Clean Eating Logic
by MQ Bismil
Thu 21st Apr 2016
Clean Eating Logic
The logic behind clean eating is simple. Pausing to think about the journey of our food to our table and plates is the first step. Realising that the global food production industry is now largely discrepant from the clean eating that nature provided to our pre-industrialised ancestors is the second step. The ‘paleo’ diet trend may mean more fruits and nuts and less refined cereals etc in one sense but in a broader sense we really just need to reflect upon the kinds of diets that not only our prehistoric hunter - gatherer ancestors depended upon but moreover the diets that subsistence farmers benefited from, and not least what were the likely benefits when animals raised for food lived more natural lives and when farming was less dependent on chemicals, pesticides and mega production.
Meat, antibiotics and hormones
I do not intend to go into the moral or philosophical perspectives on meat eating. All I would draw the reader’s attention to is that in a time when antibiotic usage in humans is a well politicised issue, the fact that the same magnitude of antibiotics are used in animal farming seems rather illogical. Even for those of us who have never had any personal experience of the factory farming of meat, I believe most of us would concede that few of us would eat a piece of meat if we had been present throughout its journey from inception to our plate. Hormones have also been traditionally used in modern meat farming.
Fish farming, drugs and chemicals: the humble sardine versus a can of tuna or a swordfish steak
A large proportion of the fish we consume is farmed. Mass production of fish grown in tanks, industrial ponds or in salt water farms relies upon drugs and chemicals to counteract the unnatural conditions in which the fish are grown and the diets of farmed fish may be highly unnatural. Fish is broadly thought to be a healthy food, but again logic would tell us that fish grown in these conditions are on balance less healthy for their human consumers. Mercury contamination is another issue in fish eating, and mercury tends to be concentrated in larger fish higher up the food chain. Thus, the often quoted ‘can of tuna’ as fuel for athletic pursuits may have unintended health consequences. The humble sardine, due to a short life cycle primarily and perhaps its perception by most of humanity, is invariably not farmed at present. Sardines are an oily fish, with inherent omega three and vitamin D benefits. Rather than a can of tuna as a protein hit, or a swordfish steak ( mercury not usually mentioned on the menu) as part of an a la carte dining experience, my vote would be for a humble can of sardines in extra virgin olive oil.
Pesticides, fruit and vegetables: evidence and logic
Modern arable farming is pesticide dependent. If we do not wish to consume those chemicals we have a few options. Grow our own organic crops or buy organic. Numerous studies show that vastly reduced chemical contamination occurs in such produce. [1,2] This does translate to less chemicals passing through, and almost certainly affecting in some way, human bodies in addition to some likely nutritional advantages. Or decontaminate the produce we buy. Pesticides will usually be found on the outer layers of fruit and vegetables, hence washing with clean water, with or without salt and or vinegar, is recommended by this author. Peeling fruit and vegetables or removing the outer leaves is also recommended.  Just as in medicine we are gradually realising that the evidence - based approach cannot possibly give us all the answers, similarly in relation to clean eating there is good evidence that modern food production is at odds with what our bodies were designed to consume. And through logic and evidence, each of us should empower ourselves to eat better.
In summary, in terms of dietary material risks and benefits:
Grow your own if you can
Cook and prepare as much of what you eat as you can
Try to eat as much ‘real’ food as you can
Organic and non - mass - produced food makes logical sense
Recently, there was a ‘minor’ story in the news about chocolate being contaminated with plastic on a large scale. Predictably neither the commentariat nor the political class nor the nation it seems were particularly perturbed. As also evidenced by the horse meat scandal, again I say that one of the most important things we can do for the health of each of us and the majority is to reclaim control of our diets.
In this series, the generality of health is discussed: please do not construe this as specific health advice, and please consult a physician if you wish to consider making changes to your lifestyle.
Crinnion WJ. Organic foods contain higher levels of certain nutrients, lower levels of pesticides, and may provide health benefits for the consumer. Altern Med Rev. 2010 Apr;15(1):4 - 12.
Baranski M et al. Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta - analyses . Be J Nutr. 2014 Sep 14; 112(5): 794 - 811.
Bajwa U, Sandhu KS. Effect of handling and processing on pesticide residues in food - a review. Food Sci Technol. 2014 Feb; 51(2): 201 – 220.