Clean Eating: How to Pick Natural Foods

Twelve no-fuss ways to lose the chemicals and lock in nutrients.

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Skip Crab Sushi

Surimi is the fake crab or other seafood that you find most commonly in California rolls at sushi restaurants. It’s the contemporary and industrialized version of a traditional preservation method used by the Japanese for some 900 years and is among the most processed foods I know. Marion Nestle describes the modern-day version of this technique in What to Eat: “They wash the flesh of the fish repeatedly until it loses all odor and color; drain it; add cornstarch, other binders, sugar, flavors, and maybe even real fish; shape it into blocks; form it into a paste that they can shape and paint to look like whatever they want it to be; and freeze it. That is surimi.” Wow. There’s nothing naked about that. Avoid it.


Be Selective with Soy

Soy’s powerful enzyme inhibitors make it the most difficult-to-digest bean, bar none. (Enzymes are some of the natural chemicals the body uses to break down the foods we eat.) In fact, the only way we can truly digest it is when it’s fermented. Even soaking and sprouting isn’t enough to break down its potent anti-nutrients. There are also many “anti-nutrients” present in soy, such as oxalates and phytates, two compounds that block the body’s ability to absorb vital minerals such as calcium, zinc, and iron. I recommend only consuming soy foods made from fermented soy beans. These include tempeh, miso, the traditional Japanese dish natto, and tamari or shoyu soy sauce. Steer clear of anything else.


Can the Cans

Commercial canning techniques deplete most of the nutrients from canned vegetables, and canned fruit typically comes in syrup-y water. Far better to go with the frozen fruit without any sugar added. The fruit has enough sugar on its own. Tomatoes, on the other hand, contain a nutrient called lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that has been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Heat increases the bioavailability of lycopene, which means that your body can access and use it much more easily from cooked tomatoes than from raw ones. The canning process involves quite a lot of heat, which increases the amount of lycopene your body can get from the tomatoes. Just be sure to buy the plain tomatoes without anything extra added in. 


Buy Grass Finished Beef

Ruminants—cows, sheep, goats and buffalo—are described as grass-fed or grass- finished. The USDA has not yet come to a formal definition of either phrhase, and many people use the terms interchangeably, but generally speaking, grass-fed beef means the cattle ate only grass or forage most of their lives. These animals may have been “finished” on grain, which means they were fed grain in the last 90 to 160 days of their lives. Grass- finished, on the other hand, is a more specific term meaning that the cattle were fed grass throughout the entire course of their lives, even in the finishing stage. Ideally you want to find beef that was grass-finished, but when it come to ruminants, grass-fed or finished is the gold standard in terms of nutritional value, animal welfare, and environmental sustainability.


Make Better Breakfasts

With few exceptions, breakfast cereals are made using a process called extrusion, in which a slurry of grains is put through a machine called an extruder that uses high temperatures and pressure to turn this mixture into cereals of different shapes and sizes: the “O”s, flakes, shredded bits, puffs, and so on. While no published studies have been done on the impact of extruded cereals on human health, the high heat and pressure damages the fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and proteins. Granola can be an exception if you find some that uses only rolled oats (which aren’t extruded), nuts, and seeds. However, no commercial brand that I’m aware of properly prepares its oats to neutralize the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. To my mind, it simply makes logical sense to avoid boxed cereals because they’re a processed food. Rolled or stone-cut oats are an exception to this rule, as they aren’t extruded.


Lose the Low-Carb Bread

Often, “low-carb” pronouncements on products mean that soy—higher in protein, lower in carbohydrates—has been added to beef up the protein content of the food. My advice: Steer clear. If you’re going to eat bread, eat bread. But have a nice, fresh loaf that’s made of whole grain, ideally sprouted wheat or traditionally prepared sourdough.


Store Nuts Smartly

Many people don’t realize that nuts and seeds go rancid quickly. That jar of peanuts that’s been sitting half full on our shelf for the last three years? Throw it out. Nuts and seeds are high in important but very delicate and unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids. The easy solution for this is to store nuts and seeds in the fridge.


Ditch Regular Decaf

Generally I don’t recommend decaffeinated coffee. This is because the process used to remove the caffeine is arguably more toxic than the caffeine itself and can leave up to 60 percent of the caffeine in the beans. The best option for decaffeinated coffee is the Swiss Water Process. It’s a much gentler and more natural process using only water and removes 99.9 percent of the caffeine.


Soak Beans Longer

Beans have phytic acid along with other powerful enzyme inhibitors in their skins that prevent the absorption of other minerals and make digestion of the bean very difficult. The solution is long periods of soaking and thorough cooking. While most cooking instructions will say six to eight hours or overnight soaking is enough, it’s actually quite helpful to soak them for two to three days. Simply place the dried beans in a bowl with enough water to cover them by about four inches. Drain the water and replace it twice daily. When it’s time to cook the beans, drain the water completely and add fresh water for cooking. You might find that a small tail has begun to form on some beans. This means that they have started sprouting and are even more digestible.


Upgrade Your Sweeteners

The best solution when it comes to sugar is to eliminate it, if not completely, as much as possible. When there is occasion for something a little sweet, here are some sweeteners that I prefer and would call naked. As a general rule, choose those that are as unrefined as possible:

Raw Honey: Only for use cold (don’t cook or bake with it), raw honey is a natural antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. It’s worth the extra effort to find raw honey, as pasteurization damages its delicate nutrients and beneficial enzymes.

Molasses: This liquid byproduct of the process of refining sugar is sweet while also high in minerals.

Rapadura: This is dried juice of the sugar cane, and as unrefined as you’ll get when it comes to sugar.

Maple Syrup: Splurge and get the real stuff. I like the lower grades because the maple flavor is stronger and rich in minerals.

Stevia: This sweet herb makes a nice and soothing tea if you use the whole leaf, and the powder made from it has become a favorite of many health practitioners because it has negligible impacts on blood sugar and zero calories. Use sparingly—a little goes a long way.

Coconut Sugar: This sugar is made from coconut blossoms, has a low glycemic load and is only minimally refined. It’s high in minerals and B vitamins and works well in baking.

Dates: Dates are nice and sweet and packed with minerals. If you need to sweeten a sauce or a dressing, throw a pitted date into your food processor, and it’ll do the trick. Talk about unrefined!


Kill Your Microwave

A microwave heats your food by using electromagnetic energy to create molecular friction, which both heats your food and changes its molecular shape. This means it actually changes the nature of the food and has a strong tendency to overcook it. As you’ve probably experienced, microwaves heat the food from the inside out, the reverse of how a stove, oven, grill or fire would cook it. Several studies have shown that microwaved food loses a significantly higher proportion of antioxidants and vitamins, and its proteins can be negatively affected. This happens even if you’re just heating up a dish that was previously cooked.


Employ the 80:20 Rule

I use a variation of the 80:20 rule applied to food. If 80 percent of my food is naked—fresh, whole, organic, homemade—then for the other 20 percent, I don’t worry about it. What’s important is that you’re feeding yourself the bulk of the time. That’s where to focus your energy. If there’s a favorite food you absolutely adore and it’s not naked, oh well. Don’t eat it every day, but have it occasionally as a treat.


Buy the Book

Reprinted with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc.


Eat Naked by Margaret Floyd.

First Published June 1, 2011

Share Your Thoughts!


Fred Brenson06.25.2011

hi, Did you tell me Clean Eating is more effective than any supplements? link building I eat clean foods like clean meat, soup, clean water. Affordable SEO Company I must try it excellent for my self. Hopefully I can success. :) SEO marketing

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