To be truthful, I shouldn’t title an article like that. By doing so, I could easily perpetuate the thought that there aren’t nutritionally superior foods because there are. Still, I wanted to make a bold statement about the extreme nature of clean eating.
I want to eliminate outdated ideas about the food we eat and my hope is to enlighten you with a simple approach to nutrition and eating by the end of this article.
What Does Clean Mean?
Simply put, clean eating means to eat foods that are as close to the earth as possible or made with whole ingredients. This can reach extreme limits. For example, some people may think that whole grain pasta is eating clean, but others scoff at that and believe any pasta is bad. Some people believe only a pasta made from quinoa or rice is suitable, etc.
This notion comes from the idea of nutritional superiority. People compare and contrast nutritional content and then select the winner. The winners overall are usually items that cause the least “problems” for people. “Problems” can be allergies, weight gain, general health issues, carbphobia, gastrointestinal issues, and ethical distaste. They can range from anything to celiac disease or veganism.
The “Dangers” of Dirty Eating
I want to make it very clear that not caring at all about your nutritional intake is the wrong way to go. Numerous studies have shown that it is possible to be overfed and undernourished. You can make the wrong food decisions and not get adequate dietary nutritional intake. Reading this article and thinking, “Great, now I can eat doughnuts all day long!” is not what I am saying. As I discuss in Body By Eats, there are essential nutrients you need on a daily basis, and the point is to find a balance in this.
Determining What Is Nutritionally Superior
Recently, I read a report from a “health expert” that said you should rid all potatoes from your diet especially white ones because they will cause you to gain fat. This same person said that their favorite superfood was quinoa.
Well, let’s stack them up and see.
Overall, the potato wins by a landslide. Yes, the white baking potato; it has more bang for its calorie buck in almost every area. You also have to take into account gram amount per nutrient base as quinoa is more calorically dense. So why on earth would anyone suggest that this food is of lower value? You are going to be hard-pressed to find a lot of food items that will beat a potato.
A lot of the arguments toward potatoes come from the debate over the importance of the glycemic index. This has long been refuted, but a white potato stands little chance to overthrow a sugar cookie.
Does this mean because quinoa lost it is a bad food? No, of course not. No one food is king. It is the combination of those foods coming together that will lift you to a higher level of performance and health. Different foods provide different nutrients, and they exist so you can build up a nutritional profile. It’s the variety that allows you to have some “not so clean” items to enjoy. It isn’t all about balance; it is also about need.
Variety Should Also Be Dependent On Need
The truth is that your dietary variety should depend on need. Your daily life, health, training, and ethical habits should be what determines what you eat, not phobias.
For example, a person who is very active and trains can process a lot more sugar in their diet because they put it to use compared to a sedentary person with diabetes. We as a people have a habit of treating ourselves as if we have illnesses we do not. Sure, those suffering from extreme arthritis or epilepsy may do well with a ketogenic diet, but it certainly isn’t for everyone and could severely decrease health and performance in some people.
A couch potato desk worker doesn’t need a diet consisting of 80% carbohydrates.
Another example would be how vegetarians focus their intake to maximize vegetable and dairy protein to assure those nutrients are included in their diet.
The Difference Between Need and Phobia
There is often a fine line when you are on a journey to change your body composition. You want to make sure that your nutritional bases are covered without developing a phobia or a disorder. Recently, there has been some great conversation regarding this topic, especially from Tom Venuto.
Be careful in your journey and don’t take things too far.