As the dieting options are becoming endless, the common denominator is the “clean” eating basis. In this article, at Yogashala Ibiza we share our insights into our preferred eating methods: plant-based and gluten free.
The basis of clean eating consists of avoiding processed foods, unhealthy ingredients, refined sugar and cutting back on soda, to name a few. Alternatively, the aim is to include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein products, which are all natural and free of preservatives.
What are some of the benefits of clean eating?
The benefits of eating a clean diet are endless. The most common reason people choose a clean diet is down to weight loss; by eating unprocessed foods free of refined sugar, we are cutting out so many harmful chemicals and fats that we ingest every day. Most people choose to prepare smaller meals and eat more often throughout the day, controlling calorie intake and warding off hunger that could lead to snacking on unhealthy food.
While this may be the main benefit for some people, the other fantastic benefits are what sell the clean eating trend. Natural foods can balance energy levels, promote cell growth, regulate hormone levels, as well as increase fibre and protein intake, which can all lead to improvements throughout your body, such as increasing your mood, higher energy levels, better sleep, increased brain function, glowing skin and, not to forget, it helps our body absorb nutrients more efficiently.
So, what is a gluten-free diet?
While gluten-free diets started out as a solution for individuals who suffer from gluten intolerance, the diet has become a growing trend amongst clean eating fanatics due to its many health benefits.
The gluten-free diet consists of cutting out gluten. What is gluten, you ask? Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley and rye. And the most popular benefits? Weight loss and increased energy levels.
The diet primarily consists of avoiding wheat-based products or food containing wheat, such as beer, bread, cake, cookies and pasta, to name a few. Practicers of a gluten-free diet include other unprocessed foods, such as beans, seeds, nuts, fresh eggs, fresh meat and fish (obviously, not breaded or batter-coated) and fruits and vegetables.
While cutting such staples out of our diet may seem difficult to begin with, following a gluten-free diet is fairly simple and straightforward. Other starch products that gluten-free dieters eat are commonly rice and quinoa, with the latter being widely recognised among dieters for its health benefits. Include fresh dairy products and more fresh produce in your diet, as well as fresh meat and fish, leading to a protein, vitamin and fibre rich diet.
What is a plant-based diet? Isn’t that the same thing as vegan?
First, let’s explain what a plant-based diet is. We’ll get to the vegan part in just a moment.
A plant-based diet focuses on plant foods, hence the name. These foods include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. As the name implies, the diet focuses more on healthy and unprocessed plants foods rather than animal-based foods.
A vegan diet strictly cuts out all animal-based foods, which can cut out vital energy sources and lead to low-calorie intake. If not done correctly, a vegan diet can be more harmful than beneficial to your body, so if you choose to go vegan, it's important to ensure you’re getting enough calories, energy and protein. Meanwhile, a plant-based diet doesn’t forbid animal-based products; it’s simply more focused on plant-based foods.
So, how will a plant-based diet benefit you? Well, the benefits are many. Firstly, it allows you to change your eating habits; no more unprocessed foods and more natural glory! You will find your body is taking in more nutrients and vitamins. It improves your overall health and reduces your consumption of dairy and meat.
How do I start one of these healthier alternatives to my diet? It seems difficult and like such a big change!
While the idea of taking on one of these diets may seem overwhelming and difficult, baby steps transitioning to a clean, healthy diet is easier than you may think.
An easy way to start is, in a matter of speech, don’t go cold turkey! Start your transition by replacing your regular meal with a gluten-free or plant-based option a few days a week. There are endless healthy options to go for, such as a vegetarian soup. Include fresh vegetables and legumes, which are high in fiber, carbs and protein, as well as balancing blood sugar and maintaining weight and energy. French lentils, for example, are high in both iron and protein.
Snacking on hummus is also another great option, which can be spread on toast or eaten with fresh vegetables, such as cucumbers, carrots, peppers or celery.
Another great way to start including healthier food in your diet is by making smoothies for breakfast - serving as a high-protein, vitamin-packed and delicious alternative to heavy breakfasts. They’re easy to make, simply blending fresh or frozen vegetables, such as bananas or strawberries, with a liquid base like apple juice or avocado milk. You can even throw in some kale or spinach for some green power and add a little sweetness in the form of agave nectar, maple syrup or dry dates.
So, how do I shop for a clean diet?
The first step is to avoid frozen, processed foods. Choose organic to avoid harmful chemicals, which goes for both produce and meat, if including the latter in your diet. If you decide to also include eggs in your diet, be sure they’re free range. If you’re choosing a plant-based diet, it's vital to include protein-packed alternatives to meat, such as tofu or tempeh, edamame beans and seitan. Tempeh is a great alternative, as it can be marinated, just like you would with meat, and has a great texture which makes for a fantastic substitute.
Items to include on your shopping list are fresh fruit (think bananas, strawberries, oranges, mangoes), vegetables (lettuce, kale, carrots, broccoli, spinach), starchy vegetables (potatoes, yams, corn, green peas), whole grains (millet, quinoa, rice, oats) and legumes (chickpeas, kidney beans, lima beans, lentils).