Since launching the ‘Eating Clean‘ cooking class series in March 2015, I have been asked, and even come under some fire for the title I chose for the 9 classes. I became aware of criticism of the term- noting Nigella Lawson’s rejection of the term ‘Clean Eating’. I love Nigella’s style; she embodies the sheer joy of eating good food, has always been wonderfully unapologetic about her love of eating and embraces body positivity. She makes food from scratch and of course encourages home-made wherever possible. She really is my kind of cook! And I see her point on the negative connotations that ‘Eating Clean‘ can take on. But my interpretation of the term couldn’t be further from hers.
I have been watching this term in the media and in discussions among ‘health-ists’ online. I have noticed that it is sometimes used to infer that eating should be shameful, sinful or dirty. The term can take on a harmful connotation, advocating guilt about eating, and often promoting a message of moral superiority for the foods one chooses to eat, and the ones one chooses to avoid. This approach to food can lead to all-too-prevalent disordered eating patterns such as orthorexia– an unhealthy obsession with healthy food, social isolation, as well as emotional and unconscious eating.
This use of the term ‘Eating Clean’ could not be further from my intended meaning, and that is that ‘Eating Clean’ just means ‘Eating Food’
Why use the word ‘clean’? Well, as far as food goes, in my opinion there is no ‘dirty‘ food. Food in it’s whole form is ideally recognized and assimilated by our bodies, and humans have evolved to not only survive, but to thrive on an incredibly diverse array of different foods and diets. Of course there are foods that are better suited to each of our bodies than others, focusing on or avoiding certain whole foods to attain or maintain your body’s balance and health through life is necessary for many people. What I mean by ‘Clean’ eating is that when food is in its whole, natural state, we can digest and absorb it’s nutrients with ease. When the food that literally becomes the fabric of our cells is free from chemical additives and genetic alterations, our bodies function best. Not overloading our systems with toxins will obviously help us to avoid negative side-effects such as chronic imbalance and serious illness.
When food isn’t really food:
When food is adulterated, refined or ‘enriched’, it slides down the continuum towards the ‘not food’ category. Does this mean that I think that white rice is not food because it’s bran has been removed? Surely not! But it is a partial food, and food-fragment. When we consume too many fragmented foods, our bodies start searching for the nutrients to complete the food. In many cases, the minerals and vitamins that were refined out of the food are taken from our body’s own nutrient reserves. Extra calcium and magnesium are leeched from the bones to make up for this absence of minerals in the refined version of the food (as in the correlation between eating sugar/refined carbohydrates and osteoporosis). Not to mention that, in the case of refined/white rice and other refined grains (and flours), without the natural balance of fiber to starch, the colon loses tone, becoming sluggish, causing compaction and becoming toxic.
You may notice that I added ‘enriched’ to the list of ‘un-food-like’ qualities. When synthetic vitamins and minerals are added to food to boost their (usually nutritionally weak) nutrition profile, they are thrown out of balance. We are not as able to assimilate the nutrients from enriched foods as we can from foods in their whole form. What’s worse, is that because the natural balance of nutrients is disrupted, we can suffer from relative deficiency of other nutrients. One example is that when calcium is added to foods, it throws off our calcium-magnesium balance, causing magnesium deficiency, resulting in sleep problems, muscle cramping, anxiety and depression.
Another point where food starts to slide towards ‘not food’ is when toxic pesticides and herbicides are added. An example of how adding toxic chemicals to food affects our health is in the study of glyphosate (a component of Roundup, a commonly used pesticide) and it’s increasingly clear correlation to Celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Because we don’t require companies to label whether they have sprayed toxic pesticides or used chemical fertilizers, or even whether they have altered the DNA of the food, I support buying organic and organically grown food wherever possible.
What to expect from our ‘Eating Clean’ series of cooking classes:
The classes are designed to give busy, health-motivated people the tools, techniques and recipes they need to make eating well stress-free, practical and delicious.Whether your motivation is improving your health, maintaining good health or just enhancing your culinary game, the Eating Clean cooking classes have tons to offer, and have had a dramatically positive impact on the students. Many students find that the classes are worth it, if even just to help clear up diet information overload and confusion. They report that they are bringing joy back into their food preparation, and are better able to distinguish between good and bogus health claims. They are introduced to new foods, healthier ways of preparing common foods and innovative ways to save money- even when buying all organic.
The recipes in the classes are plant-focused. This does not mean that meat is taboo- it is simply because in all my experience as a food eater and as a nutritionist, I can confidently say that eating more plants benefits almost everyone, pretty much all the time. I don’t think the world needs more ‘how to grill the perfect steak’ cooking classes.
We put as much emphasis on how we prepare the food as which foods we are preparing! Food preparation techniques such as soaking, sprouting and fermenting are emphasized, giving you way more nutrition at no extra expense.
We use all organic and give tips for which foods are most important to buy organic and why.
In the increasingly overcrowded and confusing world of diet, nutrition and wellness advice, the fear-mongering voices in marketing ‘health’ products about how what you are eating is bad or wrong is taking up a lot of people’s mental space. The Eating Clean cooking class series is a tool that helps people wade through this info (or learn to avoid it!) and choose foods that are right for them by learning to cook and eat mindfully, joyfully. With practice, they create the confidence that by choosing food over non-foods and by preparing the food with love and care, they are doing what’s best to ensure their vitality, longevity and joy in life.