10 Reasons to Eat Clean
By Sarah Tuff
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1. You’ll become more mindful.
Picture trying to eat a processed, fast-food burger in your car. Now picture spearing a forkful of salad. Which one takes longer and really makes you slow down? You got it –the salad. Eating clean also means eating with purpose and savoring food. That means a better relationship with everything from radishes and radicchio to red velvet cupcakes (which you’ll no longer crave).
2. You’ll save money.
Kiss medical bills and sick days goodbye when you get nutrients from eating clean, real food. (With just the vitamins and supplements you really need.) Plus, shopping locally and in season makes sense –and cents. Planning clean meals for the week is cost-effective if you make a list and stick to it, as there’s no chance of overspending at the store. And by skipping pricey restaurants and unhealthy takeout orders, you’re doing your wallet and not just your waistline a favor. Want to really stretch your clean-eating dollars? Take leftovers for lunch.
See also Meal Plans + Shopping Lists.
3. You’ll live longer.
Picture the fountain of youth made out of whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Study after study has shown that consuming these foods can lengthen your life-span. A recent JAMA Internal Medicine report found that each additional 28-gram serving of whole grains per day (go for nutrient-dense ancient grains like teff, amaranth, millet and sorghum) was associated with a 5% lower risk of dying from any cause. And in a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, European researchers have found that increasing your produce intake to more than 569 grams per day reduces your risk of mortality by 10%. Choose raw veggies whenever you can; in the same study, they were associated with a drop in mortality of 16%.
4. You’ll have better relationships.
Preparing clean meals takes time, just the kind of time that allows for easy, relaxed conversations with your kids, spouse and other family members and friends. If they’re too busy with screen time to share stove-top time, point them to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health 2014 study, published in Public Health Nutrition, showing good health comes from home cooking. People who cook dinner six to seven times a week consume 137 fewer calories per day than those who cook once a week or less, along with 16 fewer grams of sugar. Now that’s home sweet home.
5. You’ll be smarter.
Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts keep our minds sharper and our memories stronger by a whopping 24%, proved a study published in spring 2015 in Neurology. Our brains also function better with nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, as shown in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, while they sputter and slow down when we fill them with sugar (including alcohol), fast food and the wrong kinds of fats. If that’s all too much too think about, remember one point from the Nature Reviews Neuroscience report: A balanced diet means better brain health.
6. You’ll have more energy.
Adam and Eve were onto something when they bit into that apple: Fruit is just one of many clean foods that provide an instant dose of energy. High-fiber fruits like apples take longer to digest and can instantly stave off that afternoon slump while providing critical vitamins for the evening ahead. Other pick-me-ups include quinoa, almonds, eggs, kale, citrus fruit and a good-old-fashioned glass of water.
7. You’ll be better in bed.
Mamma mia! Women with metabolic function in Italy and other regions of the Mediterranean enjoy a healthier sex life than those in the US, thanks to the components of their diet –yep, vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains and olive oil. That’s what researchers found in a comprehensive study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research.
8. You’ll help the planet survive.
There’s an oft-quoted statistic that food travels approximately 1,500 miles from farmer to consumer in the United States. By eating local and seasonal foods, as recommended by Clean Eating, you can help reduce your carbon footprint. Want to make an even greater impact? Try eating vegetarian a few times a week. While you may not completely give up meat, fish and poultry, leaning toward a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet (which includes eggs and dairy) can help protect the earth’s resources. As the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported in 2003, “The major threat to future survival and to US natural resources is rapid population growth”and “the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet is more sustainable than the average American meat-based diet.”Eating clean helps the planet stay green.
9. You’ll be stronger.
The lean protein that comprises part of the clean-eating philosophy builds lean muscle mass and boosts metabolism, found a study presented at The Obesity Society’s annual meeting in 2014. Some mighty choices for your muscles (in addition to animal-based products like chicken, fish and lean beef) include quinoa, chickpeas, nuts, spinach and seeds.
10. You’ll be happier.
Food and mood go hand in hand. And the better the food, the better your mood. If you need to brighten your day, go for berries, bananas, coffee, lean proteins, chocolate, turmeric and omega-3 fatty acids, all proven to boost your mental state.
See also The Mood-Boosting Benefits of Food.