I find that a lot of random people post and state that a certain way of eating is ‘clean’. And a lot of us believe it because of how passionate they are about their opinions. But does that mean they are true?
It actually depends on your own definition of what clean is. Keep in mind that it has changed over time. Here’s a fun, short timeline:
During the 80’s eating clean generally meant avoiding fat 🚫 If you speak to someone who was born or lived around the 1980’s they will often have a hard time getting their head around fat, because they think “fat makes your fat” or “fat is bad for you”.
In the 90’s the fat fiasco was slightly split. Yep, this was the era of saturated foods being bad and unsaturated foods being good 🤷♀
In the 2000’s it was vegetable oil that was the poison and Omega-3 fatty acids, from foods like fish and flaxseed, were placed on a heavenly pedestal 😇 In this era, carbs were seen as a potentially greater threat to dieters than fat. And sugar….boy oh boy…sugar is particularly unclean during this era. Hence the artificial sweeteners and low carb products that came to fashion.
Now, in our decade, we have pushed things a little further. We have famously appealed to a sort of caveman diet, also known Paleolithic. So, if you think about what cavemen would’ve eaten (pretty much anything they caught) is kind of the trend now. So, things like dairy, alcohol, sugar, salt, processed foods and even some fruits and veg is on the “unclean” list for some 🍏
The point of that little timeline is that the idea of clean eating has changed just like fashion changes. So, it’s very difficult to determine what clean eating actually means. However, many people will say that foods in their “naturally occurring state” are more likely to be clean, whereas foods that are processed, are perhaps considered more likely to be dirty. If that’s the case then that rules out all supplements. Supplements go through extensive processing and are far removed from their original source. Because, you don’t get fish oil ponds in nature or Vitamin C trees. Even within common foods in the gym, ‘dirty’ is perhaps not as bad as we think.
A lot of ‘weight loss’ and ‘diet’ products use whey. But whey is about as processed as it gets as it is a powdered form of milk, and a separated fraction of milk protein. Whey is clearly a dirty food, and the thing is its dairy as well which scares many people. But when combining the results of standard ranking methods (biological value, protein efficiency ratio, net protein utilization, and protein digestibility corrected amino acid score), whey has a higher total than all other proteins tested, including beef, egg, milk, and soy . What this means is that dirty processed Whey has been proven to be a very “useable” source of protein for a human body, possibly one of the best around. Whey is not for everyone, as can be applied to any food, but clearly this highly processed food has many positive upsides and minimal downsides.
Nutrient density is another topic that’s discussed by clean eating believers and it makes a lot of sense. Our clean foods have more nutrients per calorie that a dirty food, like a Mars Bar, would have.
Here is something that will get you cursing the scientists with a little fact. So, there is really no scientific agreement on what nutrient density means.  “There is currently no science-based definition for either nutrient density or nutrient-dense foods.” Without this definition, the concept of what makes a food nutritious is subjective, and therefore inconsistent. Annoying, right?
The thing is, it’s almost impossible to label a food as good or bad. It’s impossible to judge an individual food in isolation from the rest of the diet without considering so many variable factors. The key ingredient that is often forgotten is the AMOUNT you eat of anything. For example, water is essential in our lives, but if we drink too much you could cause yourself some serious problems. The same goes for any food group. Another example is Kale, known as a ‘superfood’, but if you only eat this for a month…well you might not survive.
The safest option is to listen to what your body needs and act upon it. Eating and drinking in moderation is important. And finally, to still enjoy food rather than punishing yourself when eating it. At Results with Lucy we have a huge range of recipes for all types of palates. And all have been designed by our nutritionist, Louise, to give you the nutrients you need for your daily activities.
- Hoffman JR, Falvo MJ. Protein-which is best? J Sport Sci Med 2004; 3: 118-30.
- Miller GD, et al. It is time for a positive approach to dietary guidance using nutrient density as a basic principle. J Nutr. 2009 Jun;139(6):1198-202.