The Clean Eating Conundrum

February 10, 2022 by
Photo Credit: Alexandr Podvalny

In 2008 Michael Pollan published In Defense of Food with well-meaning advice to help Americans eat a less crappy diet and move out of the health crisis that began to balloon in the 1990s. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Honestly, this is good advice. 

But the message from Pollan’s book was warped and has become omnipresent, growing into a fanatical clean-eating movement that promotes eating as close to nature as possible. The clean-eating movement popularized the notion that whole foods are inherently pure and health promoting, while processed foods are inherently dirty and filled with toxins and poisons that disrupt our overall well being. 

The implication is that if you are not “eating clean” you are somehow dirty, lazy, or unhygienic. It has created a kind of nutritional caste system that consciously and unconsciously promotes food shaming. Rather than educating themselves about food and food science, people idealize foods for being in their most natural form. Clean-eating disregards accessibility issues and the socioeconomic impacts that influence food availability.

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