Clean eating means putting most of your attention on the quality of the foods you eat and making sure they are “clean.” The ideas can be summed up in one sentence: Choose foods that are whole and natural and try to cut out processed foods.
Here are some of the most important rules of the diet:
- Avoid processed foods.
- Don’t eat processed foods
- Don’t use things that aren’t natural.
- Avoid alcohol
- Avoid soda and fruit juice
History of the Clean Eating Diet
Since clean eating is not a well-defined diet plan, it is hard to find a single point in time when it became a popular way to eat. Hippocrates, an ancient Greek doctor, wrote one of the first books about how to eat well. His famous quote, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food,” comes from this book.
General Overview of Components & Main Principles of The Clean Eating Diet
The idea behind clean eating is to eat whole, natural, and unprocessed foods. Most people who support clean eating say it is not really a diet but rather a way of thinking about what to eat and what not to eat.
It focuses on the quality, not the quantity, of food, so there is no need to count calories.
Clean eating doesn’t have strict rules about meal times or how often you should eat (read: how many times a day you eat). Most clean eating programs, on the other hand, suggest that people eat 5–6 smaller, clean meals and snacks throughout the day instead of 3 main meals.
Clean eating puts a lot of restrictions on what people can eat. People on clean eating diets must only eat whole, natural foods and avoid anything that has been processed.
This doesn’t include pastas, breads, crackers, chips, cereals, and other processed foods. With this method, things like condiments (like mustards and spreads) and dressings are also left out. Also, most drinks, including alcohol, soda, and juice, are limited.
Does It Include Phases?
Unlike what most people think, the clean eating diet does not usually have stages. Most books, articles, and programs about the clean eating diet tell people to start the whole diet at once. Some even have 30-day challenges where you have to eat only whole, natural foods for the whole 30 days without deviating from the plan.
Who does it work best for?
Clean eating is best for people who care about the health benefits of food, don’t want to keep track of the calories they eat, and don’t mind eating in a fairly limited way.
Clean eating gives you a lot of freedom over how much, when, and how often you eat. With some work and dedication, the diet can be used by a wide range of people with very different goals (e.g. fat loss, muscle gain, or sports performance).
How simple is it to understand?
How hard it is to stick to a clean eating diet depends on who you are and what you like to eat. Clean eating may be hard to stick to for people who like to eat a wide range of foods, don’t like being told what to eat, and would rather focus on the amount of food they eat (i.e. calories and macros).
Clean eating can be a great way to eat for people who like routines, don’t mind eating within limited dietary frameworks, and don’t like counting their calories or macros.
Most people who eat clean for a long time give themselves a little bit of room for error. For example, they might follow an 80/20 or 90/10 rule that says they can eat foods on the restricted list 10–20% of the time.
Mainstream Belief Behind Diet
The clean eating diet is based on the idea that natural, whole foods are best for our health and help us control how many calories we eat. There are good reasons to eat more natural foods, but the “natural” argument alone is not enough to prove that this diet works. This is called the “naturalistic fallacy,” and it is a common mistake in logic.
Scientific Studies and Interpretation of Data
So far, there have been no published studies on the effects of a clean eating diet, which makes it hard to say for sure how well this diet works scientifically. But we can still learn a few things.
Most whole, natural foods are more filling than their processed counterparts1. This makes it much easier for most people to watch how many calories they eat. A higher quality diet is also linked to better health indicators and a lower risk of getting type 2 diabetes2,3.
Clean eating focuses almost entirely on the quality, not the quantity, of the food you eat. It means putting most of your attention on the quality of the foods you eat and making sure they are “clean.”
The ideas can be summed up in one sentence: Choose foods that are whole and natural and try to cut out processed foods. The main rules of the diet are to not eat processed foods, refined foods, foods with artificial ingredients, alcohol, soda, and fruit juice.