"Clean eating" - the idea of eating whole, real food as nature intended - has become all the rage these days thanks to celebrities including Oscar-winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow and food blogger Ella Woodward.

There doesn't seem a day goes by without the latest "superfood" or detox plan being hailed a miracle answer to life-long health and beauty.

Now a new book by Anthony Warner, scientist and author of The Angry Chef blog, says we've swallowed too many diet myths in our quest to be healthier, reports the Daily Mail.

He mocks Paltrow's Goop blog as a "dystopian world where Gwyneth Paltrow has been put in charge of science".


"Never before have we had so much information available to us about food and health," he writes.

British chef Anthony Warner has criticised clean eating gurus such as Gwyneth Paltrow. Photo / Getty
British chef Anthony Warner has criticised clean eating gurus such as Gwyneth Paltrow. Photo / Getty

"There's GAPS, paleo, detox, gluten-free, alkaline, the sugar conspiracy, clean eating... Unfortunately, a lot of it is not only wrong but actually harmful.

"So why do so many of us believe this bad science?"

And so, calling on the expert opinion of a team of food scientists, dietitians and psychiatrists, the professional chef has hit out at why sensible, intelligent people are so easily taken in by the latest fads.

His overarching point is this: We'd rather go on a radical juice cleanse or a diet consisting of just baby food than make small, permanent improvements to our diets and lifestyles - which is really what we should be focusing on.

In his book The Angry Chef: Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating, food blogger, who has a degree in biochemistry, busts a number of myths...

Myth 1: Foods can detox us

"In terms of our biology, it makes absolutely no sense at all, it has no basis in fact and there is virtually no evidence that its effects are real," says Warner.

He describes the notion of the detox diet as "one of the biggest cons being sold to modern society".

Firstly, it is a fallacy that modern life constantly exposes us to unprecedented levels of dangerous toxins, he argues.

"It is true that the human body is exposed to literally millions of different chemicals every single day," he writes. "But everything is made of chemicals.

"There is a tendency for detox advocates to separate these chemicals into good and bad categories, particularly along the lines of natural = good and unnatural = bad.

"Water, a commonly ingested chemical, will kill you if you consume enough of it. And botulism toxin is an entirely natural substance, yet one of the most poisonous that we know of.

"There is quite simply no evidence that our bodies are subject to an unprecedented onslaught of toxins.

"In fact, we are healthier than we have ever been: we live longer, contract fewer diseases and have a food and water supply with lower levels of dangerous contamination than at any point in human history."

Secondly, our livers and kidneys remove toxins quite effectively on their own.

"Our livers and kidneys evolved specially for this process, and unless you have a fairly fundamental problem with them, they will never need any help.

"Similarly, our skin, lungs and digestive systems all play a role in eliminating toxins from our body. Even if some toxins did remain, there is very little evidence that any food would help get rid of them."

Myth 2: All processed foods are bad for us

Warner says that demonising processed and manufactured food products is oversimplified and flawed.

Obviously we should make sure we limit junk food and eat a balanced diet. But the clean-eating fad goes way too far, he argues.

"We are attempting to classify foods as good and bad, and in doing so we are damaging our relationship with what we eat," she says.

He point out that foods such as pulses, beans, lentils, quinoa, rice, flour,milk, yogurt and olive oil are all processed in some way - yet form part of a healthy, balanced diet.

"We would have to spend our time pressing oils, grinding flours, desperately drying and preserving ingredients in order to sustain a balanced diet.

"Cutting is a process, cooking is a process. Heating, chilling, drying and pickling are all processes."

Warner also points out that a glass of water from the tap is processed.

He asks us to consider tinned tomatoes. Most manufacturers add a chemical additive - an acidity regulator, namely 2-hydroxypropane-1,2,3-tricarboxylic acid.

"They are processed by heating in order to destroy microbes that would contaminate and spoil them.

"This extends their life. The preservation of tomatoes enables them to be stored and shipped around the world and consumed out of season by people who would otherwise not be able to enjoy them.

"They are packed full of micronutrients, contain only a low level of naturally occurring sugar, are fat free and, more importantly, completely delicious.

"In creating arbitrary rules around food, based on the story of its creation, we are moralising about food choices. The moment we do that, we risk shame, alienation and damage."

Myth 3: Gluten free food is automatically healthier

Warner does not mince his words when it comes to the gluten-free lifestyle which has become one of the most popular diet trends.

He is keen to point out that genuine coeliac disease "is a horrible, nasty autoimmune condition where the presence of even tiny amounts of gluten in food can cause huge harm to the health of sufferers."

But there is a danger are those who see it as "a fun new lifestyle accessory that they should try".

He argues cutting out gluten means cutting out half of your diet - a potentially dangerously restrictive approach when undertaken with little understanding and no professional help.

"Wheat is a valuable and healthful source of nutrition that forms an important part of many people's diets," he explains.

"Although people often talk about ditching bread because it is 'full of carbs', it has the highest protein content of any staple food apart from soy and is a significant contributor of fibre and B vitamins."

And just because options are gluten-free does not mean they can be eaten with impunity, he warned.

"There are plenty of nutritionally poor gluten-free options out there. often higher in fat and sugar than their gluten equivalents."

And he says that when it comes to any diet - Atkins, Paleo or gluten free - any diet that creates rules and restrictions will result in weight loss - but it doesn't mean it is healthy.

Myth 4: Coconut oil has magical weight loss properties

Warner says coconut oil - the fat of choice for almost every single new-age health guru- is "the most unlikely superfood of all".

Madonna and Miranda Kerr say that they eat spoonfuls of it as a health supplement and Jennifer Aniston uses it for weight loss.

Other claims being made for this once-vilified fat include anti-bacterial, anti-carcinogenic, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties.

"The fat in coconut oil is around 90 per cent saturated, something that has been strongly linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular health problems," says Warner.

"There is good evidence from systematic reviews that high levels of saturated fat in people's diets increase their risk of heart disease.

"In general, sensible dietary advice around the world focuses on reducing the level of saturated fat in the diet and switching to unsaturated fats.

"In short, coconut oil should definitely not be taken as a weight-loss supplement."