In blog post of 9/29/2014: So, what should you eat for optimal health?, I listed the seven basic principles I have extracted from the many diet books and resources I have studied. These principles are:

  1. What you eat, how much you eat and when you eat, all matter
  2. Eat clean
  3. Eat lots of vegetables and fruits
  4. Use only healthy fats and fat sources
  5. Incorporate sufficient proteins in your diet
  6. Best beverage to drink is pure water
  7. Add or subtract specific foods based on your personal needs

Last week we discussed the first of these principles, what you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat, all matter. Today, let’s focus on the second principle: Eat Clean. And, as usual without any fluff stuff, let’s get to it.

Dr. Mark Hyman likes to say, “If you eat crap, you feel like crap”. You may have heard a variation of this same theme.

Here is how to recognize foods to which the term “crap” may apply:

  • Junk foods – Foods that have excessive and/or unhealthy fats and/or excessive sugars/salt
  • Foods with empty calories: – that do not contain any nutrients other than sugar for calories. For example sodas and candy.
  • Comfort Foods: Foods with high sugar, salt and/or fat content
  • Processed Foods: Foods made in a plant (or factory)
  • Food with questionable additives – Ingredients whose names you have difficulty pronouncing
  • Foods with artificial flavorings
  • Foods with “non-sugars” – that use artificial sweeteners such as saccharin or aspartame
  • Foods that use High Fructose Corn Syrup as sweetener
  • Foods that use partially hydrogenated oils
  • Meat or Poultry grown with hormones and antibiotics and/or in unhealthy conditions
  • Tainted Sea Food – with heavy metals such as mercury or other impurities
  • Fruits and Vegetables laced with pesticides
  • Unclean water or foods prepared with unclean water

That’s pretty much it. So, if you eliminate these types of foods from your diet, you are eating clean.

There are a lot of research papers, books and literature on why eating such foods is unhealthy or not optimal for your health. Some of the reasons are quite nuanced, but a lot of the reasons are quite stark and plain:

  • In addition to being unhealthy, foods with excess sugars, salts and fats tend to be addicting.
  • We all know by now how hydrogenated oils lead to issues with coronary health.
  • You don’t have to go to medical school to figure out why foods with foreign hormones, chemicals, pesticides, or heavy metals are bad for our health.
  • Ingesting high fructose corn syrup can damage the liver and can create issues such as allergies.
  • Artificial sweeteners are known to interfere with expression of genes.

Two areas, related to this topic of eating clean, seem to generate a lot of conversation: GMO vs. No-GMO and Organic vs. Non-organic.

Some people won’t go near GMO or genetically modified foods, but others don’t mind. Same debate goes on between organic and non-organic. Safer option to me seems to be eat organic and non-GMO, whenever possible. Although, organic is really not required for the foods that are grown with minimal or no-pesticides, have thick peels or you peel them before eating.

There are plenty of lists of foods on the internet for which eating organics reduce pesticides significantly. For example, this Dirty Dozen List recommends, you buy the following foods organically grown because of high pesticide contents and because they either have very thin skis or are often eaten without peeling:

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Grapes
  • Hot Peppers
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Kale
  • Collard Greens
  • Zucchini
  • Lettuce
  • Blueberries
  • Fatty Meats
  • Milk
  • Coffee
  • Wine
  • Chocolate

On the other hand, the following are quite clean and are not necessary to buy organic:

  • Onions
  • Sweet Corn
  • Pineapple
  • Avocado
  • Asparagus
  • Frozen Sweet peas
  • Mango
  • Papayas
  • Eggplant
  • Cantaloupe (domestic)
  • Kiwi
  • Cabbage
  • Watermelon
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Mushrooms

What do you think -does this make sense?

Do you feel there are other ways to detect clean vs. “crap”?

Are there other types of foods that you will put in organic vs. non-organic categories?