Why clean eating is absolute bullsh*t — Dr Nick Fuller takes aim at celebrity fad diets

Dr Nick Fuller
Leading Obesity Expert at the University of Sydney and founder of Interval Weight Loss.

Clean eating and clean living are certainly the words on everyone's lips this year, but what is it?

Everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to Jesinta Franklin is crediting a "clean" - as opposed to dirty? - diet for their health, wellbeing and banging bods, with it being spruiked as an easy pathway to everything health. 

Look at #cleaneating on Instagram, and you'll come across over 30 million posts, with its sister #cleanliving resulting in 1 million posts. 

But guess what? 

The concept of “clean eating” is bul$sh%t.

It's not definable.

Jesinta Franklin recently found herself in the limelight for all the wrong reasons - being an ambassador for Cadbury chocolate, after releasing a book with the coverline "no sugar recipes". Whatever your vague definition of "clean eating" is, Dairy Milk quite clearly doesn't fit in.

The idea of "clean eating" has been used to describe a diet devoid of caffeine, alcohol, gluten or sugar - so which is it that we should be avoiding, clean eaters? 

Avoiding gluten has repeatedly been proven to have no health benefit for those of us - the majority - who aren't intolerant of it, so why should we avoid it, if sticking to wholegrain sources of carbohydrate? 

A "clean" diet often includes c-r-a-p

While the idea behind clean eating - basically eating meat and vegetables and avoiding processed food - is sound, more recently it has morphed into a misleading phrase that has led people to think certain fruits and vegetables are bad; that carbohydrates are the cause of all things evil; to eat gluten free; that we should only be having coconut oil; and that we should obsess about every little ingredient. 

One classic example that seems to be a favourite is sugar. Time and time again, we hear people proclaim that they are following a “clean eating” diet with no added sugar, to only then proclaim they are subduing themselves to tracking down certain sugars such as muscovado, rapadura, or demerara because they believe it is “clean”. There is no difference in nutritional value to brown sugar, or even white sugar. And the only difference between white and brown sugar is the taste.

What should we do instead? 

As we've become more and more conscious of our general health, with more and more health messages coming to us every day, the idea of eating "clean" appears to be a simple solution. But it's confusing, it’s meaning shifts constantly and it suggests that people that don't conform to its principles 24/7, 365, are eating "dirty". While some foods certainly offer more health benefits than others, there's nothing dirty about eating whatever you like on occasion. 

What is important is that we stick to a food plan that incorporates, the majority of the time, wholesome and nutritious foods coming from their natural form. Treat foods should be enjoyed, not seen as a guilty pleasure, as long as you stick to having them seldom. 

Fruits contain sugars, but these are of the natural type, and are good for us so there is no need to omit certain fruits. The same goes for vegetables – certain vegetables are certainly not “unclean” and we can and should enjoy all vegetables.

About Dr Nick Fuller

Dr Nick Fuller is the founder of Interval Weight Loss and is a leading obesity expert at the University of Sydney with a Ph.D. in Obesity Treatment. Dr Fuller is also the author of three best-selling books and his work been published in top ranked journals in the medical field, including JAMA, Lancet and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.