The Dirty Ingredients Hiding In Your Clean Eating

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If you follow healthy foodies on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter you’ll see a lot of #cleaneating or #cleaneats.  Some of those dishes are downright gorgeous and inspiring.  But sometimes, we get tricked.  We click on a beautiful photo and then read the recipe and uh, what’s that? The clean recipe isn’t exactly clean.  Like when my kids say the room is clean but they really just shoved the dirty socks under the bed.

We hate to burst your bubbles.  And we loathe being the bearer of bad news, but we feel compelled to expose those dirty socks unclean ingredients.

Clean Eating2

First, let’s ask WHAT IS CLEAN EATING?  What does that phrase even mean? It’s really unfortunate that such a term even needs to exist, isn’t it?  Our food supply is so tainted, food so over-processed, there’s so much junk that a new term had to be invented to describe what is essentially REAL FOOD.  Clean eating then is REAL food, UNCOMPROMISED food, NOURISHING food, prepared and eaten in a TRADITIONAL and NATURAL way. Ask yourself, “Did our great-grandparents eat this?” If the answer is no, then most likely you shouldn’t be eating it either.

THE DIRTY

1. Protein Powders

Oh these come in all varieties: soy protein, whey protein, veggie protein, pea protein.  Guess what?  Turns out these are terrible for you!  What?! But, I bought it at the health food store/Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s! Here’s the deal: in order to isolate a particular component of a food–in this case, just the protein–it is processed in such a way that it becomes denatured.  This causes it to actually be toxic for your body and your body responds to it as it would MSG.  Yep.  You read that correctly. M.S.G.  Not to mention many of these powders contain fillers and additives such as soy, aspartame, saccharin, artificial flavors and colors.  And if that’s not bad enough, a Consumer Report Study found protein powders tainted with heavy metals (lead, arsenic, and cadmium).

What to use instead: We love using gelatin from pastured cows. This is our favorite.

2. Stevia

This is all the rage right now as everyone wants their cake and to eat it too without the calories.  Remember that litmus test question we told you to ask yourself in the beginning?  Did your great-grandparents replace their sugar with the no-calorie miracle sweetener?  No?  We didn’t think so. Also, do you remember our definition of clean? Foods eaten in a traditional way. So, what is the traditional use for Stevia? Contraception. Yep.  That’s right.  Contraception.  However, even if the effect is minimal, when you’re trying desperately to conceive, you probably want to maximize your chances and avoid anything contraceptive. (More info here.)

Stevia is derived from a plant, that’s true.  But the powdered or liquid stuff you find at the store with the fancy marketing is a far cry from the leaf growing in a pot on the windowsill.  Again, it is highly processed, heated to temperatures that cause it to be denatured and therefore, toxic. Plus, how do you think your body responds to being tricked? You eat something sweet, it’s supposed to have calories. Your body expects it. When you give your body something sweet but don’t actually provide energy or nourishment, it will crave what it is missing.

What to use instead: real sugar, local organic honey, maple syrup, dates, bananas, etc.

3. Agave

Oh say it isn’t so?! Isn’t it just the juice of the agave plant? Leftover from Tequila making? If you had any illusions of someone with a juicer making agave nectar for your tea, brace yourself: that’s not the way it works.  In order to extract the “nectar” for commercial bottling, they use a chemical process that essentially turns it into high fructose corn syrup (which we all know to avoid like the plague, right?). Your body cannot tell the difference between the two. Traditional agave sweeteners use the leaves of the plant. Commercial varieties today use the starch from the root. The result is an unnatural product that raises your triglycerides the same way HFCS does.  Avoid.

What to use instead: real sugar, local organic honey, maple syrup, dates, bananas, etc.

4. Canola oil (and other yellow-seed-based oils)

Have you ever taken a moment to think of how people are able to extract oil from rapeseed, corn, soybeans, vegetables?  I mean, when I make veggies I don’t consider them very oily. In fact, some are rather starchy, right?  The oil is extracted from the seeds through a refining process using extremely high temperature mechanical pressing and solvent extraction. Yes, I just said the word solvent when talking about food! This solvent (which is usually hexane) leaves trace amounts of itself in the oil. Then it has to be bleached, degummed and (brace yourself) deodorized.  Deodorized because the fatty-acids in the oil become rancid very quickly leaving the oil foul-smelling. Believe me, no one wants to fry their potatoes in something that smells like rotting garbage.  So, they perfume it.  This process actually removes a large portion of the omega-3 (which is sort of the reason for eating oil in the first place) and turns them into trans fatty acids. Nice.

What to use instead: butter, coconut oil, olive oil, real lard, duck fat, bacon grease, etc.

5. Natural Flavorings

Most health-conscious folks avoid “artificial flavors” because we know that they are most likely derived from petroleum and crude oil and are not good for you.  But “natural flavors” well that’s stuff like, you know, natural.  Well….you should know that there is not a legal definition for the word natural as it applies to food. Natural flavors can be anything that is “generally regarded as safe” including extracts from the scent gland of a beavers butt.  Uh, what’s that?  Your “naturally flavored yogurt” is made with beaver butt.  In addition, anytime you see the words “natural flavoring” you can insert MSG.  Virtually all “natural” flavors are actually excitotoxins, which can have horrible implications for your neurological systems, gut health, heart health, etc.

What to use instead: Real flavors.  If you want vanilla, it should say vanilla.  Not vanillin. If you want honey, it should be raw organic honey.  Don’t settle for a counterfeit.  Your body can tell the difference.

Let’s clean up our pantries, shall we? Eat REAL food, UNCOMPROMISED food, NOURISHING food, prepared and eaten in a TRADITIONAL and NATURAL way.

Clean Eating


  1. Linda - April 13, 2015

    Thank you once again, Great Word!

  2. I grow stevia which is a green plant.  It drives me crazy how the packages contain “white” powder.

  3. “Natural Flavors” drive me up the wall! That could be anything! Ugh. 

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