EATING CLEAN FOR DUMMIES: BOOK REVIEW

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Eating Clean For Dummies, by Dr. Jonathan Wright, MD, and Linda Johnson Larsen, is all about the what, why, and how of clean eating.

It's an excellent introduction to healthy eating. It helps you clearly understand why to eat cleanly, how nutrients work in the body, and how food additives gum up the works.

I feel comfortable recommending it. Its excellent nutrition section is brief, up-to-date, and to the point. The tips on how to actually carry out clean eating make up a good-sized portion of the book, and they are among the best I've seen so far in books.

What is "clean eating"? To quote the book:

  • "Basing your diet on whole foods prepared in a clean manner."
  • "The act of basing your diet on whole, unprocessed, preferably organic foods."
  • "Boils down to one simple fact: Avoid processed foods."

You avoid junk food, fast food, and processed food. You eat whole foods. You eat nutrient-dense food--that's food with high nutrition and low calories.


Why

Eating Clean For Dummies contains absolutely terrific explanations of the nutritional reasons for clean eating.

It's genuinely easy to understand and covers a lot:

  • How your body uses protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, water, and fiber
  • A list of some important phytochemicals ("plant chemicals") explaining what each of them do in the body
  • Why processed food doesn't contain all the necessary nutrients
  • How food additives damage your body

There's also a section about clean foods--just foods, not nutritional supplements--that help prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases. It's a really well-done section, which isn't surprising: One of the authors, Dr. Jonathan Wright, MD, is the founder and medical director of the Tahoma Clinic holistic medicine center, and the author of Natural Medicine, Optimum Wellness: The Patient's Guide to Health and Healing.


Benefits

The benefits as a diet for health and weight loss are plainly stated:

  • "You don't have to worry about going hungry."
  • "You don't have to feel deprived."

I'll interject here.

You won't go hungry, because unprocessed foods are naturally filling. Their fiber (one of the things that processing removes) fills you up. They are often low calorie or very low calorie. They contain vitamins and minerals, which keep your body from craving more. And they contain natural, healthy fats, which satisfies your body's basic requirement for fat.

You won't feel deprived, because your appetite naturally adjusts to the  healthy components of unprocessed food. In fact, your portion sizes can be larger, as well. AND, when your food doesn't contain the addictive chemicals that almost all processed food contains, you don't have the addictive cravings that create that feeling of deprivation.

I know this can be hard to believe when you're used to junk food. I know the attraction of processed food and convenience food and junk food (which turned out to be all pretty much the same thing). I only gave it up after I'd been sick for a long time.

But back to Eating Clean For Dummies.


How

Is this the book I've been looking for, to recommend about Getting Started? It may be...

There's seven substantial chapters about getting started and about fitting clean eating into your life.

Eat More, More Often (Chapter 5) discusses listening to your body, coping with and preventing hunger, drinking water, eating "mini-meals," and discovering foods' natural tastes.

Planning and Stocking the Eating Clean Kitchen (Chapter 9) covers organizing the kitchen, reading ingredient lists, creating a pantry, storing fresh food, going to the grocery store, and other shopping such as farmers' markets.

 Incorporating Organic Food into Your Eating Clean Plan (Chapter 10) describes organic food and discusses which kinds of conventional produce are most and least contaminated with pesticides (using the Environmental Working Group's analysis). This chapter contains one of the book's strange mistakes: here it perpetuates confusion between organic and grass-fed, which are two different things.

Preparing Clean Food (Chapter 11) discusses cooking methods, cooked vs. raw food, food combinations that enhance nutrition, leftovers, and food safety.

Eating Clean on the Go and in Social Situations (Chapter 12) includes packing lunches and snacks, going to restaurants, and socializing. This chapter really should have explained that there is no such thing as clean eating in restaurants: It should have explained why, and then suggested a few different levels of dealing with that fact. Having said that, its suggestions about avoiding sauces and fried foods in restaurants are valuable.

Getting Your Family on the Bandwagon (Chapter 13) has lots of ideas for working with kids and gaining their participation. There's useful techniques for big and small diet changes and for slow or fast change.

Meeting Special Dietary Considerations (Chapter 14) is about food allergies, gluten, and vegetarianism.


A Few Nitpicks

There are a couple of extraordinarily weird, typo-like mistakes. To the contrary of what is stated in the book: canola oil is not derived from corn. A raw vegan diet is not the same as macrobiotics. I really don't like mistakes in nutrition books--it makes me nervous.

The single thing that dampens my enthusiasm, however, is the book's split personality on two issues: calories and fat. After correctly stating that clean eating "doesn't restrict you from eating any foods except processed foods," it elsewhere goes on to worry, even obsess, about calories and fat.

Calories

While Eating Clean for Dummies says that with clean eating, "you don't have to keep track of calories," it at times feels dictatorial about portion size, amount of calories, etc., when that should be individual.

I see the "mini-meals" as something to get started with. If you let yourself get hungry, changing your diet isn't going to work. But, I have no idea why frequent small meals would be important for everyone to do, at all times, forever.

Fat

Eating Clean for Dummies correctly says that eating healthy fats is essential to life. It even suggests that every meal or snack include healthy fat. That implies that fat is necessary for successful clean eating--a point I agree on.

In the heart disease section it notes the lack of evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease. It correctly states to not blame saturated fat for  heart disease. Yet unjustified negative comments about saturated fat are sprinkled throughout.

Additionally, dictates that meat must be lean make no sense. In clean eating, if a meat is healthy, its fat is healthy, too. If anything, the question should be how to choose meat and what to do when your only choices are among pesticide-contaminated meats.

Whether to eat low-fat or high-fat is individual and shouldn't be dictated. If anything, Americans tend to be starving for fat-soluble nutrients and natural healthy fat.

What Happened Here?

I think what happened here has to do with Clean Eating magazine and other proponents who specifically promote small frequent meals, demonize saturated fat, and worry in an unenlightened way about fat and calories. As if it were part of the program. If it is, it shouldn't be.

So am I being too picky? I think the book needed another edit. All the tools are here for improving your diet and implementing it in a way that suits you.


Recipes

Other books on clean eating that I have seen are nearly all recipes. To this book's credit, there aren't too many recipes.

The recipes, however, are relatively complex. I think they're intended for you to be able to replace processed foods by making from scratch such foods as pizza, chili, risotto, and spaghetti and meatballs. I know whenever I see 24 ingredients and "In a large skillet…," what's coming is something that will take a lot of time and work.

In contrast, in real life, food preparation without (or with) recipes does not have to take a lot of time and work.There are other books using healthy ingredients that have easier recipes, such as Foods That Fight Pain and Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People.


Recommendation




Eating Clean For Dummies is an excellent introduction to healthy eating. There's a profusion of tips for getting started and a lot of clear explanation of nutrition.

See Eating Clean For Dummies at Amazon.







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