Why Has Clean Eating Got Such A Bad Press?

20/01/2017 16:05 GMT | Updated 21/01/2018 10:12 GMT

Despite changing the lives and health of thousands if not millions of people around the world, it seems clean eating is currently in the firing line.

The backlash against the poster girls of the movement - Deliciously Ella, Hemsley and Hemsley etc - is well underway, with last night's Horizon documentary, Clean Eating: The Dirty Truth, piling on too.

The BBC 2 show, presented by Dr Giles Yeo, saw the movement labelled a 'diet craze', a 'fad' and a 'social media sensation' - but what on earth is wrong with eating fresh, wholesome food and avoiding processed rubbish?

The show was entirely one-sided with no examination or mention of how clean eating has actually helped people with health concerns or just made them feel better, healthier and good about themselves.

Even Ella herself, who was extensively featured on the show, has distanced herself from 'clean eating', despite being one of the founders of the movement, saying it's no longer seen as being about 'natural' food like it once was.

The problem that people have with the phrase 'clean eating' is more to do with semantics and misconceptions rather than clean eating itself.

'Clean' may well have lost its way, but that's down to people misunderstanding what it's all about. Most proponents and followers of clean eating are not saying that scoffing anything else is 'dirty', nor are they seeing clean eating as a medicine that's a cure-all.

The problem is also perhaps because many of the 'clean eating gurus' portray the lifestyle as unachievable and aspirational, as they list recipes using expensive or ridiculously hard-to-get ingredients as they look smug beaming out on Instagram with their perfect plates in perfect kitchens with never a hair out of place.

People only see extreme versions of the lifestyle - for example the banana diet, raw vegan, strict paleo or the 80/10/10. Lumping diets like the alkaline diet in with clean eating like last night's show did was misguided too, and verging on irresponsible.

Duping cancer sufferers into paying thousands of dollars to be pumped with alkaline drips with the promise you'll 'cure' them and then they die anyway is as far from clean eating as it is possible to get.

Getting a scientist to investigate all the extremes like this will of course lead to him rubbishing it.

Real clean eating is simply good, wholesome food that's good for your body - even presenter Dr Yeo admitted to enjoying Ella's dishes. Most clean eating is home-cooked, fresh, unprocessed food. People are not saying it can cure cancer. People are not saying that all grains, gluten and carbs are banned. Wholewheat is great. Sugar appears in myriad foods, not least fruit. It's not verboten. It's about eating as naturally and healthily as possible.

There are numerous health benefits too; clean eating can help you get better sleep, boost your mood, lower fat, increase energy, and give you healthier hair, skin and nails.

It's not something you have to do on your own either - the whole family can join in. Kids will benefit from fewer artificial food additives like e-numbers and they'll be getting less sugar, and we all know children are eating far too much of the sweet stuff nowadays.

Plus, the regime can be easily managed on a budget. All supermarkets are now stocking 'clean' products, even value supermarkets like Aldi and Lidl.

And finally, how strict you are is up to you. Nobody is going to chastise you for giving yourself a treat now and again. Most people choose to live an 80/20 balance, with 80% clean and 20% 'cheat'.

So let's lay off the clean eating bashing for a bit. In a world where too many of us are eating processed foods and too much sugar, and problems with obesity and diabetes have reached crisis levels in the UK, remember, the basis message behind clean eating is just to eat healthy, wholesome food. What's so bad or dirty about that?