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Clean Diets: A Signal for Eating Disorders

According to a study published in the Journal of Eating Disorders, a clean diet may indicate the risk of multiple eating disorder. The study’s concluded the need to “highlight the need to train consumers to better distinguish between trustworthy and fraudulent sources of information on nutrition and health behaviours,” said Suman Ambwani, a noted scholar in the field of disordered eating and associate professor of psychology at Dickinson College.

Popular on social and popular media, typically by non-expert celebrities clean eating diet includes elements such as eating local, real, organic, plant-based, home-cooked foods, in some cases also going extreme by eliminating gluten, grains or dairy.

At its simplest, clean eating is about eating whole foods, or “real” foods—those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible. 

The core principles are: 

  1. Eliminate processed foods and refined sugar 
  2. Stick to wholegrains 
  3. Eat more fruits and vegetables 
  4. Reduce salt intake 
  5. Cut back on alcohol.

Some clean eating plans prohibit a range of foods that are widely considered nutritious. Often, people are encouraged to cut out whole food groups, such as grains, remove animal foods, or “go raw”. But such dietary restrictions can be nutritionally substandard if the foods we remove are not properly substituted with, for example, iron, calcium or protein-rich alternatives.

If you follow #cleaneating on Instagram and think gluten is a devil. Trust me, it is not, and there is no evidence to suggest that adopting a gluten-free diet provides any health benefits to people who do not have coeliac disease. In fact, gluten-free substitutes are often low in fibre and have fewer nutrients, not to mention they are significantly more expensive.

Clean eating has been linked to an eating disorder known as orthorexia, which literally means a “fixation on righteous eating”. When it becomes a problem is when it has significant negative impacts on one’s life, whether that’s with socialising or the stress associated with food preparation.

Target #EverythinginModeration.

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