Hi Amy, Clean eating and Paleo diets seem to be the "in" diet right now. What are the benefits to these diets and is eating organic really better for you? Thank you!

I agree with you! These two diets (along with going “Gluten Free”) seem to be very hip right now. As I have said numerous times on this site before, I am not a fan of the word “diet”. To me it implies an eating style that one will follow for a set period of time and may not be sustainable (or healthy/safe) to follow long term. A few months ago I wrote an article on clean eating for our local newspaper. I will attach some of what I wrote and then speak further about this diet.

“The Clean Eating way of living emphasizes natural, whole foods and regular physical activity. The basics of this diet include eating whole vegetables and fruits; lean meat, poultry and fish; beans and legumes; dairy products that are low in fat; and whole grains from a variety of food sources. The Clean Eating plan provides meals that are high in fiber and protein and low in sugar, calories, fat, and sodium. And, while the Clean Eating plan may be a way to rid one’s diet of a lot of harsh chemicals and improve one’s antioxidant intake, because the diet is somewhat restrictive, much research, planning, and preparation much take place before one begins the diet. I would recommend meeting with a registered dietitian (RD) before starting this diet. She can assist you to ensure you are obtaining the right nutrients in the right proportions. “ So, in general, this diet is just a nice way to remove a lot of added preservatives and flavorings to food and sort of “get back to basics”. But as I mentioned, you will certainly have to plan ahead and prepare given that there is not a lot of quick or convenience to this plan. Also, since that this diet is low in sugar and salt, many people will have to let their taste buds adjust over time. They will have to allow time to “retrain” their taste buds to notice the natural flavors of the healthy foods they are eating.

The Paleo diet’s basic premise is: eat like cavemen. It encourages intake of foods that can be hunted or gathered (meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, veggies, roots, fruits and berries). On the Paleo plan you are not allowed to consume: grains, legumes (beans or peas), dairy, sugar, or salt. Proponents of the Paleo diet suspect that the increase in chronic diseases in this country came when we introduced grains, beans and dairy into our diet. Those following the Paleo plan do have the opportunity to consume a plethora of fruits and vegetables, which are filled with disease fighting antioxidants. However, they miss out on a few key nutrients that are essential to a healthy diet. Whole grains are a great source of magnesium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and most importantly‚Ķfiber! And those following the Paleo plan may need to supplement calcium and vitamin D given that no dairy products are allowed. So, overall, the Paleo diet does not appear to be “unsafe” to follow, but as a dietitian, I would not recommend it to my patients and would urge people to have a well-rounded and balanced approach to eating.

Finally, let’s talk organic! In order for a food to be called “organic” it has to be produced without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, bioengineering, ionizing radiation or food additives. Organic farmers use crop rotations, residues, animal manures, and aspects of biological pest control to make the food more ‚Äúsafe”. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution, which is very important from an environmental and sustainability perspective. Some research suggests that organic fruits and vegetables can be higher in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals than conventionally grown foods. However, numerous factors need to be taken into account. How long food has been stored, variable growing conditions, and how the food is prepared greatly affect the amount of nutrients available. I counsel patients to remember that eating fruits and vegetables (organic or not) is a healthy way to help reduce incidence of disease. But, if people have the money and it makes them feel better, organic is the way to go!

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