We all know this famous quote by Hippocrates “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
Could this actually be the holy grail of health?
There have been hundreds of different diets over the years claiming health benefits, weight loss, and increased energy, but how many of these are actually using food as medicine?
In order for something to be medicinal, it would need to exert a therapeutic or healing effect on the body. You’ve probably heard about the Mediterranean diet and how beneficial that is, but what about clean eating or going organic?
In this article, I will investigate the possibility that clean eating and/or going organic could be healing and the difference between these.
What Is Clean Eating?
Clean eating is a way of life-based on the belief that eating whole foods in their most natural state and avoiding processed foods such as refined sugar offers certain health benefits. Variations on the clean eating diet may also exclude gluten, grains, and dairy products and advocate the consumption of raw food. The idea of “clean eating” has been criticized as lacking in scientific evidence and potentially posing health risks. (8)
The funny thing is that these studies have not actually analyzed any health effects and simply make unsubstantiated statements themselves.
For example, one study found that clean recipes had exactly the same fat/carb/protein ratios as normal recipes and therefore could make no difference to a person’s health. (9)
What they have failed to notice here is that the most powerful health benefits of food do not come from the ratio of the macronutrients fat/carb/protein ratios at all, but rather from a vast array of micronutrients, including 800 different antioxidants, enzymes, polysaccharides, oils, vitamins, minerals and dozens of other phytonutrients and medicinal compounds. Read more on this subject
Clean eating has also been coined an ‘eating disorder’ by the National Eating Disorder Association, called ‘orthorexia’ (10) and a couple of their red flags are:
- The avoidance and ultimately the elimination of certain types of food that the sufferer may not view as “pure” such as artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives, and foods that may have been genetically or chemically modified or treated with pesticides
- The avoidance of certain food groups that society has deemed “unhealthy” (10)
The crazy thing is that there is clear overwhelming evidence that these processed foods cause disease.
One large observational prospective study showed higher consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with higher risks of cardiovascular, coronary heart, and cerebrovascular diseases. (11) An increase in ultra-processed foods consumption also appears to be associated with overall higher mortality risk among this adult population according to another study. (12)
The most damning results come from a large observational study published online Feb. 11, 2019, by JAMA Internal Medicine, where almost 45,000 adults ages 45 and older completed several dietary assessments over a two-year period. On average, ultra-processed foods made up about 15% of their daily diet as measured in grams.
Ultra-processed food was defined as ready-to-eat and microwaveable foods, such as bread, breakfast cereals, instant noodles, chicken or fish nuggets, chocolate bars, and candies, chips, and artificially sweetened beverages.
After nine years, the researchers found a direct statistical connection between a higher intake of ultra-processed food and a higher risk of early death from all causes, especially cancers and cardiovascular disease.
Eating clean is therefore not an eating disorder, but rather a very sensible move if you want to preserve your health.
My suggestion is, try to eat as clean as you can without getting fanatical about it. If you move towards a higher percentage of clean food (food without chemical additives) your body will respond with more energy, a stronger immune system, and quicker healing responses.
Another point to make is that going organic is not considered the same as clean eating, as clean eating also includes avoiding unprocessed foods. Organic food is a slightly different approach, so it’s worth mentioning that here also.
What is an Organic diet?
Organic food is food produced by methods that comply with the standards of organic farming. Standards vary worldwide, but organic farming features practices that cycle resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Organizations regulating organic products may restrict the use of certain pesticides and fertilizers in the farming methods used to produce such products. Organic foods typically are not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or synthetic food additives. (14)
Some Benefits of an Organic Diet
The secret is getting extra high quality healthy nutritious food and this can be tough in today’s profit-driven supermarkets. The reason the food growing industry commercially spray and fertilize foods is to make them grow bigger and to poison the insects and deter birds so they don’t eat it, maximizing yield and profitability. In the process, we are poisoning our population and actually consuming hollow, artificially enhanced, nutrient-devoid food.
Everyone is becoming more conscious of how food affects their health and awareness of the negative aspects of industrial farming is increasing.
Detoxification and Healing
If you want to allow your body its full potential to grow, heal and tap into life energy then going organic makes perfect sense. Using organic produce alongside a Herbal DETOX program is the ideal combination to get a quality natural internal body cleanse. By using herbs to enhance your body’s natural detox processes and by eating organic produce alongside you can potentially double the healing micronutrient levels in your body. This can encourage rapid healing and cleansing simultaneously.
We highly recommend going organic if you want the best health results from a detox or weight loss products like those in the Ultimate Herbal Health Program.
Organic food is produced by farmers who focus on using reusable resources. Foods are grown on small, family-run farms, and in order to conserve the soil and water so as to ensure environmental quality for future generations. Organic food production emphasizes sustainability such as conservation of water and soil, environmental concerns, reusable resources, and eliminating the use of harmful pesticides and chemicals in food.
Commercial Foods Full of Poisons
Pesticides, due to their intensive use and their peculiar chemical features, can persist in the environment and enter the food chain, thus representing an environmental risk for the ecosystems and human health. (7)
Over 66% of commercially sprayed produce has pesticides present when they sit on the supermarket shelves. Tests were performed on the produce available on the American market and the results were staggering. Nearly two-thirds of the 3,015 produce samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2013 contained pesticide residues – a surprising finding in the face of soaring consumer demand for food without agricultural chemicals.
- Apples: 98% of conventional apples had pesticides
- Celery: tested positive for 57 different pesticides
- Capsicum: up to 15 pesticides on a single sample
- Peaches: More than 60 pesticides have been found on peaches
- Grapes: Grapes have more types of pesticides than any other produce, with 64 different pesticides
- Lettuce: 78 different pesticides were found on lettuce samples
- Cucumbers: 81 different pesticide residues were found on cucumbers
Much Higher nutrient levels
In another study researchers were open to finding an outcome that might show a very slightly higher content in the organic produce than in commercial production, which they thought would be due to the chemicals used to grow the commercial plants, the outcomes of the study shocked the researchers!
When they saw that the amount of iron found in the organic spinach was 97% higher than in the commercial non-organic spinach and that manganese was 99% higher in the organic over the commercial, they were truly amazed. In commercially grown vegetables, many trace elements were completely absent compared to the organic produce where they were abundant. (3)
See just two examples of this study below.
Here’s one shocking outcome of this study – in all 5 of the tested vegetables: snap beans, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, and spinach the organic vegetables, all contained healthy levels of cobalt, an essential trace mineral compared to the commercial vegetables which contain none. (3)
According to one study when considering the consumption pattern of organic consumers, an increase in intake of a selected set of nutrients and contaminants was observed. (6) People who eat organic are therefore better nourished in general. Not only do they tend to eat more vegetables and fruit, but this produce is of higher nutritional value. On the flip side, the combination of ingesting pesticides and chemicals while eating mineral deficient food must certainly lead to an unhealthy state in the rest of the population over time.
Cardiovascular Diseases Reduced
Another study compared Non-Organic Food Consumers with Organic Food Consumers and found those who ate organic had a lower risk of type II diabetes, hypertension, and Cardio Vascular Disease. This effect was significant for men. (1)
Birth Defects Reduced
One study analyzed 35,107 women and their male infants who participated in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study. About 48% of the women reported eating at least one of the organic food groups “often/mostly” or “sometimes.” The women in these two groups gave birth to 22 infants with hypospadias (a penis deformation). The other half of the women reported “never/seldom” eating organic foods, and 52 cases of hypospadias occurred in these mothers. Of all the food groups, organic vegetables had the strongest association with a lower prevalence of hypospadias. (15)
Is it any wonder when you consider what all these chemicals must be doing once they enter our bodies. Going organic where possible definitely seems the logical choice.
Where Organic Diets Fail
One thing I have noticed over the years is where a lot of organic diets fail.
You can go into an organic health store and still find a lot of processed junk food, and of course, the destructive effects of red meat. Yes, you can eat organic food but still consume a large quantity of meat, cereals, bread, chippies, sweets, donuts, and ice cream. What I’m saying is that going organic is not necessarily going healthy.
That’s where a clean diet can actually be more health-promoting, even when all of the foods are not necessarily organic. The health-promoting benefits of food actually come back to the level of nutrition they provide, and I don’t just mean fat, protein, or carbohydrate, I mean actual phytonutrients.
The main difference between an organic diet and a clean diet is the processed food content. On an organic diet, there is no restriction placed on the consumption of processed foods, sugar, or fats.
Just because food is organic does not make it healthy. In other words, you could be on a 100% organic diet of potato chips, popcorn, donuts, and chocolate bars. You can walk into an organic supermarket and find just as many processed foods as a conventional supermarket.
My suggestion would be, get the best of both worlds and go clean and organic where possible. At the same time, I suggest not going over the top and becoming fanatical about any diet. Just like detoxing and weight loss, these approaches can be healthy, but only when practiced within a balanced lifestyle and using a gradual intermittent approach.
Although both clean and organic diets have their benefits neither approach is the holy grail of health in itself.
Brett Elliott ®
(1) Health and dietary traits of organic food consumers: results from the NutriNet-Santé study. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26429066
(2) EWG’s 2015 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary.php
(3) Rutgers University Study: Organic vs. Non-Organically Grown Produce http://www.oceangrown.co.uk/documents/FirmanBear-variationsinmineralsinvegetables1948.pdf
(4) Organic Food Market – Global Industry Size, Share, Trends, Analysis And Forecasts 2012 – 2018 http://www.transparencymarketresearch.com/organic-food-market.html
(5) How the Organic Food System Supports Sustainable Diets and Translates These into Practice. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26176912
(6) Consuming organic versus conventional vegetables: the effect on nutrient and contaminant intakes. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20691244
(7) Trends and Perspectives in Immunosensors for Determination of Currently-Used Pesticides: The Case of Glyphosate, Organophosphates, and Neonicotinoids. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30720729
(8) Clean eating https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clean_eating
(9) Are Clean Eating Blogs a Source of Healthy Recipes? A Comparative Study of the Nutrient Composition of Foods with and without Clean Eating Claims. PUBMED https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6213725/
(10) Is #cleaneating a healthy or harmful dietary strategy? Perceptions of clean eating and associations with disordered eating among young adults. PUBMED https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6545628/
(11) Ultra-processed food intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: prospective cohort study (NutriNet-Santé). PUBMED https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6538975/
(12) Association Between Ultraprocessed Food Consumption and Risk of Mortality Among Middle-aged Adults in France. PUBMED https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30742202
(13) Eating more ultra-processed foods may shorten life span. Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/eating-more-ultra-processed-foods-may-shorten-life-span
(14) Organic Food https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_food
(15) Eating for Two: Does an Organic Diet Make a Difference? PUBMED https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4786971/