How to clean up your diet

As one of the key seasons for change, spring offers the opportunity to rid the body of accumulated toxins and waste products like no other time of the year. With the weather getting warmer, exercising does not necessarily seem like an impossible task anymore (think these 7am gym classes while it is still dark outside versus early morning runs in the sunshine) and also eating lighter and healthier becomes more fun again. This behaviour has a huge impact on our overall wellbeing, as we do not only lose a few pounds in the process but also add more nutrients into our diets and improve our energy levels, increase our metabolisms and over time even improve our complexion (getting the glowing skin we all desire).

What is it?

In order to properly “clean” our diet, we need to first of all make sure to eat as clean as possible. Yet what does this mean? It basically means that all food consumed should be in a state as close to nature as possible, with lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables and small amounts of healthy fats and starches. Processed foods (or for that reason nothing that comes in a bag) should be consumed, and artificial ingredients avoided as much as possible as they disrupt the digestive system. Since our bodies do not recognise these “fake” foods, they get stored as fat, making us not only bigger but often times also sicker in the long run.

To completely reset the body, the following should also be avoided: sugar, alcohol, saturated fats and sodium. By abstaining from the before mentioned, we can significantly reduce the risk of falling ill from some of the biggest killers of our time, including heart disease, strokes and cancer. These conditions are often offset by chronic inflammation in the body, which is caused by too much salt and sugar in the body. 

Eating clean does not stop at solid foods however, but also includes the liquids we put into our bodies. While the occasional beer or soft drink does not harm our bodies in the long run, we should be focusing on hydrating our cells with pure water, freshly squeezed fruit juices or tea without added sugar. By “drinking clean”, we help our bodies to maintain a healthy balance of fluids, energise our muscles and support the kidneys in filtering our blood.

What role does organic food play?

Oftentimes, eating clean is equated with eating organic food, yet consumers are increasingly confused about the true benefits of organic food and whether or not they should invest in organic produce.

Studies have shown that organic foods are often the safer alternative when it comes to clean eating, as they are free from antibiotics, pesticides, hormones, fertilisers and growth regulators. Also, they are higher in flavonoids and antioxidants (up to 69%) and by eating organic, consumers can add more variety and a richer spectrum of vitamins to their diet. From an ecological perspective, organic products have a lower impact on soil and waterways, as they naturally create lower levels of residue and chemicals and keep our biodiversity intact. They can however also be more than three times the price of regular products, which is why consumers should try to at least buy the following foods organic if possible: strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, peaches, pears, cherries, grapes, celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes as well as dairy products (the Dirty Dozen).

What are the proven benefits of eating clean?

One of the most notable benefits of a clean diet is the disappearance of a constant feeling of sluggishness and tiredness and the replacement with a state of energy that lasts throughout the day. The nutrient-dense food provided from a clean diet can also help improve the condition of our skin, hair and nails, and also result in lower weight as foods naturally packed in fibre keep us full for longer and regulate our natural appetite hormones.

Nevertheless, the benefits of eating clean extend beyond the immediate effects of lower weight and glowing skin. When practised over a longer period of time, the body is given the opportunity to heal and repair itself, improving its immune function (meaning getting less sick). Also, by keeping our diets clean, we are actively preventing conditions such as anaemia and osteoporosis, as well as lowering our risks of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure. This is due to the naturally high amount of phytonutrients in plants, as well as high amount of antioxidants, which have proven to decrease the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. A diet low in saturated fats means a lower risk of blocked arteries, which results in a healthier heart and a longer lifespan.

Interestingly, a recent study also reported that a clean diet can significantly reduce the risk of dementia, as a brain that is well nourished does function better for a longer period of time. Also, the chemicals used in processed foods and its packaging are linked to Alzheimer’s disease, which is why a clean diet is recommendable not only for physical but also mental health.

What are some practical tips for eating clean?

Preparation is key to eating clean – a fridge stocked with nutritious food helps to keep on track with a healthy diet. Buying frozen produce can also be more budget friendly and is also oftentimes more nutrient-dense as the produce is preserved at time when the produce is harvested, which means it is not losing any vitamins and minerals during transportation and storage at a supermarket shelf.

As we live in hectic times, when grabbing fast food is a serious alternative to a balanced meal (we have all been there), making a smoothie from fresh fruits and vegetables and taking it with you can be an easy option to stay on track.

Food preparation is also key when it comes to eating healthy. Fresh produce can be bought and prepared at the beginning of each week. This also helps to avoid overeating and grabbing processed foods when feeling hungry.

Clean eating revolves around eating foods in their natural state, which means that every product containing more than three ingredients (or containing ingredients whose name you cannot pronounce for that matter) should be avoided.

Finally, general rules to adhere to include to drink around two litres of water per day, incorporate healthy fats, keep the amount of sodium to under 6g per day and eat as much raw foods as possible – this will surely set you up for success and reward you with a healthy body and mind!

GOCO Hospitality is offering a nutritious, clean and detoxifying diet at all its retreats

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