The Clean Eating Concept


By: Gabrielle Lambie – Nutritionist

Anyone who is even vaguely interested in eating healthier has undoubtedly come across the term ‘clean eating’. Clean foods are also referred to as ‘whole’ foods or ‘real’ foods. But what is clean eating actually?  The concept is basically being mindful about your food’s pathway from its origin (on the farm) to you (on your plate) and trying to consume foods that go through as little processing as possible between those two points. Clean foods are as close to their natural form as possible and have been minimally processed.

Technically, processing of food is anything that is done to it to change its state, adds ingredients to the food, or is manufactured in a lab. In other words, washing, peeling and chopping a carrot is processing it. So it is taking that same carrot, turning it into a powdered form, adding artificial products to it to preserve it, enhance its colour and flavor and then using that powder in a convenience product like instant soup.  The big difference that makes the chopped carrot healthier to consume than the powdered carrot-containing product is the amount and kind of processing it has gone through.

Eating clean means choosing less processed foods instead of highly refined or processed options. You want your food to look like its name at the point at which you are going to consume it. Why? The more you process food and change it from its natural state, the more chances there are for nutrients to be lost from that food and unhealthy compounds or ingredients to be added to it.  For example, removing the bran or germ from grains greatly reduces their fiber and mineral content; boiling vegetables or fruits causes water soluble vitamins like vitamin C to be lost. However, not all processing is bad – cooking carrots makes the beta carotene they contain more bioavailable and drizzling raw tomatoes with oil makes it possible for lycopene, a fat-soluble vitamin, to be absorbed and utilized by the body. When purchasing the food you eat or are about to prepare, consider how much processing the product has already been through and what you plan to do with the food before you consume it.  Aim to keep the processing steps to a minimum.

The main benefit of clean eating is that your diet becomes full of fresh fruits & vegetables, whole grains and minimally processed animal products. This type of diet has been shown to curb or prevent certain life-threatening diseases like High Blood Pressure, Type-2 Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, Stroke and Obesity.  As an added bonus, your skin, hair and nails will also benefit!

Here are some examples of minimally processed, clean food options vs. highly processed options.

Fresh vegetablesWashed, diced, pre-packaged vegetablesCanned cream vegetables
Fresh beef (unfrozen, grass-fed)Deli roast beefStore bought meatballs
Freshly husked corn on the CobCanned Corn kernelsCorn Flakes
Soup with all natural ingredientsCanned SoupDehydrated/ powdered soup mix
Fresh fruit100% fruit juice freshly squeezedFruit canned in heavy syrup

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