‘Eating clean’ has to be one of the biggest buzzwords of the day in nutrition circles. Everywhere I turn I hear people extolling the virtues of a clean diet. Despite the term being somewhat overused, it is an approach worth exploring in our journey towards optimal health.
Clean eating addresses growing medical concerns about our increasing exposure to toxins at a time where many people are not giving their bodies the nutrients needed to detoxify effectively. This can cause a variety of health problems, including disease, fatigue, fertility issues, allergies and obesity.
Eating as many whole foods as possible produced in a sustainable way without chemicals, additives, preservatives or refined, processed ingredients reduces the amount of toxins we consume. This approach has the added benefit of helping us more effectively absorb the nutrients we need to detoxify the toxins we inevitably encounter daily. A clean diet helps us maintain a healthy weight and better blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Here are my ten suggestions for those interested in moving towards a cleaner diet:
1. When buying dried herbs and spices, try to buy organic where possible. In Australia if foods are exposed to radiation to kill micro-organisms, they have to be labelled as such. If they are imported from overseas it is dependant on their labelling laws, and often irradiation labelling is not required. The best way to be sure a food is organic is to look for a Certified Organic logo which will be clearly marked on the packaging.
2. If buying tinned food, go organic and limit your intake. Often salt and sugar are added, and tins can be lined with a substance called ‘BPA’ (Bisphenol-A), which is often found in plastics too, and can be harmful to human health. You’ll sometimes find in your regular supermarket organic tinned food says ‘BPA’ free on the label. Tinned food is often heat treated which affects the nutrients. Tinned salmon or sardines are always a good choice, as they are rich in Omega-3 oils which are great for brain health.
3. When buying eggs, go organic where possible as you’ll be assured they are nutrient rich and come from hens that are happy and healthy. Often ‘free range’ isn’t what you would expect, and the animal may not be living in a cruel free environment. There is so much variation in ‘free range’ living for chickens. If you are unsure, you can always contact the farm you regularly buy your eggs from to check. Hens need sunlight, and vitamin D to stay healthy, just like we do!
4. Check out the 2012 ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of the top foods to have the most chemical residue from ewg.org/foodnews. Though it is US based, it is still applicable to us in Australia. The number one on the list for 2012 is the apple. This is because apples tend to be the most chemically laden food on the outside of the fruit, so go organic here where possible. Peeling is helpful, but note when you peel the outside of some fruits and vegetables, you do lose some fibre and nutrients.
5. When buying nuts, choose raw and unsalted products, and pesticide free is even better. Nuts contain good fats that are great for your health, however fats are sensitive to light, oxygen and heat. So store your nuts in the fridge, this keeps them fresh longer (in the shell is even fresher!). If you really like them roasted, slow roast them at a very low temperature to keep the good fats intact.
6. Invest in good quality bread, particularly if it is a staple food in your diet – make it the best quality you can afford. The more refined the flour, the cheaper it is, the less nutrients we get from it, and the more it spikes blood sugar levels. Consider organic breads, wholegrain breads, sourdough breads (these contain beneficial bacteria), and grains other than processed wheat. Examples are kamut, amaranth, oat, rice, rye, spelt, and so forth. Try making your own!
7. When buying meat, note that grass fed is best and has better fatty acid ratios, not grain fed as cows naturally eat grass.
8. Avoid commercial processed meats like ham, salami and bacon as they contain ‘Nitrites’ (e.g. number 250). These additives are carcinogenic and are linked with cancers such as those of the stomach, so buy organic and free range where possible. Eat plenty of antioxidants to counteract (such as vitamin C rich foods), and limit your processed meat intake.
9. Start to become familiar with additives. Read the ingredients list on the outside of the pack, identify the numbers, use an app to help if you need to in order to check the ingredients and make an informed choice on the purchase. The Chemical Maze is a great app I regularly use and there is currently a free basic version available you can download to your phone (the full application is $7.49). Generally, if there are many, or lots of numbers, don’t buy it or eat it!
10. Buying organic not only supports your health, it supports the environment. With more than 7200 agricultural chemicals approved for use in Australia, the absence of these helps our soil, water, air, and animal life live well and long into the future. It also supports the production of ‘phytochemicals’ (good plant chemicals) in the food, which give us more and more antioxidants.
About Tina Taylor
Tina Taylor is an experienced nutritionist and naturopath committed to supporting people to restore and boost their health and vitality. Tina practices evidence based medicine, incorporating the most credible, up to date published research into her clinical expertise.
She holds a Bachelor of Health Science in Naturopathy and Nutritional Medicine and has lectured with Endeavour College of Natural Health for nearly five years. She is a member of the Australian Natural Therapists Association and practices at Brisbane clinic Herbs on the Hill.
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