When the chance arises to assist in restoring some balance to the healthy eating debate, I’m all in!
It’s difficult to know what to eat. A glance at Instagram suggests that we should all be ‘clean eating.’ It has no precise definition – it basically translates to “eating natural, unprocessed food” – but it often entails avoiding (most) carbs, gluten, and sugar in favour of green smoothies and cauliflower “cous cous.”
There were more than 48 million Instagram posts with the hashtag #cleaneating when I last checked. Of course, the clean eating movement promoted by bloggers with no scientific credentials can be very convincing. All those mouth-watering photographs of courgette spaghetti, guilt-free desserts, and perfectly-dressed raw salads juxtaposed with slim bodies can make you want to join in.
But, before you do so, keep in mind that there are hazards lying beneath the shine.
Time for the unhealthy truth about clean eating
While I don’t mind a little motivation to eat a few more salads, I’m concerned with the terminology used. It indicates that any other type of eating is filthy and thus unhealthy. It enforces a set of arbitrary and unreasonably stringent dietary rules, which can lead to unhealthy and obsessive eating behaviour in some people.
I’ve seen teenagers and young people go to extremes with clean eating, excluding one thing at a time, such as bread, and then carbs completely. According to the Powered by Bread study, 59 percent of women aged 18 to 34 do not believe bread is a good carbohydrate source, and just 22% would eat it to boost their energy levels before exercising.
What may begin as a strong desire to eat properly can swiftly devolve into highly restrictive eating and a slew of new health problems. Such regimens have little scientific basis, and I believe clean eating is as much about weight loss as it is about health. Experts in the field of eating disorders feel there is a thin line between obsessive clean eating and orthorexia (a “healthy fixation with healthy food”).
The gluten fallacy is one of the most common clean-eating myths
Unless you are one of the 1% of the population who has celiac disease or a documented sensitivity, eliminating gluten from your diet is unnecessary and may even be harmful in the long term.
People who transition to gluten-free foods without medical assistance, according to gastroenterologist Norelle Reilly, writing in the Journal of Paediatrics, may suffer iron and B vitamin shortages (since many gluten-free goods are not fortified) and actually increase their calorie intake. “There is no evidence that processed gluten-free goods are better, and a gluten-free diet has not been demonstrated to have any health or nutritional benefits.”
However, sales of bread have decreased by 8.9%, which experts attribute to the clean-eating and low-carb trends. According to a YouGov research from last year, 60% of adults had purchased gluten-free products. This could be causing a new health issue. You’re also avoiding naturally-occurring fructan-type resistant starches, which studies believe are vital for a healthy gut microbiome, if you exclude gluten and wheat.
This mechanism explains the inverse association between whole-grain consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease, some malignancies, and inflammatory disorders. To put it another way, eating whole grain items like bread helps to create a healthy colon bacteria composition, which protects the gut from disease.
This gluten-free craze has also caught on with the fitness community and athletes who feel it will help them perform better. However, after consuming either a gluten-free or gluten-containing diet for 7 days, researchers in Tasmania (Australia) found no difference in the time trial performance of 13 non-coeliac cyclists. There were also no differences in their gut symptoms, well-being, or markers of inflammation between the diets, leading the researchers to conclude that excluding gluten has no effect.
While there’s nothing wrong with being passionate about eating, don’t go overboard. Instead than vilifying particular nutrients (such as carbs) or adhering to the current restrictive dietary trend (such as gluten-free), examine your entire diet and lifestyle.
Last word from me on knowing what and how to eat ‘clean’
It’s crucial to eat a diverse range of meals from all food categories in suitable amounts, as well as engage in frequent physical exercise that you love.