Is Eating “Clean” Doing You More Harm Than Good?

 

First things first, let’s give credit where credit is due: Amidst the rampant vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free crazes over the last few years, we’ve come a long way in terms of making healthy eating not only possible, but enjoyable. Gone are the days of pretending to love food that’s essentially variations on cardboard discarded by a break dancer, dipped in the armpit sweat of real chocolate (I’m looking at you, Snackwells).

We’ve now got nut milks that make you forget you’re drinking nut milk, kale chips that make you forget you’re eating kale, and—as someone of Korean descent, this is especially thrilling—Western culture has at long last embraced the miracle food that is seaweed (Ariel didn’t get that voluminous head of hair by accident).

“Clean” food has become an industry in and of itself and is expected to reach $1 trillion globally this year. But in the midst of all this frenzy and the labelling of certain elements like gluten and dairy as “bad,” scientists are starting to worry about the long-term effects on our health, particularly for young women. Only 1% of the U.S. population has celiac disease, meaning they legit cannot eat gluten, and while 65% of the global population is reported to have lactose intolerance, it’s generally not considered a serious condition and symptoms tend to be mild for most people.

The primary concerns are twofold: First and foremost, the National Osteoporosis Society warns against the loss of calcium that comes with cutting out dairy, as it leads to weaker bones, and considering bone development generally stops around age 30, this can be problematic for young women who are already at an increased risk for deterioration later on in life, as Business Insider reports. There are ways to make up for the calcium loss, but this requires a pretty focused effort, and the casual clean eater may not have the knowledge or resources to ensure all nutritional requirements are being met.

The second aspect is more psychological. Renowned foodie and chef Nigella Lawson put it this way in interview with The Guardian: “There is a way in which food is used to either self-congratulate—you’re a better person because you’re eating like that—or to self-persecute, because you’ll not allow yourself to eat what you want.” Worst-case scenario, you might be contributing to an eating disorder by disguising it with super “healthy” stripped-down eating, disguising it even from yourself.

The takeaway? Just because that blogger looks amazing and her diet seems healthy, it doesn’t make her an expert on nutrition and wellness. So wield that almond milk with caution, ladies, and as always, it’s best to consult with a health professional before making any drastic changes to your diet.


-Deena Drewis

 
Deena Drewis