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Last Updated on September 29, 2020

9 Ways a Clean Eating Diet Can Help You Feel Better

9 Ways a Clean Eating Diet Can Help You Feel Better

A poor diet can leave you feeling sluggish, groggy, and lethargic.

You may even find your cravings for junk food are actually stronger, rather than satisfied, after indulging in salty or sweet snacks; unfortunately, your health and your waistline will pay the price.

With all the diet fads out there, it can be difficult to weed through the hype and find concrete information on what you should be eating, what you should be avoiding, and most importantly, why to do either.

Outlined below are 9 ways a clean eating diet can help increase your energy, reduce bloat, improve your health, and maybe even slim your figure– all while making you feel stronger, more focused, and in-tune with your body’s needs.

Clean Up Your Eating Habits

There are many different opinions out there on what constitutes a “clean” diet.

In general, and broadly speaking, clean eating means to focus on nutrient-rich, whole foods. It suggests you minimize pre-packaged, overly processed foods, and it encourages you to make your food from fresh, natural ingredients whenever possible.

It is imperative to note that however you would like to interpret those guidelines is entirely up to you.

Some people choose a paleo strategy, some prefer a vegan diet, and some find their body responds best when they limit dairy.

Either way you need to choose a path that fits your lifestyle, and give yourself permission to be flexible. Once you start to weed out the processed, high-sodium, -fat, and -sugar foods, you will find it easier to pinpoint which options agree and disagree with your unique tastes.

1. Protein = Satisfaction

Some examples of lean protein include chicken, turkey, white fish, beans, lentils, and low- or no-fat dairy. Proteins are the building blocks of your muscles and help make up other structures within your body such as skin and cell membranes.

Protein is slow to digest in the stomach, which helps you to feel fuller longer, and will keep hunger at bay between meals.

Because lean proteins have a low fat content, they are subsequently lower in calories, making them easy to incorporate into any meal. For example, throw some hard-boiled eggs and chopped chicken breast into a salad and it goes from rabbit food to a filling meal.

2. Scrub Your Intestines

Fiber, or roughage, is important for keeping your digestive tract moving smoothly; it is like a scrub brush for your intestines.

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While that may sound a bit harsh, both literally and figuratively, it is exactly what people are looking for in popular cleanses and fasts, but without the drastic measures and high costs.

Older adults especially, can get deposits of build-up in their intestines which cannot only lead to major discomfort, but is also been known to cause colon cancer and other significant health problems.

Fiber also naturally helps regulate your blood sugar levels. Without the spikes and dips that accompany a processed diet, your cravings for sweets will remain regulated and on an even keel. This can not only help your metabolism stay humming throughout the day, but it can be a huge emotional and mental relief as well.

A healthy portion of fruits, vegetables, peas, whole-grain foods, and beans are all great sources of fiber. These foods have also been linked to a decrease in the risk of cancer and heart disease, due to their fiber content specifically.

3. Skip Added Sugar

One way to clean up your diet is to start limiting the amount of added sugars you consume throughout the day.

Fruit naturally contains the sugar fructose; when you are looking for a sweet treat around the house, reach for a fresh piece of fruit for a satisfying snack instead of a candy bar or sugary, baked confection.

The sugar-type fructose is a form of carbohydrate. It will give you that boost of energy you may be looking for during your mid-afternoon slump, but without the blood sugar hike, and subsequent crash, of sugary candies.

It is important to note that sugar hides in many foods parading around as “healthy.”

Many popular brands of yogurt or granola bars, for example, can have an astronomical amount of added refined sugar. Be sure to read food labels and steer clear of any foods with a sugar content in the double-digits.

4. Cut Back on Saturated Fat

Less than 10% of your total daily calories consumed should come from saturated fatty acids. Total fat intake, of all types, should be between 20 and 35% of all calories. That means that if you are following a 2,000 calories per day diet, no more than 700 of those calories should be from fats; this equates to an absolute maximum of about 77 grams of fat per day.

Please read food labels; many people will find a heavy portion of those 77 grams in their “healthy” salad dressing alone!

One helpful fact is that most saturated fats are solid at room temperature. Think about the white fat on bacon and other meats versus the healthier oils (also fats), such as olive oil, that are liquid at room temperature. This is an easy way to keep yourself in check with how much saturated fat you are consuming; you can often literally see the fat in many popular foods.

5. High Salt Means High Blood Pressure

The recommendation by the AHA (American Heart Association) is no more than 2,300mgs (about 1 teaspoon) of salt for adults, but they set an “ideal” limit of no more than 1,500mgs.

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Far too many people reach this limit in a single meal alone, especially if they are eating out at restaurants often.

Salt enters the blood stream and disrupts the balance of electrolytes in the body, making it difficult for the kidneys to do their job. To be fair, a low potassium intake is just as likely to cause high blood pressure as an excess in salt might. However, so many people consume prepackaged foods as part of their everyday diet and still have no idea how much salt they are really consuming.

Salt is used a preservative in many foods; years ago, meats were even packed in salt to extend their shelf life.

Now, so much natural flavor is cooked out of foods during the manufacturing process, that salt is added to heighten the flavor that is left. This is why the spaghetti sauce you make at home can have drastically less salt and yet loads more flavor than the same sauce bought pre-cooked in a jar or can from the store.

Lastly, high salt intake causes your body to hold onto water as a way to dilute the sodium absorbed into your body and its tissues.

This is the reason behind that post-meal bloat you may feel up to two days after a salt-heavy meal, such as a dinner of a burger and fries from a popular chain restaurant.

6. Indulge in Complex Carbohydrates

One of the most popular diet misconceptions you will find these days is that the answer to weight loss is to eat less carbohydrates.

This is totally true if what you are eating is highly-processed, sugar-laden foods made in a factory. It is not true, however, if you are consuming nutritious, fiber-dense, complex carbohydrates that provide your body with fuel and energy.

Carbohydrates are the go-to fuel for organ activity; this includes the heart, skeletal muscles, and in particular, the brain.

White bread, bleached flour, and other processed carbohydrates are the ones to avoid when you are looking to clean up your diet.

These have little-to-no fiber and turn into sugar and then fat when not used as energy; they also likely contain many added sugars. However, fresh vegetables, 100% whole grain breads, lentils, beans, and whole potatoes are excellent sources, of energy and fuel for your body and mind.

7. Hold Out for Homemade

Here is a fact that will both astonish and astound you: legally, food labels and calorie counts on packaged foods and in restaurants only have to be accurate within 30%.

This means that if you choose to indulge in an entrée listed as a whopping 1,000 calories, it may actually contain as many as 1,300 calories, and this does not always account for the butter and oils used to grease pans during cooking.

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At home, you can create the same dishes with far less of an impact on your health.

There are endless healthy-food swaps you can make to decrease calories and increase your intake of vital nutrients.

Some examples would be using condensed milk in the place of heavy cream in recipes, cauliflower in place of rice for a low-carb alternative (if you are into that sort of thing), or a quick spray of olive oil to prep a pan instead of a pat of butter.

Quite possibly the best parts of cooking at home is that you have the ability to alter recipes to meet your liking, and you can save hundreds of dollars each month with proper planning.

Some things to keep in mind if you are trying to save money on groceries is to shop farmer’s markets for fresh produce, buy foods that are in-season for peak freshness and the best value, and when necessary, opt for frozen foods over canned; frozen vegetables tend to be flash-frozen at the peak of ripeness, increasing their nutrient content when compared to their canned counterparts.

8. Boost Your Antioxidant Intake

If eating a diet low in saturated fat is cleansing for your arteries and heart, and eating a fiber-rich diet is cleansing for your gut, then antioxidant-rich foods promote the same type of health benefits for your body’s cells.

The long and short of it is this: oxidants are radicals found in the environment through some unavoidable circumstances such as air pollution, but also from lifestyle choices such as alcohol, cigarette smoke.

These oxidants have been know to cause damage to our cells, possibly leading to diseases and certain cancers. Antioxidants, however, perform just as their name implies; they help balance the oxidants to a healthy level that the body can handle.

A popular tactic of modern food manufacturers is to boast the health benefits of their food on labels. Buzz words like “anti-aging” and “cancer-fighting” appear on packages as a way to draw you in. The truth is, none of these foods compare to the health benefits of whole foods in their natural state.

Grapes, blueberries, nuts, and yes, even chocolate (cocoa) contain nutrient-rich antioxidants that can help keep your cells healthy and your body operating with efficiency.

9. A Clean Kitchen Leads to a Clean Diet

Have you ever cleaned out your closet of all your old, unworn clothes?

After doing so, the next time you go to pick an outfit you open your closet doors you feel relief at the organization; suddenly you find yourself at ease in your own wardrobe! Now, imagine if opening your refrigerator or pantry made you feel the same way.

Many advocates of a clean eating diet are also fans of meal prepping.

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To meal prep means to cook a batch of meals at once and save portions of them to eat throughout the week. This is ideal for people on-the-go or who often struggle with what to eat. You can cook once or twice a week and not have to worry about what to do for your next meal.

This works particularly well if you work during the day and want to be able to grab your breakfast or lunch on your way out the door.

While this strategy for weekday eating will definitely save you money and calories, the biggest benefit is the peace of mind and mental relief you may feel from taking the uncertainty out of the equation.

Many people find going out to eat stressful when they are trying to follow a clean diet. Others feel overwhelmed at the options at the grocery store and what to buy and cook at home. By preparing batches of food you can experiment with recipes, shop according to grocery store discounts and sales, and you will always have a healthy meal ready when in a pinch.

Clean Eating Can Clean Up Your Life

Clean eating can mean a number of different things to different people. Although, experts and nutritionists urge against cutting out any entire food group, such as fats or carbohydrates, from your diet.

At its core, clean eating is really about balance and fueling your body with nutrient-dense food that keeps your metabolism, muscles, and brain in peak performance.

Your body was designed as a well-oiled machine; it comes equipped with everything it needs to keep itself in gentle homeostasis, and the better quality fuel you feed it, the better you will feel.

Many people find that just by adopting a cleaner diet, they shed unwanted, excess pounds, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and eventually find themselves being taken off diet-related medications.

As you delve deeper into what foods you choose to cut out and what foods you may want to add in to your diet, your tastes will change also.

You will eventually find your body craving the healthy stuff as much as you might have once craved the junk food you thought you could never live without. This transition may take time, however, so be patient with yourself.

Finally, a clean eating diet does not mean that you never get to indulge.

Food is about satisfying your body and its needs, even if that sometimes means a treat or guilty pleasure.

When you take care of your body every day, these instances will become that much more enjoyable–especially when they don’t leave you feeling sluggish and tired afterward. So, next time you get a craving… be sure you’re reaching for foods that are “clean”!

More by this author

Lisa Patten

ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Professional Fitness Writer

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Published on November 10, 2020

7 Causes of Low Energy (And How To Boost Yours)

7 Causes of Low Energy (And How To Boost Yours)

Although many do not recognize it, energy is the driving force to how each individual operates in the world. However, many people sometimes have low energy and unable to do things productively. As a result, there are numerous supplements and drugs available (over-the-counter and not) that aim to modify individual energy levels.

One can improve energy levels without the use of drugs and supplements. However, for an added boost, I do often suggest several all-natural/organic supplements that can be utilized effectively to increase energy.

Examine the areas of your life that you think can still be improved or “hacked”, as some may say. If you are honest with yourself, I’m sure you’ll identify these areas that could use some improvement.

But before you can learn how to boost your energy, you should know what causes your low energy in the first place.

Causes of Low Energy

We all can’t be full of energy all the time. Like everything in life, there are ups and downs in terms of our energy levels. Here are the 7 causes of low energy.

1. Circadian Rhythm and Lack of Sleep

Circadian rhythm is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle of an individual. It repeats on each rotation of the Earth (roughly every 24 hours).

In our technological age, sleep has become an after-thought for many. Many people practice poor sleep habits, such as eating before bed, going to sleep too late, watching TV, or using smartphones/tablets before bed.

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All of these habits harm our circadian rhythm. Eating before bed and blue light exposure from screens are both major disruptors of our circadian rhythm.

2. Lack of Hydration

Surprisingly, when I speak with most people about hydration, they are the first to admit they don’t drink enough water. When people ask me about illness or even something as seemingly simple as a headache, my first question is always “do you drink enough water?”, and the answer is always no.

Why people don’t associate illness, disease, or dysfunctions within the body with a lack of hydration is beyond me, especially since up to 60% of the human adult body is water.

According to H.H. Mitchell, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, respectively. Moreover, the lungs are approximately 83% water, while muscles and kidneys are 79% water. The skin contains 64% water and bones are composed of 31% water.[1]

With that in mind, it’s honestly a no-brainer that if someone is feeling a bit off, hydration is the first thing to examine. Beyond simply consuming more water, the quality of water is also a factor.

Personally, I drink water that has been filtered through a Santevia filter, which helps restore the body’s natural pH level with an alkaline water filter system. Alternatively, I drink natural spring water. Both of these options are better approaches to water consumption.

3. Lack of Exercise

This goes beyond exercising in a gym. Most people live very sedentary lives where most of their day is spent either in bed (sleeping), watching TV (sitting), on a computer/smartphone (sitting), or commuting/driving (sitting).

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Rewind 10,000 or even 5,000 years and consider that most humans were up and active for the majority of the day. Movement is needed to generate energy and additionally, to increase circulation/blood flow and synovial fluid, which is primarily involved in reducing friction between the articular cartilages of your synovial joints when you’re moving.[2]

4. Poor Nutrition

In 2020, this has become even more prevalent for many people in society because fast-food chains have increasingly been the source of food. On the other hand, many people have taken it upon themselves to begin cooking more at home. However, even with grocery store ingredients, this can impede energy levels.

The old expression “you are what you eat” is absolutely true. Without going on a tangent, I will simply say that mass factory-farmed protein is not high-quality protein and chemically modified (pesticide sprayed) produce and vegetables is not ideal either. Most especially, fast-foods are generally unhealthy and give unneeded calories without much nutrients to justify it.[3]

5. Poor Breathing Patterns/Habits

This one really gets me in that much of our society now is wearing a mask throughout parts of the day or even the whole day. The problem with this is a lack of clean air/oxygen and an abundance of recycled carbon dioxide.

Heightened carbon dioxide and lack of clean oxygen can lead to Hypoxia (when body tissue does not get enough oxygen) or Hypercapnia (elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the blood causing dizziness, shortness of breath, headache, hyperventilation, seizures, and in extreme cases death.).

Poor breathing has already been a global epidemic as far as I can tell, especially with the increasing levels of air pollution. It is also caused by poor posture, lack of exercise, sedentary lifestyle, stress, anxiety, and more. Now with the Covid-19 pandemic, improper use of masks can amplify the lack of oxygen that many had already been experiencing.

6. Overthinking

Overthinking, in general, can be extremely energy-draining for an individual. This ties-in with stress, depression, and anxiety. I even present the notion that excess thinking is something that can be carried over generationally, meaning if your parents (especially mother) had been prone to overthinking, it can be challenging for a child, especially later in life. This can be confirmed by the genetic carrying-over of certain mental illnesses, such as dementia, bipolarism, and more.[4]

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7. Overworking

Not taking time to unwind and relax will most likely lead to low energy levels. Life does not revolve around various types of work, though some would argue that point. Overworking and overthinking go hand in hand, and both need to be seriously examined by anyone looking to improve energy levels.

How to Boost Your Energy

Now that we know the main causes of low energy, we can now better tackle this problem. Here are some ways to help you boost energy.

1. Get Enough Sleep

Our society devalues sleep for some reason, yet it is the number one most effective way to ensure you feel alert and energized throughout the day. Begin with setting a plan for sleep habits.

As an example, I aim to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night during the week and 8-9 hours of sleep on weekends. The plan includes getting to bed before 12 am and, in some cases, before 11 pm. Part of this plan includes not eating at least 2 hours before bed, though I have to admit I don’t always achieve that and when I do eat too close to bedtime, it noticeably disrupts my sleep throughout the night.

2. Don’t Forget to Drink Water

Hydration is a simple one to tackle in my opinion. We’ve got so many third-party sleep and hydration tracking mobile apps nowadays and using your default phone reminders allows you to set a reminder to drink a glass of water.

I suggest setting a reminder to drink a glass of water (8oz for example) several times throughout the day. I personally feel best when consuming between 3-4L of water per day (approx 1 gallon).

3. Exercise

Exercise doesn’t need to be as strict as going into a gym and lifting weights, though I suggest doing just that as it is very beneficial for your physical and mental well-being. Simply going for a 15min walk 3-4 times throughout the day (walking for 45min-60min per day) would yield great results in terms of boosting your energy.

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Want to step it up a notch? Go walking in nature for that 60min per day as there are many benefits to ‘Forest Bathing’, ‘Nature Therapy’, or Shinrin-Yoku.

4. Try Yoga and Conscious Breathing

Yoga practices are something I have been adopting more as time goes on. The reason is simply that it combines a type of exercise/movement with focused/conscious breathing. As you can tell from this article, movement and breathing play a large part in the energy of an individual—from generating to expenditure. Here’s How Practicing Morning Yoga Transforms Your Life (+10 Beginners’ Poses).

Practice conscious breathing, and draw your attention to the breath more frequently throughout the day. One method I can suggest is to take a small thread or string and cut a piece that can wrap around your belly (navel) but not tightly. You should be able to fit 2 fingers (approx 1 inch) between the string and your belly. You can test the required length by taking a deep diaphragmatic (360-degree core expanding) belly breath and cutting the string at the point where your navel expands most.

Once you have the string in place, keep it on throughout the day. It acts as a physical queue/reminder that you should be expanding your full core and taking deep breaths throughout the day. This approach helps unlearn shallow or chest breathing habits. You will gradually notice an increase in energy on the sheer fact that you are breathing more optimally throughout the day.

5. Meditate to Avoid Overthinking and Overworking

Addressing overthinking and overworking happens in large part when one has a better grasp of the aforementioned energy boosters of sleep, hydration, exercise, and breathing.

Specifically addressing the matter of overthinking, I have in many cases suggested various forms of meditation. However, for this particular article, I’m circling back to Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing/Nature Therapy) as it allows one to perform a walking and nature-type meditation while boosting energy.

Regarding overworking, you’ll find that if you improve sleep habits, your waking state will substantially improve, and of course, you’ll also start generating and utilizing energy more optimally.

Bottom Line

Simply put, try these steps either one by one, a few at a time, or all at once. You will see improvements with each suggestion, and they are good remedies whenever you’re feeling low on energy. Energy begets more energy, meaning you will then continue to improve how you manage energy levels.

More Tips for When You Have Low Energy

Featured photo credit: Zohre Nemati via unsplash.com

Reference

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