The dirty truth behind ‘clean eating’

Clean-eating is a widely used term, in spite of the fact that it is poorly defined. Although some of the principles are in line with healthy eating guidelines (reduce salt and added sugar intakes, increase fruit and veg…), extreme restrictions of certain foods and food groups is unnecessary.

•Clean eating is an unsustainable and dangerous approach to eating. Referring to foods as ‘clean’ implies that foods are either good or bad.


•Although some foods are a more nutritious choice than others, no particular food is ‘bad’ if it consumed as part of a balanced diet.

•Demonising particular foods or nutrients i.e sugar is a dangerous path that (in some cases) can contribute to development of eating disorders and food obsessions.


•As soon as you cut out a food group, you will usually begin to crave it. This can sometimes lead to a dangerous restriction/binge cycle.

•We have seen countless ‘clean eating gurus’ confess to have had/or be suffering from eating disorders.


•Carbohydrates (sugars) are the main source of fuel for the body, and unless somebody has a diagnosed medical condition such as coeliac disease or IBS, there is no need to cut out specific foods. In such cases, patients will be advised by a dietitian on suitable food substitutions. If you do so, you will be putting yourself as serious risk of nutritional deficiencies.

Another common misconception is than certain types of sugars are healthier options than others. We are constantly being told by celebrities and magazines that sugar is evil. We have lost track of the amount of blogs/instagram posts we have read by people claiming to be “sugar-free”. However, it is almost impossible to avoid sugar in the diet. Carbohydrates, fruit, vegetables, yogurt, milk and so on all contain sugar. It doesn’t matter whether the sugar you eat is raw sugar/caster sugar/agave syrup/rice sugar or whether it’s from fresh fruit, sweets or fizzy drinks… all types of sugar provide 3.75 kcal/gram and sugar is an essential nutrient required to keep your body alive. The brain is almost entirely reliant on sugar (glucose) as its fuel, hence the need for sugar in the diet! It is of course preferable to limit your intakes of free sugars i.e fruit juice/cakes/biscuits/sugar in tea. But cooking with a different (and often more expensive) type of sugar is not going to make you any healthier than using normal cane (caster) sugar.

Additionally, eating natural/’clean’ foods doesn’t mean your diet is sugar free. We recently attended a conference on the important of nutrition in the media. I quote deliciously ella ‘eating 10 sweet potato brownies is always going to be healthier than a mars bar’. This demonstrates why the nutritional advice given by unqualified figures is inaccurate- 10 sweet potato brownies is an excessive amount of sugar and calories regardless of whether it’s from natural/refined/cane sugar, and in this case one mars bar (as a rare treat) probably would have been the better option in terms of total sugar and calorie content!

Image: Clean-eating Magazine: http://bit.ly/2dN9WNq

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