eating lifestyle:
Sounds pretty good, right?!
So you're probably asking: how can I start eating clean today?
Building a new positive habit takes 18-66 days for most people, according to studies. So be patient with yourself, and don’t expect to completely overhaul your life overnight! We recommend - like everything - to start small while incorporating clean eating into your life.
Here are some simple ways you can start eating cleaner today:
Replace sodas with flavored (unsweetened) sparkling water - even if you just replace one a day at first!
Incorporate a green smoothie into your morning routine, so you start your day off a couple servings of veggies
If you’re craving a baked good (we all need a good donut every now and then...!), go for something freshly baked versus grocery store-bought. (Store-bought varieties usually have WAY more ingredients, including yucky fillers and preservatives.) Hit up your local bakery instead!
Be prepared - with snacks! Keeping healthy, clean snacks on hand when you’re out and about will decrease the likelihood of succumbing to a poor, processed snack choice.
If you are in a pinch and must eat fast food, choose a healthier option with some sort of fresh ingredients, such as salad with chicken on top (and vinaigrette dressing) or a burrito bowl with rice.
Craving something sweet? Look for items with natural sweeteners, such as dates, honey, agave, etc.
Plan ahead - make time to meal prep at the beginning of the week so you know what’s in the food you’re eating (this saves money too, of course! #winwin)
Food is fuel, and at CLEAN.FIT we believe in treating our bodies well by eating high-quality foods that help us to feel our best! That’s why all of our partner products are non-GMO and free of artificial preservatives, flavors, colors, fillers, and sweeteners. They are also free of trans fats, partially-hydrogenated oils, and high-fructose corn syrup. Basically, we send you healthy snacks that are ACTUALLY healthy!
When you start to eliminate processed foods from your diet, we bet you’ll quickly notice a difference in your mental clarity, energy, and mood. Eating clean can fuel you to be the best version of yourself!