After the backlash: what now for clean eating?

April 26, 2018 6:53 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Clean eating has nothing whatsoever to do with table-manners. It doesn’t mean an effort to keep your place-setting and tablemat free of debris, or wishing your kids wouldn’t spray you with crumbs as they shout across the table. No, clean eating is all to do with what actually goes inside you. And it’s a trend that has gathered a lot of traction over the last five years or so.

We take a critical look at clean eating.

Clean eating: it’s cool – but what exactly is it?

In the beginning, ‘clean eating’ simply meant eating wholefoods and unprocessed foods. We’re all in favour of this at Naturally Good Food, where we have a wonderfully comprehensive wholefood section. We believe that eating complex carbohydrates, vitamin- and mineral-rich natural foods, and high-quality protein, is the key to good nutritional health.

But what’s ‘clean’ about all of this? Well, the main point is that wholefoods are only very lightly touched by industrial processes. Machines might be used to shell nuts or pop out seeds; dried fruit may be lightly coated in vegetable oil so that it doesn’t clump together; basic grains must be harvested, packaged and transported. But the products remain as close to their natural state as possible. They’re not blitzed to pieces and then reassembled, with chemical preservatives, flavourings and colourings stuffed in on the way. They’re natural – pure – or, if you’d prefer it, ‘clean’.

Is it really that simple?

Unfortunately not. From its simple beginnings, ‘clean eating’ has spun off in a number of different directions. There are clean eating diets that are wholly vegan – others that focus heavily on meat. Clean eating has become a hashtag, and a cool, celebrity-driven movement in certain quarters. There are cookbooks, self-help programmes, thousands of websites, and an obsession with very particular products, like avocados and coconut oil.

Clean eating doesn't have to be all about coconut oil!

Coconut oil: part of a dangerous belief system?

Over the last few years, clean eating has spun a little out of control – and there’s now a predictable backlash against what’s seen by many as a dangerous ‘belief system’. Take this article from The Guardian, for instance: Why we fell for clean eating, or this, from The Independent about eating disorders.

Food isn’t ‘dirty’, says Nigella Lawson. An obsession with clean eating ‘masks and promotes’ eating disorders, states Dr Max Pemberton in the article above. The clean eating movement is ‘hostile to facts and experts’ and is ‘nonsense’, claim various Guardian columnists. Anthony Warner (aka The Angry Chef) simply calls it ‘nutribollocks’.

What now for clean eating?

Spend too much time on twitter and you’ll be convinced that #cleaneating is either the answer to all the world’s problems – or the cause of them. But, as its original proponents start removing all references to ‘clean’ from their publications, and as journalists switch from the pro-clean bandwagon to the backlash-movement overnight, a few grains of truth are starting to trickle down.

It doesn’t have to be about coconut oil and avocados. It doesn’t have to involve cutting out food groups or following an overall belief system. You don’t have to be young, blonde or rich.

In essence, it’s not good for any of us to eat heavily processed food that’s low in nutrition. Eating natural food, that’s only been lightly processed, is a great way to eat healthily. It’s easy, it’s simple and we don’t think anyone can argue with it.

So check out our wholefoods section here and make yourself something delicious. Because we don’t think that clean need be a dirty word!

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This post was written by Yzanne

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