Clean eating, it’s not a new concept. In fact, the fundamentals have been around for years, but recently it has turned into one of the biggest trends going. Why is there such a hype surrounding this standard of living? The simple answer? There are so many reasons why clean eating is an essential part of the 21st century lifestyle – here are just a few.
The main idea behind clean eating is that consumers choose to eat whole, natural and unprocessed foods, promoting a healthy, nutritious lifestyle. This means cutting out many of our daily regulars that are frozen, canned, baked or dried; the fresher the better. And avoiding salt, fat and sugar as much as possible. Instead, opt for items such as fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish and lean meat. You can still eat treats like brownies and burgers; it’s all down to the right recipes.
The main idea is that consumers choose to eat whole, natural and unprocessed foods
The surge in the popularity of clean eating has come from a number of different sources. Numerous celebrities from Beyoncé to Kate Middleton have shared their top tips for staying healthy and eating wisely, which has led to countless fans following in their footsteps.
Furthermore, the popularity of clean eating on social media is enormous. The number of Instagram users has surged and the app has become one of the biggest promoters of clean eating. Everyday people share photos of their daily routines, wholesome meals, and inspire others to do the same.
So, why go clean? The answer lies in the numerous health benefits, ranging from an increase in energy to clearer skin and stronger hair, but the most common benefit is weight loss. By eliminating the processed foods from your life, you immediately cut out those fat-filled, sugar heavy items that are keeping the pounds piling up.
The fibre from the increase in whole grains to your diet eases digestion, and also gives you the energy to last through to the next delicious meal and stop those pesky urges to snack.
Also , the plentiful supply of fruit and legumes will fill your body with natural compounds, vitamins, phytonutrients, and antioxidants that can help to prevent a number of diseases including cancer, heart disease and hypertension. The protein will fortify your muscles and the oily fish and nuts will improve cell function, help lower cholesterol levels and also fight cardiovascular diseases.
There are also mental benefits too, as the nutrients gained from clean eating lead to improved brain function, a better night’s sleep and an overall better mood.
Finally, and the most exciting aspect of all: natural, unprocessed foods taste incredible! Think of all the sweet and nutritious smoothie bowls, the roasted fish, and the colourful salad concoctions you can consume. Imagine, all that food and not a single pang of guilt! It’s the best part of clean eating really; if you eat right, you can eat more!
As an out-and-out foodie, the word ‘diet’ often leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. The idea of restricting or cutting out certain food groups just because they don’t come straight from the ground or an animal – the basic principle of clean eating – just does not sit well with me.
Now, I’m not just trying to do a Marie Antoinette and get everyone treating cake as a dietary staple. Clean eating extends beyond the idea of excluding that end-of-the-night pile of grease and refined carbs that food vans pass off as a burger.
It also necessitates cooking from scratch with some of the most expensive alternative ingredients out there, from quinoa (£1.80 for 300g from Sainsbury’s, as opposed to £1.90 for a kilo of basmati rice) to specialist flour substitutes and pricey cooking oils. Clean eating requires a considerable financial commitment and is just not compatible with the average student budget. Oh, and clean eating fans also recommend minimal to no alcohol consumption. I know. It isn’t hard to see why it lacks popularity in the student sphere.
When I tried a couple of months of clean eating, the worst aspect of it was struggling to share food with family and friends. Finding a restaurant which prepares meals limited in dairy and sugar, excludes refined carbohydrates and preservatives from its ingredients, and sources its produce locally and organically is a nightmare.
Whilst most clean eaters would say the lifestyle allows for treats, even the everyday complications caused by eliminating so many ordinary staples are significant. Eating should be a communal, familial experience. Anything that hampers that – from smartphones at the table to meticulously principled diets – should be banned from the kitchen.
I’m actually healthier now than I have been for years and I wouldn’t like to tell you how much chocolate I get through in a week
I’m not saying that you should live off battered cod and deep-fried chips for the rest of your life. You can be healthy without being a dietary purist. In fact, in my experience, clean eating has rarely helped improve my health. I’m actually healthier now than I have been for years and I really wouldn’t like to tell you how much chocolate I get through in a week. But because I balance it out with plenty of ‘real’ food, it works for me.
Sometimes, eating natural, organic food can give you a really good boost – swapping one ‘normal’ meal a day for a ‘clean’ one is certainly worth trying – but as a long term commitment, complete change rarely works. When you push yourself to dietary extremes, rather than simply introducing moderation into your life, you’re much more likely to fail.
The real danger of clean eating is the kind of overly-conscientious eating patterns and attitudes it cultivates. Obessing over nutrients rather than calories is a slightly better way of life, granted, but I really do think that simply introducing an ethos of moderation into your eating is a much healthier way of life than completely overhauling the way you eat.