There’s a lot of buzz about the benefits of clean eating. You’ve probably heard that it helps you lose weight and improves your overall health — that’s what grabs headlines and social media likes. But what exactly does it mean to “eat clean” and how can it drastically help you with your weight loss and fitness goals?
What Is ‘Clean Eating’?
The most basic definition of clean eating is eating foods that are closest to their natural state. This means choosing whole foods instead of ultra-processed foods, which are foods that contain things like preservatives, added sugars, salt, artificial additives, synthetic flavors, and industrial or partially hydrogenated oils.
When you eat natural, unprocessed foods, you make it easier for your body to get the full nutritional value out of every bite. Eating clean means that the foods you consume have a higher likelihood of delivering the antioxidants, fiber, and healthy fats your body is better at digesting and transforming into fuel.
Digesting food more effectively can also help your body reduce or eliminate the onset of negative side effects like frequent headaches, low energy, “brain fog” (feeling confused, unfocused, dizzy, or disorganized), hyperactivity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and even cancer!
How Does Clean Eating Help You Lose Weight?
Eating whole foods helps your body cut down on stored calories. For one thing, you’re likely to consume fewer calories because whole foods keep you feeling fuller longer. And because your body can immediately use the calories, vitamins, and nutrients from whole foods as fuel, it’s primed to start dipping into your stored calories — aka your fat — when you increase your activity levels.
Eating clean also helps keep you away from the refined sugars that increase your chances of developing metabolic syndrome, which is just a fancy term for a variety of risk factors that contribute to an increased likelihood of cardiovascular disease and a whole host of other health problems. Study after study shows that reducing your sugar intake helps you lose weight and decrease your overall body mass, also known as your body mass index.
Three Simple Steps to Get Started With Clean Eating
What’s even better is that clean eating isn’t meant to be a short-term fad diet. With its proven benefits — better digestive health, higher energy levels, and weight loss — it can be a super sustainable lifestyle. So how do you start making clean, healthy eating a habit in your daily life? Here are three simple ways to get started:
- Drink more of the perfect beverage
The simplest way to start eating clean is to make pure water your beverage of choice. Water does wonders for your body and health. It hydrates your system and replaces fluids lost throughout the day as you exercise, sweat, and even breathe. The Institute of Medicine suggests a target of about 125 ounces for men and 91 ounces for women, though the amount of water you personally need varies by your level of activity, the weather, and the foods you eat. While most of your hydration will come from what you drink, approximately 20% comes from your food.
- Shop the perimeter of your grocery store
To figure out what to eat when eating clean, modify your route through the grocery store. Fresh, whole foods — meats, vegetables, and fruits — that are mainstays of a clean-eating diet are generally found on the outer perimeter of most stores. That’s not to say that everything along the inner aisles is unhealthy. But if you’re filling most of your cart on the store’s outer edges, you’re likely making much better choices.
- Read the fine print
While shopping, take a look at your food’s nutrition labels to identify items with fewer calories and less saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar. Generally, boxed foods are more likely to include ingredients or additives you don’t recognize; those mystery ingredients can contribute to weight gain. A good rule of thumb is, the fewer the ingredients listed on the label, the cleaner the food. Take time to learn about ingredients and common terms on labels. When you know things like what GMOs are and what organic really means, you’ll be a more confident shopper.
As you start a clean eating lifestyle, pay attention to how your body responds. In addition to weight or inches lost, track things like your sleep patterns and energy levels. Shifting your food habits from highly processed overconsumption to more mindful clean eating can have a noticeable impact on your overall health.
Have questions about clean eating or nutrition in general? Sworkit’s certified fitness trainers are more than happy to answer them. In your Sworkit app’s main menu, navigate to the Help Center, then click on the “Ask a Trainer” link to get one-on-one advice from a real trainer.