Diets come and go, and food fads usually have a limited shelf life. Clean eating is one such fad, but one which at least is based on a sensible premise. The principles of clean eating reflect our modern concerns for the environment, focusing on environmentally friendly produce and packaging and as much as possible, eating food raw or otherwise, simply cooked. The emphasis here was originally on whole foods – not the vegan nut cutlets of the 1970s, but foods that have not had their nutritious outer layers removed or refined away.
Celebrity entrepreneurs like Natasha Corrett pioneered the trend in the UK, with her Honestly Healthy line now a household name for good food, while Gwyneth Paltrow’s more holistic approach expands clean eating principles into a whole clean lifestyle, incorporating skincare and eco-friendly clothing. Food blogger Ella Mills, developed the clean philosophy from managing her own illness, and only later moved into producing her recipes commercially. But even she, along with the Hemsley Sisters, have recently been distancing themselves from the loaded term that clean eating is associated with today (to mean a restrictive diet) in line with recent debunkers of the trend.
Superfoods and supplements
Some clean eaters took the idea further, and started ranging the world to find ‘superfoods’, in the belief that they would provide a shortcut to better health. Today it’s not only kale and quinoa that are supposed to keep you healthy, but also expensive and rare ingredients, which make the clean philosophy for many people more of a luxury than a lifestyle. In addition, some of the promoters of clean eating suggest that vitamin supplements are required to ensure the proper intake of essential nutrients.
It’s no wonder clean eating, like other fad diets that come and go, is facing a counter-attack from nutritionists, and even some of its former proponents are backtracking on their mission to promote the clean lifestyle, according to some recent observers of the trend.
Nutrition and balance
The BBC’s Horizon documentary this year suggested that cutting out randomly identified dietary elements like gluten and dairy products actually introduces an imbalance into the body, which only has problems with gluten if an allergy or condition already exists that relates to it. Our bodies are themselves designed to deal with toxins, and require only a properly balanced diet – and that means including a range of nutrients found across all food groups.
We are rightly conscious of the materials our bodies need to function properly, and to reduce our susceptibility to disease. We are also concerned about the means and methods of our food production, environmental sustainability, and the health implications of additives, but we should not allow these concerns to become obsessive. What is important, to use a current buzzword, is to choose fresh, natural ingredients and eat them mindfully.