A poor diet can leave you feeling sluggish, groggy, and lethargic, as well as negatively impacting your health and your waistline. Diet fads come and go, but the importance of a clean eating diet cannot be understated. It can help increase your energy, reduce bloat, improve your health, and maybe even slim your figure – all while making you feel stronger, more focused, and in-tune with your body’s needs.
Clean Up Your Eating Habits
Clean eating broadly means to focus on nutrient-rich whole foods and minimize pre-packaged, overly processed foods. It encourages you to make your food from fresh, natural ingredients whenever possible. While there are many interpretations of what constitutes a “clean” diet, it’s important to find a path that fits your lifestyle and gives you permission to be flexible.
1. Protein = Satisfaction
Lean protein is essential for your body. It’s the building block of muscles and helps make up other structures within your body such as skin and cell membranes. Protein is slow to digest in the stomach, which helps you to feel fuller longer, keeping hunger at bay between meals. Lean proteins have a low-fat content, making them easy to incorporate into any meal. For example, adding hard-boiled eggs and chopped chicken breast into a salad makes it filling.
2. Scrub Your Intestines
Fiber, or roughage, is important for keeping your digestive tract moving smoothly; it acts like a scrub brush for your intestines. A healthy portion of fruits, vegetables, peas, whole-grain foods, and beans are great sources of fiber, linked to a decrease in the risk of cancer and heart disease, due to their fiber content specifically. Fiber also naturally helps regulate your blood sugar levels, keeping your cravings for sweets regulated and on an even keel.
3. Skip Added Sugar
Fruit naturally contains the sugar, fructose. When looking for a sweet treat around the house, reach for a fresh piece of fruit for a satisfying snack instead of a candy bar or sugary baked snack. Sugar hides in many foods. Avoid popular brands of yogurt or granola bars that can contain an astronomical amount of added refined sugar. Be sure to read food labels and steer clear of any foods with a sugar content in the double-digits.
4. Cut Back on Saturated Fat
Less than 10% of your total daily calories consumed should come from saturated fatty acids. Total fat intake of all types should be between 20 and 35% of all calories. That means that if you’re following a 2,000 calorie per day diet, no more than 700 of those calories should be from fats, equating to an absolute maximum of about 77 grams of fat per day. Read food labels, as people may find a heavy portion of those 77 grams in their “healthy” salad dressing alone!
5. High Salt Means High Blood Pressure
Salt enters the bloodstream, disrupts the balance of electrolytes in the body, and makes it difficult for the kidneys to do their job. A low potassium intake is just as likely to cause high blood pressure as an excess in salt might. However, so many people consume pre-packaged foods as part of their everyday diet and still have no idea how much salt they are really consuming. Salt is also used as a preservative in many foods. High salt intake causes your body to hold onto water to dilute the sodium absorbed into your body and its tissues, the reason behind that post-meal bloat you may feel up to two days after a salt-heavy meal.
6. Indulge in Complex Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the go-to fuel for organ activity. This includes the heart, skeletal muscles, and, in particular, the brain. Healthy, fiber-dense complex carbohydrates provide your body with fuel and energy, unlike highly processed sugar-laden foods made in a factory. White bread, bleached flour, and other processed carbohydrates are the ones to avoid when you are looking to clean up your diet. However, fresh vegetables, 100% whole grain breads, lentils, beans, and whole potatoes are excellent sources of energy and fuel for your body and mind.
7. Hold Out for Homemade
Food labels and calorie counts on packaged foods and in restaurants only have to be accurate within 30%. This means that if you choose to eat pre-prepared meals, you can never be completely sure of the ingredients being used. Cooking your meals at home gives you complete control over what goes into them, allowing you to consume fresh, natural ingredients that are full of nutrients.
Clean Eating Can Clean Up Your Life
A clean eating diet has many advantages to one’s lifestyle. Firstly, you will feel more energized and focused when you choose whole, natural foods. Eating foods that are packed with essential vitamins and minerals will leave you feeling healthier, both physically and emotionally. A clean eating diet also allows you to understand and listen to your body’s needs, so you can provide it the fuel it needs to function optimally.
Secondly, by reducing your intake of junk food and foods high in preservatives, you can begin to reduce the number of toxins going into your body. This means less work for your digestive and metabolic systems, allowing them to function more efficiently. When your body has to work harder to digest and detoxify, it leaves you feeling sluggish and tired.
Thirdly, a clean eating diet limits the amount of added sugars and salt that you consume. Over time, this habit can have a significant impact on your overall health. Limiting salt intake can help lower your blood pressure, reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Reducing your sugar intake helps regulate your energy levels and reduces your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
In conclusion, a clean eating diet is about eating whole, natural foods that provide your body with the nutrients it needs. It helps improve your physical and emotional health, regulate energy levels, and reduce the risks of developing chronic diseases. So, start making small changes to your diet today and enjoy the benefits of a clean eating lifestyle!