Today we bring you an interesting article from our friend and owner of Next Step Nutrition Jonny Landels regarding why he says 'Clean Eating Is A Myth'
Clean eating is a myth. It’s a magical made-up construct. It’s actually doing you more harm than good and here is why:
1. CLEAN EATING HAS NO DEFINITION
If you ask someone their opinion of what is ‘clean’ or ‘unclean’, you’d get a different opinion to someone else. You may say for example some vegans believe that meat is bad for you and gives you cancer. Some paleo enthusiasts may believe all grains and dairy foods are bad and give you negative health outcomes or low carb fanatics and fans of Gary Taubes may believe all carbs lead to over consumption of sugar that leads to diabetes and obesity etc.
You see already the pitfall? If there is no clear definition for a movement, then it is arbitrary and should be ignored. There’s no way to define clean eating, which means there’s no way to measure or quantify what effect this concept might have on your health.
There’s also no way to objectively compare a “clean diet” to other diets.
2. THERE ARE NO ‘GOOD’ OR ‘BAD’ FOODS
There are no foods that cause negative health repercussions in and of themselves. Even foods that are ’empty calories’ have some nutrients within them. There are some quacks that will try to tell us certain foods are dangerous and damaging, but they’re just exaggerating correlational data.
For example, red meat is linked to heart disease, but when taking into account compounding variables like lifestyle, exercise, smoking, etc. red meat has an overall positive effect on your diet. Same with consuming fruit and dairy, if you look hard enough you’ll find some association with negative health, but that doesn’t mean these foods directly caused this health outcome.
3. ALL FOODS ARE BAD FOR YOU IF CONSUMED IN EXCESS
No matter how ‘clean’ you eat, if you overeat, you will get fat and sick. It’s as simple as that. Foods that are more nutrient-dense are harder to overeat, yes, but that doesn’t make them impossible to. Especially if your calorie amount to maintain your weight is quite low.
This is one of the main issues with high-fat diets like paleo and keto, they can be very highly calorific, and it doesn’t matter that you’re swimming in nutrients, because you’re also swimming in calories.
And if you overeat, you’ll get sick, plain and simple.
4. NO FOODS CAUSE NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES
I’m not telling you to go out and eat junk like a child who’s found their way into the biscuit drawer. I am saying that no food themselves cause deficiencies. If you’re dieting and managing your calories, it will be harder for you to meet your micronutrient needs with high amounts of junk food. You will be better off with the majority of your food coming from nutrient-dense food sources but that doesn’t mean having some junk food would be bad, or even nutrient-void.
Dairy has a lot of beneficial nutrients, just because that dairy is then frozen and mixed with sugar to make ice cream doesn’t now mean those benefits have been lost. The same thing applies to frozen meat and vegetables. Just because you can microwave it or that it’s been processed does it mean it’s now bad for you in some way
5. WHAT’S GOOD FOR YOU WILL BE DIFFERENT FROM SOMEONE ELSE
What’s healthy for an endurance athlete to eat will be different from a high-level CrossFitter which will be different to someone who goes to CrossFit 3-4x a week for a one hour class. The endurance athlete will need to eat a boatload of calories to maintain their body weight and perform optimally. For them, they won’t struggle with nutrient deficiencies and could benefit from more high-calorie food items to help them fit their energy needs. For someone training for one hour a day, they need far fewer calories.
So you see how context always wins?
6. YOU COULD ACTUALLY BE LESS NUTRIENT-DENSE EATING ‘CLEAN’
You think you’re all high and mighty on your super clean pedestal, but you may actually be missing nutrients. Due to people eating ‘clean’, they often restrict a lot of food groups and food items, making their food intake super narrow. This reduces diversity and resilience, which is a good thing.
If you stop eating dairy your body will stop producing lactase, the enzyme produced to digest it. So you are inherently lowering your ability to assimilate nutrients from certain foods. Also, because your food profile is so non-diverse, you’re actually lowering your overall nutrient intake. Not only that, but studies show rigid eaters have a harder time losing weight and maintaining healthy body weight. They also report far less enjoyment with their eating patterns and lifestyle.
7. CLEAN EATING IS A BORDERLINE EATING DISORDER
Not eating certain foods and being worried/anxious about foods is a common symptom of anorexia. If you classify foods arbitrarily as ‘clean’ or ‘unclean’, you’re well on your way to an eating disorder. In short, clean eating is a scam invented by certain practitioners and fad diets who want you to buy their solution to health.
They have scared you into believing there’s something wrong with the way you’re eating when there isn’t, and they want you to pay them for the solution. What’s healthy for one will be different from another, due to context. How active are you? How heavy are you? What’s your goal? What foods do you enjoy? Etc.
As always, healthy eating isn’t black or white. It comes down to:
Food, not too much, mostly plants
Eat enough fruit and veg, plenty of fibre, a good variety, and don’t overeat
"Jonny is the owner and head coach of Next Step Nutrition, an online coaching company dedicated to keeping diet and exercise simple. As such, they offer seminars, coaching and programs to help people lead healthier, happier lives. Jonny is the resident fitness expert for BBC Radio Leeds, host of Next Step Espresso, a daily fitness podcast, and in his spare time likes walking his dogs, drinking great coffee, craft beer, and performing in amateur musical theatre."
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