Should you try "clean eating" as an approach to a healthy diet? People who try to follow a "clean eating" plan end up getting more healthy servings of fruits and vegetables into their diet than those who don't believe in a "clean eating" approach, research finds. If you're trying to eat clean for summer and consume more fruits, vegetables, and whole foods to have better immunity, energy and succeed at weight loss, taking a "clean eating" approach is a positive way to go.

Study subjects who followed the advice to "eat clean" by limiting processed foods, including processed meat, and eat clean, which is defined as consuming more fruit and vegetables are "more likely to meet the dietary guidelines" of five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, in contrast to those who rarely or never try to eat clean, according to a study published in the journal Nutrients. Those who rarely or never try to eat clean did not consume as much healthy food as the clean eaters, who also exhibited a higher level of dietary restraint. The only downside of following clean eating advice is that a ‘clean’ diet may lead to obsessive eating habits in certain women, the study found.

Clean eating is considered a positive approach to eating, which promotes the exclusion of processed foods and focuses on whole foods. The study asked 762 women ranging in age from 17–55 to self-report their intake and approach to clean eating. The most important aspect of clean eating is to get more servings of fruits and vegetables and whole foods such as whole grains into your diet and skip the packaged or processed foods, high in fat, added sugar, and preservatives.

The American Heart Association defines "eating clean" as adding more fruit, vegetables, and whole grains to your plate while getting rid of packaged foods and junk food. They do encourage not just fresh vegetables, but also frozen or canned vegetables such as peas, broccoli, and beans, but not the kind with added sugar or buttery sauce. When defining processed foods the AHA points out that most food has been minimally processed in some way, but while baby carrots are part of clean eating, cheesy Doritos are not. To start your clean eating approach, lose weight, and boost immunity, start with these 3 simple steps.

Try 3 Simple Steps to Start Your Day and Begin Clean Eating This Summer

The three easiest ways to eat clean and try to start your clean eating practice for summer are to add more fiber in the form of fruit, to drink more water, and to add vegetables at breakfast, such as avocado toast or a smoothie.

1. Add more fruit to your diet, especially early in the day, to be healthy

Several recent studies have shown that people who avoid fruit because they worry that the inherent natural sugar in fruit is bad for them are going about it the wrong way. You need to eat more fruit since only 9 percent of Americans get their daily recommended servings of 2 fruits and 3 vegetables a day. The fruit has important fiber as well as nutrients such as antioxidants, vitamins, and phytochemicals that help boost your immunity and lower inflammation, as well as keep you full longer. A study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that people who eat whole fruit daily are less likely to develop diabetes, and consequently have lower blood sugar than those who don't eat fruit every day.

Another study found that people who eat dried fruit such as apricots, figs, dates and dried sliced apples have lower BMI and smaller waists than those who skip the dried fruit altogether. Find the kind that does not contain added sugar or added coatings, obviously, since those can drive blood sugar up.

Still another study on fruit showed that those who ate fruit for lunch are 50 percent less likely to suffer fatal heart disease or die prematurely of any other cause. The healthiest people in the study ate fruit for lunch and vegetables for dinner while the least healthy ate snacks like potato chips and other processed foods for snacks, so clean eating not only helps you lose weight and boost immunity but also lowers your risk of heart disease and death.

Most people get about half the amount of fiber they need in a day, which for women is more than 21 grams and for men is more than 38 grams. That's the minimum. An apple has about 7 grams, start eating fruit and you'll be able to keep your blood sugar in check and your insulin from spiking, which tells your body to store fat. Tell yourself most fruit is made up largely of water, so you're not only helping your cells take up nutrients slowly and steadily but helping your cells stay hydrated as well, which is a twofer when it comes to immunity and weight loss.

2. Drink more water, to boost weight loss and strengthen immunity

Drinking enough water every day is easier said than done, but when we drink the right amount, our bodies reap benefits such as increased focus, more energy, natural weight loss, and better digestion. Staying hydrated supports immune health and can give our daily workout performance a boost and improves how we feel physically and mentally. The flip side is that drinking less than we need undermines all of those things.

If water is not your favorite beverage, try infusing it with lemon, mint, cucumber, or a handful of fresh berries to make it tastier. The fact is you should have a large pitcher or water bottle at your elbow all day long and keep refilling your glass to be drinking all day long.
To make sure you're drinking the right amount, Nicole Osinga RD, who created The Beet's VegStart Diet recommends using this simple formula: Multiply your weight in pounds by two-thirds (or .67) and the number you get is the number of ounces of water to drink in a day. Meaning, if you weigh 140 pounds, you should drink 120 ounces of water every day, or about 12 to 15 glasses of water per day.

3. Add more vegetables to your breakfast, with avocado toast or a smoothie

One way to get started on clean eating is to start the day by skipping the sugary cereal, the carb-filled bagel or the added-sugar granola bar and instead focus on how to get more healthy whole foods into your diet, early in the day. This helps keep blood sugar low and stoke the metabolism to start fueling up in a way that will energize you and keep you feeling full longer.

One simple way is to try a small slice of avocado toast on whole wheat bread, with fresh avocado slices or homemade guacamole. The research on avocado is impressive since it shows that people who eat an avocado a day have smaller waists and lose weight more easily, due to the fact that avocado is full of healthy natural fat, plus fiber and protein, all of which turn on the body's satiety cues and stave off hunger for six hours after eating it.

The other way to get vegetables in the morning and up your fiber intake is by adding kale, celery or spinach to your morning smoothie along with fresh berries, almond milk, or nut butter such as almond or peanut butter for clean plant-based protein. A 2019 review published in Frontiers in Nutrition states that because fruit is so high in fiber, it is helpful in promoting weight maintenance or weight loss over a 3 to 24 week period. It’s also been shown that whole fruit intake could decrease your calorie intake, especially when it’s consumed before a meal or when eaten in place of other high-calorie foods.

Adding smoothies to your day instead of a meal or snack is also associated with healthy weight loss and immunity because the body's gut microbiome gets shifted from unhealthy bacteria to healthy bacteria when you add more fruit and vegetables to your diet. But smoothies add up so keep your smoothie as a snack to 300 calories or fewer and your smoothie as a replacement for a meal to 500 calories or fewer for best results.

If you prefer juicing, try that instead since, in a small study of participants who tried a 3-day juice-cleanse, the microbiome was still improved even two weeks after the cleanse ended, suggesting that these minor changes have an impact for days after you start your clean eating approach. The study, published in Food Science and Biotechnologyfound that participants drinking fruit and vegetable juice for three weeks had a significant improvement in their gut microbiota 17 days after their cleanse, which helped improve weight loss, digestive issues, energy, and the appearance of their skin, as reported by the study subjects.

If you need to get back on track, here's how to course correct and eat clean

The best way to bounce back after overdoing it is to simply add a salad. A recent 2021 study published in the Recent Patents on Food, Nutrition & Agriculture found that the fiber content from salad vegetables was beneficial in keeping glucose rates from skyrocketing after meals. The researchers tested red oak leaf lettuce, red coral lettuce, green oak lettuce, butterhead lettuce, and romaine. The fiber content of these lettuces inhibited specific enzymes that are important in breaking down carbohydrates so the overall glucose absorption is reduced, which in turn keeps blood sugar low.

Just adding a salad to your meal, even if you eat a full-fat lunch or dinner, helps to keep blood sugar more stable than if you ate a big meal and skipped the side of greens. So if you end up overindulging one of these days, simply get back on track by eating a salad to help regulate blood sugar and damp down insulin response, then get back to your clean eating approach.

For more ways to start your clean eating approach to summer, try the free 2 Week Clean Eating Plan from The Beet with 5 recipes a day and helpful tips, motivation, and expert advice as to how to do it. And sign up for the free Smoothie of the Day Recipe Newsletter to get a new idea for a healthy, immune-boosting smoothie in your inbox every morning for 14 days.

The 13 Best Foods to Boost Your Immune System to Fight Off COVID-19 Symptoms

Here are the best foods to eat on repeat, to boost immunity and fight inflammation. And stay off the red meat.

More From The Beet