What is Clean Eating? Tips on How to Eat Clean

Diets are so last year. The new trend that has been flooding celebrity and Instagram influencers’ feeds — and flooding the supermarket with product claims — is clean eating. And, because it’s associated with luscious images of produce, colorful meals, and smoothies, it must be healthy, right? But have you ever taken a moment to pause and consider, what is clean eating?

Hate to break it to you, but clean eating is simply a concept. The media, marketing, and brands have jumped on this train going nowhere in order to get your attention and dollars. When it comes down to it, clean eating is simply a craze with no true definition nor scientific backing.

Some choose to define clean eating as plant-based, while others strictly recommend non-genetically modified. Some are restricted to gluten-free or paleo, while others cut out all sugar, dairy, alcohol, and caffeine. Common characteristics include avoiding processed foods with preservatives, focusing on homemade meals, and using whole ingredients. This is confusing, stressful and frustrating for those of us trying to take care of our health. In my opinion, one of the biggest downfalls is the idea that clean eating implies that some foods are clean and others are dirty.

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Clean eating turned mean

Before we discuss the benefits of clean eating and how to do it the 8fit way, let’s touch on some of the dangers. If taken too far or too seriously, it can lead to problematic eating habits such as disordered eating. Any diet that promotes restriction of foods or entire food groups can be a slippery slope and lead to unhealthy control over what you eat. When we label a food as good or bad, black or white, it sets up an unhealthy dichotomy. In fact, clean eating has even sparked a need for a new eating disorder, called orthorexia.

Healthy eating should encompass balance, nourishment, and self-love. If you are constantly preoccupied with what you eat or are finding that your eating is keeping you from enjoying normal activities, take a step back. Seek medical help if necessary and focus your energy on mindful eating and a holistic way of living.

What is clean eating — the 8fit way

We’re happy to share our interpretation of what is clean eating is and how we choose to define it. To us, it means eating more of what nurtures you and less of what depletes you. Here are some other ways we define clean eating:

  • Focus on a variety of foods to give your body all the vitamins and minerals it needs.
  • Aim for less processed, whole foods that are less taxing on your metabolic and filtering systems.
  • Eat to fuel your body to gain strength and energy, rather than telling yourself you’re wrong or bad for something you ate.
  • Decrease the things that bring you down and fill your cup with the things that inspire you.

We’ll talk about how to eat just a little cleaner to help your body purify the toxic cobwebs that have accumulated over time.

Why to eat clean

Let us reiterate that clean eating isn’t a strict concept. With that said, let’s talk about how it supports your health — particularly your liver’s health. The liver is an organ that is essential to many functions in the body, including making cholesterol (yes we need some), helping to make glycogen for energy storage, hormone production, enzymes for digestion, and detoxing.

Maintaining your liver and detox system operation will advance your overall wellbeing. When things are running sluggishly, you can experience fatigue, headaches, brain fog, anxiety, stomach pain, constipation, depression, irritability, and aches and pains. Another side effect of drastic and chronic liver damage is a protein deficiency. Without enough protein, our bodies can’t manage fluid properly, leading to swelling under the skin. A classic sign of this protein-energy malnutrition is the beer belly.

How to eat clean

Think of your liver as a funnel. If you stuff too much into the funnel at once, it gets clogged. If the funnel isn’t working properly, it will get backed-up or overflow. Just like a funnel, your liver has an optimal max capacity and requires regular maintenance and support.

Liver detox includes two phases. During phase 1, toxic chemicals are converted into less harmful chemicals. However, the byproducts of this reaction are still toxic and pose a threat to the body, including DNA and cell damage. The problem with many detox diets (such as a juicing detox which does not contain any protein) is that it supports this phase but not the second.

Foods and drugs that accumulate and clog your liver funnel (limit these):

  • Food additives
  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Pollutants
  • Pesticides
  • Metabolic byproducts

Nutrients that support phase 1 detox (increase these):

  • B vitamins
  • Folic acid
  • Antioxidants (vitamin C, E, and glutathione)
  • Carotenoids

During the second phase, the liver makes those harmful byproducts produced by phase 1 neutral. It also turns them into a form that can be excreted from the body. It is necessary to support both of these phases to detox and protect your body.

Nutrients that support phase 2 detox (increase these):

  • Amino acids (protein building blocks)
    • Glutamine
    • Glycine
    • Taurine
    • Cysteine
  • Sulfur components (eggs, cruciferous vegetables)
  • Selenium

Clean eating food list

Thanks for bearing with me on that in-depth information. Here’s where we get to talk about how to apply it to your daily life and ensure your detox systems work well. Focus on these foods daily to help your body filter both phase 1 and 2 detox:

  • Cleansing cruciferous vegetables: cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli
  • Folic acid filled foliage: kale, watercress, chard, cilantro, beet greens, dandelion greens, mustard greens
  • Antioxidant-rich citrus: orange, lemon juice, lime
  • Sulfur-containing foods: garlic, onions, eggs, daikon radish
  • Care for your colon by keeping things moving with fiber: psyllium, ground flax, carrot, apple, pear, berries
  • Phase 2 neutralizing protein: organic eggs, dairy, meat, poultry, fish, beans, soy
  • Hydration helpers by keeping things flowing: water or these healthy hydrating beverages

Tips for clean eating

In general, limit processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and additives and focus on those wholesome foods that help support your liver and detox systems. Stay balanced and clean outside of your nutrition as well by limiting stress and accepting that you won’t eat perfectly all the time. Focus on staying motivated for the right reasons and learn how to get back on track, knowing that small shifts make for a big impact on how you feel now and determine the health and wellbeing of your future self. As a bonus, you’ll find your skin glowing, your body less bloated, and your confidence and happiness soaring.

Most 8fit recipes are already considered to be “clean”. We took our time to choose some of our favorites that are packed with nutrients that clarify and clean.

Clean eating breakfast ideas from the 8fit app

Chickpea & chard hash

This chickpea chard recipe contains lemon juice for an antioxidant boost, garlic for sulfur, and chard for fiber. Top with chopped parsley which is a strong detoxifier all on its own.

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Blueberry flax quinoa

One for the plant focused out there. Quinoa gives you both protein and fiber while blueberries are packed with glutathione-supporting vitamin C. Enjoy with inflammation-decreasing cinnamon.

Smashed chickpea & avocado sandwich

This vegan recipe gives you phase 2-supporting protein from the chickpeas, vitamin C antioxidant containing lime, and cilantro which helps your body rid of harmful heavy metals.

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Charred vegetable scramble

This scramble is packed to the pan with sulfur-containing eggs and onion, and cruciferous family members, brussel sprouts, and broccoli. Add that cilantro for extra antioxidants and antibacterial properties.

charred vegetable scramble eggs breakfast

8fit clean eating dinner recipes

One-pan roasted chicken, sweet potato & broccoli

This recipe is not only perfect for throwing in the oven and getting in your 8fit workout, it is also packed with carotenoid containing sweet potato and cruciferous vegetable broccoli.

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Moroccan red lentil soup

Lentils are excellent source of plant-based protein which keep your blood sugar sustained rather than spiking and dropping. That garlic and onion add protecting sulfur. Topped with seasoned with anti-inflammatory and immune boosting exotic tandoori spice.

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Ground turkey & spinach stuffed mushrooms

Turkey is full of amino acids. Aim for organic when possible if you’re trying to eat clean. Spinach provides both antioxidants and fiber to keep things moving. Mushrooms will give you that phase 2 supporting selenium.

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Walnut crusted white fish with roasted broccoli

Vitamin C rich lemon tops off this omega-3 filled fish with a walnut crust. Sprinkled with paprika which contains colorful carotenoids that help that phase 1 detox.