The #cleaneating movement is bringing a whole new generation into the nation’s natural health stores. Matt Chittock discovers how to tap into this category-defining trend
Over the last few years the face of healthy eating has been changed forever. Whereas once the image of the slimming and detox category might have been a stern schoolteacher telling consumers to cut their calories – today it’s the young, clued-up, gym-going, Instagram-friendly type who’s into #cleaneating and #greenjuicing.
This new grassroots clean eating movement has brought a millennial generation into local health stores and they are more than willing to pay a bit extra for healthy products that can help them detox. For instance, the Nielsen Global Health and Wellness survey of 30,000 millennial consumers in 60 countries found that 32% were happy to splash out on a “healthy premium”.
Plus, these switched-on shoppers also understand that slimming and detox is about more than counting calories and avoiding fat – and now encompasses everything from fashionable juice detoxes to free-from food, the 5:2 regime and the controversial FODMAP diet.
More than a fad
“These health trends are encouraging many more people to think about their lives from a different perspective and to place a
higher value on health and wellbeing,” says Katie Clare, Lecturer at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition. “I think this is evolution rather than just a trend.”
So, where should a good detox start? In a world of websites continually pinpointing new healthy eating techniques, it pays to hold on to the basics – like the fact that detox isn’t necessarily an artificial stricture that’s imposed upon the body from outside. In reality it’s something that you’re doing while you read this feature.
“Your body does its own detox all the time,” explains Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist at Superfooduk.com.
“Every single thing that travels in your bloodstream is filtered by your liver – this includes toxins from your food, skincare products, pollutants from the air, cigarettes, sugar and chemicals such as alcohol and caffeine. This is our own built-in detox system.
“The problems arise when the liver is overworked due to being overloaded by too many toxins. It can sometimes fail to keep up the demands placed on it. You can then experience symptoms such as poor skin condition, hormone disruption, tiredness, a low immune system and just not feeling fit and healthy.”
“Just as we want to keep our cardiovascular system in good health or our skin in good condition we also want to keep our detoxification processes functioning optimally,” adds Clare.
“This has become increasingly important over the last century as we are now exposed to many more different industrial chemicals than we ever were before. These are in our food, hygiene and cleaning products and in the air.”
A healthy detox
With all this in mind, a healthy detox becomes about maintaining a cleaner way of life rather than emitting toxins in one swift ‘purge’. Or, as Clare puts it: “Supporting detoxification isn’t just something to think about on a Sunday morning if you have a hangover. It is something to consider as part of an ongoing healthy lifestyle.”
Shoppers experimenting with this more holistic approach can access different products within the clean eating trend to support their choices, whether that’s loading up on vitamin D to boost the immune system or adding flax seeds to a morning smoothie. Consumers are also coming to understand that, as detoxing becomes a more long-term lifestyle choice, it is as much about incorporating healthy foods as excluding unhealthy ones.
The food factor
It’s no surprise that food is right at the heart of the detox process. Aiming for seven portions of fruit and veg a day is now common advice, as is encouraging consumers to ask exactly where their food is coming from and insisting on organic produce. Wilkinson adds that food-wise, maintaining a good protein intake is a healthy way of feeling fuller for longer (hence the rise of added-protein foods) – and naturally, shoppers’ sugar and caffeine intake should be seriously cut down.
“We always start with foods,” says Clare. “If somebody is looking to support their body’s detoxification pathways then we would advise that they increase their intake of antioxidant-rich foods, with lots of bright-coloured vegetables and fruits. In particular we would want to see cruciferous vegetables on the menu. Also, can they increase the amount of organic food in their diets? We would want to see good quality proteins and fats too.”
Herbs and supplements can play a useful part in detox as well, although the exact mix may differ depending on each customer’s individual needs. In detox, milk thistle is a particularly popular health store stalwart which enjoys a serious uplift when shoppers want to cleanse their livers
after Christmas and New Year celebrations.
“If you suffer from a sweet tooth try taking chromium,” says Wilkinson. “Chromium will help balance your blood sugar levels which will reduce your cravings for sweet things. Konjac fibre is another choice that can be added to any food. It expands in the stomach so helps you feel full and prevents overeating.”
Despite the wealth of products available, to get the most from the slimming and detox category retailers need to be responsible. After all, there’s a widely recognized darker side to detox: with elimination diets occasionally acting as a cover for eating disorders. There’s even a recognized disorder – orthorexia nervosa – in which sufferers develop an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating.
This means prioritizing education – for both the customer and the retailer. “It’s good for retailers to understand the bodily processes behind the trends in as much depth as possible,” says Clare. “Many health stores and pharmacists have resident registered nutritional therapists available on the shop floor on certain days of the week. They are able to answer queries in more depth and give helpful advice.”
She adds that customers presenting alarming symptoms should always seek medical advice and that nutritional therapy and complementary practices are not a substitute for medical care. However, this doesn’t mean that complementary therapists shouldn’t get involved in a customer’s weight-loss or detox efforts.
“It is much more helpful to be able to go to a complementary practitioner armed with the information that a doctor has provided,” she says. “We all need to work in an integrated way.”
Superfoods show no signs of going out of style. In fact, deciding which products will be big with the
detox set in January (cauliflower, aubergine and, er, black pudding have all been mooted) is virtually a national sport for both broadsheets and fashion mags alike.
It’s a category in which there is plenty of innovation too, as manufacturers work hard on recipes and formats to fit into health-conscious consumers’ busy lifestyles. Take OMNI Superfood, a raw, 100% organic and vegan range of superfood powders designed to add extra vitality to shoppers’ detox diets.
“I tried vegetarianism, veganism and raw food diets, and realized that each diet needs different extras in terms of nutrition,” explains the brand’s founder, Ondrej Matej.
“After a bit of research I started experimenting with individual superfoods having seven to ten jars with different ingredients.
“One day I figured, why don’t I save time and combine the most potent and powerful superfoods into one powder? So I experimented with the taste and came up with a formula that was tasty and powerful. And that was how OMNI Superfood was born.”
“One of the ingredients in OMNI Superfood is raw cacao which is very high in antioxidants, thus very helpful in body detox,” adds Matej.
A shop with a view
Katie Tume from Infinity Foods in Brighton says that although it’s hard to generalize (they get all ages in the store), the customers that come in and specifically ask for advice on a detox tend to be women in their twenties or early thirties.
“Maybe that’s because older people are more clued-up about general health. Or, more realistically, it might be that young people want a health solution that works quickly for them.
“It’s a category that’s very seasonal – we don’t necessarily get enquiries all year round. It tends to be at key times like Christmas, or the start of winter, when people come in and ask for advice on products to help them detox.
“It has to be said that we definitely shy away from advising on, or selling, products which offer ‘quick fixes’ or advertise themselves as ‘one-hit wonders’. We’re a big wholefoods shop, so we’re more interested that people do their own research and look at detox as being about a good healthy lifestyle rather than stocking or pushing ‘miracle cures’ or products making crazy claims.
“In the store we have a large range of Pukka supplements and also its Organic Aloe Vera Juice. In particular we sell a lot of green powders. So we sell Dr Schulze’s SuperFood Plus and Inspiral’s range too – anything that you can put in a smoothie. It’s interesting that those powders are one of the few things in the store that actually have the word ‘detox’ on the label!”
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Lose your Belly!
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