Open any page of any magazine and you can’t fail to see pictures and recipes for the latest green smoothie or kale salad.
It seems there has never been more interest in what and how we eat, with many of us, including high profile celebrities, choosing to become vegetarian, flexitarian or follow a Palaeolithic diet or going completely ‘raw’ in order to enhance their well-being and that of the planet. Far from being faddy, the trend for clean eating is on the rise, but just what do we mean by ‘clean eating’?
Clean eating in essence is focussing the diet around foods that are as close as they can be to their natural state, so that the diet remains as unprocessed as possible, with minimal impact on the planet. Food processing is often done for our convenience and ranges from minimal, such as extracting oils from seeds and nuts, to extensive, for example the use additives, flavour enhancers, added sugars, and trans fats. Clean eating also promotes nutrient dense foods, or superfoods, ideally that are as fresh as possible and preferably organic. Put another way, clean eating can be a fabulous way to harness natural goodness for the body.
If you fancy going clean, here are our top tips:
Why stick to just 5 a day when they are so full of wonderful health giving nutrients. Bake, steam or steam-fry veg and add them to as many meals as you can - who says you can’t eat veg for breakfast? Try serving steamed leeks with a poached egg, or adding tomatoes or spinach to a pan of scrambled egg. Raw vegetables and fruit are abundant with natural enzymes that help digestion and provide valuable antioxidant properties. Add them to salads, use as crudités, and if you have a super-blender add them to smoothies. Try ‘fruiting up’ your porridge or cereal with fresh raspberries, blueberries, grated apple or a banana.
When food is processed it loses valuable nutrients including fibre, vitamins and minerals. So be liberal with your wholegrains and include a portion with each meal - choose wholemeal bread and pasta, opt for whole oats, and pick brown rice over white. To give yourself an extra fibre boost add milled flaxseeds to your porridge, smoothie or juice – or go for sprouted flax for a fibrous superfood super boost!
It is best to eat a good protein source with each of your meals. Legumes (beans and pulses), and nuts and seeds are considered the ‘cleanest ‘way of doing this, certainly in terms of the environment but research also shows plant-based diets convey health benefits such as lowered risk of type II diabetes and Cardiovascular disease. If you find this too restrictive mix it up with well-sourced free range eggs, organic meat and wild-caught fish. Raw hemp protein is a fabulous way to increase your protein intake - add to breakfast smoothies for a plant based super boost. A good dollop of nut butter such as organic walnut butter not only boosts your protein intake but also adds delicious flavour to pasta, soups and salad dressings.
Try wherever possible to cook from scratch - then you know exactly what you are eating, and become an avid label reader so that you know exactly what is going into your body. As a rough rule of thumb - the longer the ingredient listing the more likely it is to contain additives, preservatives, flavourings and higher levels of trans-fats, sweeteners and refined sugar or sugar derivatives. Swap refined sugar for maple or date syrup, and when in need of a sweet treat try a spoonful of organic walnut butter in a pitted date.
Herbs and spices are a fabulous way to make flavourful food, with valuable health giving properties too - turmeric, ginger, black pepper, rosemary, basil, the list is endless. Oils and vinegars can also be a great way to give your diet that healthy kick. Either cold pressed or fermented from natural products they brim full with omega oils -think hemp seed oil, or beneficial bacteria -think organic apple cider vinegar and its famous ‘mother’- what could be better on your salads or veggies?