The Dirty Truth of Clean Eating

By Emily May Webber, Lifestyle Editor

Take a look at your Instagram feed, local bookstore, or supermarket shelves. At last, the opportunity and inspiration to eat well has become readily available at the touch of our fingertips, from your keyboard to the kitchen. Five years ago, the words ‘courgetti’, ‘quinoa’ and ‘chia’ were barely in my vocabulary, let alone my cupboard shelves. Now, they have become the latest trend in the fitness and nutrition bubble, leading to health accounts spiralizing out of control.  While these foods are nonetheless beneficial, why are we latching onto a trend that is dividing food into dirty and clean? Are we as a nation becoming so obsessed with what we want to look like, that we feel the urge to elimate food groups from our diet, at the risk of them damaging our body? Or are we finally waking up to the fact that everything we munch on has been dosed with chemicals or prepackaged to fulfill a diet of beige?

‘Clean’ is a word which, in relation to food, cannot be pinned down to one meaning. Many would say it is something that hasn’t been artificially manufactured, while some would argue that it must be raw from the ground. Ella Mills, known to many as Deliciously Ella, is an advocate for a plant-based diet, and from the perfectly arranged avocado on her glossy blog page, it is no wonder that those of us attempting to improve our health are in awe of what seems like a perfect style of living. However, despite appearing to promote this style of eating, she warns about this concept of ‘clean’. Mills writes in her blog post that ‘it’s a real shame that the concept of clean has becoming synonymous with healthy for some people: for me the two have nothing to do with each other.’

It is clear that the trend to appear a follower of clean eating has evolved from our desire to portray a sleek online food diary. Anyone following a trendy fitness blogger will understand how attempting to recreate these polished pictures often makes you bored of the meal that you have taken a slice out of the time you would be eating to apply a filter to. It’s not because we don’t want to see your sautéed spinach, it’s the fact that you could have had a pizza the night before, but to the outsider, you appear to be the figure of wellness. And, for a follower that is attempting to eliminate all foods that have bypassed some kind of factory, it’s a pretty dull week when you feel guilty about reaching for the chocolate because it contains refined sugar.

It seems we are in constant limbo of judgment on what we eat. If we eat what we want, we are told all of this will catch up with us, and if we monitor our meals, we are told to stop worrying about our appearance. So what exactly can you eat on a clean eating diet? Well, maybe we should start with a couple you are told to avoid.

The Satan of the clean eating world, with it sneakily hiding in almost everything we pick up at the supermarket; sugar. The truth is, sugar can never be eliminated, from a packet of sweets to that green juice you envy on your Instagram, fruit contains naturally occurring sugar which is unavoidable. However, clean eating advises reducing ‘free sugar’ intake. So that extra three teaspoons you put in your tea? Maybe try to cut it down, but don’t throw away your fruit bowl just yet.

Fat. Good fat, saturated fat, trans fat? In order to combat this, the Internet has been smothered in the benefits of coconut oil. Despite bloggers such as Clean Eating Alice, promoting the many benefits, it actually contains more saturated fat than butter and olive oil. However, the saturated fat in coconut oil is easier to digest than the hot dog you picked up at the SU. So don’t eliminate, just choose wisely and read the label.

In reality, we can never expect to live our lives with a diet full of vegetables and wholemeal. For some, clean eating is a good place to start in terms of reducing the amount of processed food we have in our diet. However, even the clean eaters know that sweeping our whole diet of gluten, dairy and sugar is next to impossible and is not actually going to provide you with the glow you are after. Instead, we should all revert to the moderation rule. A chocolate bar will not make you gain weight, as a portion of broccoli is not going to make you healthy. But before you start arranging your food to fit into the Instagram border, take some time to actually enjoy it.


Emily May Webber, Lifestyle Editor

Featured Image by Emily May Webber, Lifestyle Editor

This article was published in our September 2016 issue.

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