I am a HUGE Pinterest junkie. I'm on there 24/7. My favorite part, of course, is the AMAZING and delicious recipes. It seems, though, that every time I search through the food section I see pin after pin involving something about "Eating Clean," or "The Eat Clean Diet." At first, I thought this just meant eat more fruits and vegetables, less candy, less salty/fatty foods, etc. However, the more I looked into it, the more I realized this had all the signs of just another diet scam written all over it. Before I explain why, I want to make it clear that pursuing a more healthful lifestyle through food is GREAT! You should be pleased with yourself for doing so, because many people never make it past the wishing phase. As I've said before, it's never the PEOPLE on this diet that I have a problem with. No way. They're just normal people like me, trying to find what works for them. It's always the downside of the diet that I hate, and only that. Okay, now let's do this thing.
First, let's look at the pros of the diet:
1. It does emphasize eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables! Always a great thing!
2. It encourages eating whole foods such as whole grains, etc.
2. It encourages buying more organic food if available.
3. If done right, it cuts down majorly on the chemicals, artificial colors/flavors, high sodium, and processed oils in packaged foods.
Now, the list of cons:
1. It fails to officially define "processed food."
If I were to define the word "processed" when it comes to the foods we buy I would think it means pre-packaged, added chemicals, artificial colors, manufactured, or something along those lines. However, it seems like everything I've seen about the Eat Clean diet just means "don't eat anything that comes from a package." It makes one wonder, what about oats and natural whole grain breakfast cereal? What about whole organic sugar? What about canned foods such as beans and vegetables? All of those foods could be considered whole foods, but may contain a few mild preservatives. Yet I've seen countless "Eat Clean" dieters both use those items and also say they are bad. The guidelines are a bit fuzzy on this one. Still, those are perfectly wholesome foods to eat in my own experience.
2. It, like all the other fad diets, emphasises calorie restriction.
I will never understand why people keep lessening their food intake to unhealthy levels and expect to raise their metabolism. Your body needs enough fuel in order to burn fat. When you make yourself hungry and limit your carbs, fruits, or any high-energy foods, you're making your body into a fat-storer instead of a fat burner. Also, many people start exercising right when they start their low calorie diet because they feel it will make the weight come off faster. While exercise is always great, you will actually need MORE calories if you're burning more energy. Your body will crave it because it knows what it needs. Do exercise, but feed your body when it's hungry! As long as you are only eating low fat, whole plant-based foods, your metabolism will go up. Obviously, its not good to go over your daily recommended calories for your height and weight, but there is such thing as going too low. I once tried to have an 800-1000 calorie diet to lose weight. All I did was become starving after one week and gorge myself on too MANY calories later! Trust me, I've already lost almost 30 pounds from eating well on a whole food plant-based diet, and without exercising at all! (Even though I should. ;D)
3. Also like the other fad diets, it vilifies fruit sugar as something that makes you fat.
*Sigh* Oh yes, the sugar distraction. You've heard it all before. "Sugar makes you fat!" "Sugar makes your blood sugar spike and causes diabetes!" Okay, now that we got that out of the way, I'm here to say NO, whole fruit sugar does NOT make you fat and while processed sugar can agitate diabetes, not all types of sugar (such as in fruit, grains, etc) are created equal. Every cell in the body runs on a sugar called glucose. The body converts fruit sugars, called fructose, into glucose while digesting. The brain is especially in need of glucose in order to function properly. The body also uses carbohydrate foods such as grains, beans, and starchy vegetables as glucose in the body to produce energy. You can eat 3-4 balanced meals per day of whole grains, legumes, fruit and lots of veggies (with no fat added) and either lose weight if you need to, or maintain your healthy weight (depending on the volume of your food intake). Processed sugar that you buy to make cakes, cookies, etc. is known as sucrose. It's highly processed, bleached, and stripped of all nutritional value. For this reason, it can cause tooth decay and become an agitation in regard to certain medical conditions, especially someone who has diabetes because the pancreas can't use the sugar correctly to make insulin. However, the reason the diabetic's pancreas doesn't work in the first place is NOT caused by the sugar. It should be able to process any sugar. That's what a pancreas does! Instead the pancreas is weakened by having to filter things that aren't meant to be there (such as high amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol. Animal product foods). So even though processed sugar isn't the greatest, natural sugar (with the fiber of the whole food) does not make someone fat or diabetic. To learn about reversing diabetes, I suggest looking up Doctor Neal Barnard. He's developed an entire program on reversing diabetes through a plant-based diet and explains how and why it works in detail.
Here Dr. Barnard briefly addresses diabetes in regard to sugar and carbohydrates:
And here is a full lecture by Dr. Barnard on how to reverse diabetes:
4. It promotes lean meat, egg whites, and organic milk. But all of those things are HIGHLY PROCESSED and ANYTHING but clean.
When the Eat Clean dieters aren't promoting whole grains, whole beans, and whole produce, they tend to really push the prepackaged yogurt, cheese, milk, eggs, fish, and meat of all kinds. To be honest, this makes zero sense. Animal products are one of the most highly processed grocery items out there. Dairy goes through multiple processes just to make it sanitary (or just enough, because it will always contain small amounts of pus and blood that the factories can't remove), meat has to be injected with an array of chemicals and red food colorings just to look edible (yes, even a lot of the organic meats are treated with chemicals and are often injected with extra salt and flavoring). Eggs have to go through multiple sanitation processes, but since so many eggs are laid by infected chickens, it's difficult to know just what's going to happen after you eat that egg. Plant foods on the other hand, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes are picked, sorted, washed, and shipped. They are fresh and whole, the way nature intended. To me, that is the true definition of "unprocessed."
5. It is more expensive.
Let's be honest, a grocery cart full of fruits, vegetables, rice and beans is MUCH cheaper than one full of grass fed meats, free range eggs, and organic dairy products. On top of buying those animal products (that only create cancer and parasites in the body anyway), you still have to buy at least some fruits and vegetables to get in some fiber, vitamins, and minerals. That's a huge grocery bill all together. I'll go with the delicious peasant food, especially when it makes me lose weight and protects me from disease. To know more about this, watch the medical documentary "Forks Over Knives" available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1LUj3kxB9M
Here is the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7ijukNzlUg
6. It flip-flops between what is "allowed" and what is not.
Sometimes the Eat Clean diet says to only eat organic foods, and sometimes it says that's not necessary. Sometimes it says certain packaged foods are allowed, such as certain kinds of butter or cheese, and sometimes it says that's not allowed. It also is very unclear on the allowable fat intake, but promotes lots of olive oil and coconut oil (the latter of which is extremely high in saturated fat).
7. More cooking time is required.
When it comes to animal products, especially meat, I find from my own experience that cooking plant-based foods is not only faster, it's much easier as well. Meat seems to take a lot longer to cook and you have to worry about cross-contamination of utensils, etc. All of that is never a problem when cooking rice, vegetables, or any plant foods.
8. You can actually gain fat on this way of eating.
I essentially tried "eating clean" in college before it was given that name. I ate only lean meats, egg whites, "natural" cheeses, used "heart healthy" cooking oils, etc. Guess what? It makes you fat. REALLY fat. There is just no way around it. The fat you eat is the fat you wear, especially when it comes to animal products because then you are literally consuming that animal's body fat and storing it on your own body. Here's my before and after pictures if you don't believe it. On the left, I was eating animal products, on the right, I'm plant-strong. :)
9. The name of the diet itself is an improper use of grammar.
It is impossible for one to eat "clean" because that is an adjective. People seem to forget their adverbs these days. It should really be "Eat CLEANLY." (I know, it really has nothing to do with the diet. Just an old English Major pet peeve of mine).
10. It distracts from the real food-based problems we face today.
So many people today are concerned with not eating too much sugar or avoiding white flour, etc. But they're completely ignoring what foods are really causing their illnesses and weight gain: animal products! Again, I would definitely emphasize watching the film "Forks Over Knives" to be fully informed on the medical dangers of consuming animal products. It completely changed my life for the better. <3
When it comes to what we should eat, a whole-food plant-based lifestyle is always the way to go. Just look to what naturally grows from the earth and you'll be just fine. :)