What does it mean to eat clean?
Up until the last 50 years or so, humans were generally well and able to stay healthy long before anyone knew what a calorie was. How did they do it without knowing what an antioxidant is, or how many fat grams was in their lunch?
Answer: They ate real, mostly local food that they prepared themselves.
This is the basic definition of clean eating – food that is as close as possible to its natural state and meals that are prepared (mostly) from scratch. Food doesn’t have to be raw or vegan in order to be healthy.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to buy healthy food or spend hours in the kitchen preparing it – I certainly don’t.
So why is it so important to eat clean?
I grew up eating junk and processed food and continued making poor choices myself well into adulthood.
As a result, I spent the first three decades of my life fat, sick, stressed and depressed. I even had to have my gallbladder removed before I turned 30!
I’ve spent the past few years trying to undo the damage I did to my body. While I was fortunate to never have any serious conditions (like cancer or IBD), I definitely was not enjoying life. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I was usually on the lookout for a bathroom!
Traditionally, the food people ate depended on what was available. Our distant ancestors would hunt and gather whatever edible substances they could find in nature.
Most of the time, food was scarce. They could spend most of the day searching, expending a lot of energy in the process.
When food is plentiful, we have the capacity to eat more than we need at any single time and store the excess as fat. In the past, this would get us through periods of famine when food was hard to find.
This is why obesity was rare – not enough food, lots of activity. They rarely ate more than what they needed at each meal to feel satisfied. Plus, the food was very nutrient-dense.
Now we have the exact opposite: lots of poor quality, calorie-dense food, and not enough activity.
These days, we don’t have to look very far to find things to eat. If we don’t feel like cooking, or think we don’t have the time, we can go and buy food that’s already prepared.
Heck, we don’t even have to leave our homes – we can just pick up the phone and it will come to us!
But, these shortcuts have come with a price.
In general, people are living longer. Modern medicine has evolved to the point where we can keep people alive at almost any cost.
The problem is that most people are not living healthy, fulfilling lives. People in their 30s and 40s are developing chronic conditions that used to begin much later in life. Rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes are skyrocketing, which is causing a cascade effect of many related conditions.
Did you know that type 2 diabetes used to be called “adult onset” diabetes? They had to change the name once children started developing it!
Until 10 years ago, type 2 diabetes accounted for less than 3% of all newly diagnosed diabetes cases in adolescents; it now comprises 45% of all such cases. (http://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes-children#Overview1 – September 20, 2016)
The worst part though is that experts are estimating a life expectancy of five years LESS than that of their parents for children born in the last 15-20 years! The first time in history that this has happened.
The reason? Eating processed junk that's not really food. We evolved to digest nutrients – not chemicals.
Research shows that virtually all of the obesity and type 2 diabetes, 80% of cardiovascular disease and more than a third of all cancers can be linked to processed foods, inflammatory fats, refined sugar and grains, and little to no vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
In Food Rules, Michael Pollan writes:
“17,000 new products show up in the supermarket each year. But most of these items don’t deserve to be called food. They're highly processed concoctions designed by food scientists… and they contain chemical additives with which the human body has not been long acquainted. Today much of the challenge of eating well comes down to choosing real food and avoiding these industrial novelties.”
The chemicals and additives used in food processing are intended to extend shelf life, make old food look fresher and more appealing than it really is, and get you to eat more.
But when did shelf life become more important than human life?
When you make better choices about how you fuel your body, you will have more energy. You will also have better digestion, stronger immunity (I haven’t had a cold or flu in over three years), and younger looking skin just to name a few benefits.
You will also enjoy life so much more when you don’t feel like crap all the time from the “food” you’re eating.
So if you're thinking, “How can I afford to eat healthy?” The question should be, “Can I afford not to?”
Michael Pollan has over 60 rules in his book. They can be summed up by this quote:
If you’re ready to start eating better so you can start feeling better, but don’t know where to start I would love to help you.
If you want better health and more energy, but feel like there's no time to eat well and exercise I can help you save time (and money) by clearing up any confusion you have about all the conflicting health and nutrition information that's available.
Being healthy doesn't have to be hard!