Eat Dirty?

We have all heard it from the experts: we are supposed to eat CLEAN. But what on earth does this even mean? Should you consume all your meals in a sterilized chamber? Wash your fruit to remove the pesticides? Peel all your veggies before steaming? Ditch the dairy? Gluten? Saturated fat?

And what might it mean to eat dirty? (I picture myself in a filthy crack den stuffing jelly doughnuts into my mouth.)

I recently read a fascinating article about "clean" eating. You can find it here:

The gist of this article is that the terms CLEAN and DIRTY carry moral implications. Many people follow a diet the same way they follow a religion. Or a political party. There is a devotion that goes way beyond the concepts of "good" nutrition. The example I like to point out is veganism: human beings cannot live on plant matter alone. A purely plant-based diet is NOT healthy for us. In fact, we will suffer from deficiencies and eventually die on such a diet if we do not use supplements. Yet, plenty of intelligent people continue to promote such a diet as though it were the BEST possible diet. And these same people, many of them doctors, continue to fund biased studies in order to make meat-eating look BAD. And DIRTY.

Some folks believe eating meat is morally wrong. Therefore if you enjoy a steak or a burger, you are WRONG. Others believe eating locally is correct. If you select an orange, pineapple, kiwi, banana, mango, or avocado, you are WRONG. In this scenario, you should not drink coffee or tea, have a chocolate or coconut dessert, or use most spices like cinnamon; all of these are tropical. I hope you weren't planning on ordering the tiramisu.

The truth is: humans can survive on a wide range of different diets. The Inuit traditionally live(d) off seal and whale meat, eating mostly animal fat and almost no fruits or veggies. Quite the opposite of the plant-based diet. The Maasai thrive on mostly milk and blood, which they drain a little at a time from their living cattle, plus meat on special occasions. Maasai are healthy and have almost no cardiovascular disease. However, there are NO traditional peoples or tribes who consume(d) a vegan diet. (Vegetarian is something different as dairy and eggs are incorporated.)

If you want to eat the most nutritionally sound diet, I believe the best plan is to include a little bit of everything. Red meat, white meat, fish, seafood, seaweed, a rainbow of fruits and veggies, eggs, nuts, seeds, insects, fungi, all of it! Are plant foods awesome? YES. Should we eat plenty of plants? YES. Should we ban everything else except plants? NO.

When we start to leave out entire food groups, we run the risk of eliminating something from our diet that we need in order to thrive. Red meat contains the most bio-available type of iron. Can you get iron from other foods? Yes, but your body can't absorb it nearly as well. Animal products contain the highest quality protein. Can you get protein from plants? Yes, but plant protein doesn't contain the essential amino acids. Why are they called "essential"? Hmmm. Calcium from dairy is easier to absorb than calcium from plants. And so on.

We live in an era of extreme abundance. Just visit your local Wegman's or Costco. There is practically every food known to man under a single roof. We are beyond blessed to have all these choices at our fingertips. Our grandparents (some of whom knew real hunger and deprivation) would never turn their noses up at "good" food. Why do we?