Many people now opt to eat organic, unprocessed, natural and “clean” diets due to growing evidence that over processed, unnatural foods are dangerous. The good news is that wild food foraging is a very natural way of living that’s ideal for eating nutritious and clean foods.
But what exactly is eating clean?
Essentially, “clean eating” is about making better choices in your diet — and eating healthier and nutritious alternatives in each food group. Some of these foods include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy proteins, and healthy fats, which boost your immune system, reduce cancer risk, and increase your quality of life. You can also live a longer life by eating these foods.
The flip side of this is that you should avoid ultra-processed foods, such as packaged snacks, sodas, sweetened cereals, and ready-to-eat frozen meals.
If you’re incorporating edible wild vegetables, grains, fruits, and mushrooms into your meals, you’re already on your way to eating clean. Likewise, wild-caught salmon and buffalo are healthful additions to an Eat Clean diet.
Is that really all? Aren’t there more restrictions?
Some clean-eating meal plans can be quite restrictive — and might ask that you give up dairy, grains, and caffeine. However, we at Wild Food West don’t believe in excessive restrictions. Taking care of your health shouldn’t feel like work and your diet shouldn’t be so restricting that it isolates you from your loved ones and new friends.
Moreover, Eat Clean diets with unusual restrictions are usually designed to help people lose weight or manage certain health ailments, like epilepsy and gluten intolerance.
Basically, find a way to eat that works for you and your wild food foraging lifestyle. Natural and organic foods from the store or farmer’s market can be a good addition to the wild foods you’ve foraged. And, on occasion, consuming “dirty” processed foods might not be too bad.
Be flexible and make small changes… and you’ll see your health improve.
Understanding Eat Clean Diets and Wild Foods
Now, what are wild foods that fit eating clean and healthy?
First, to be clear, wild foods include edible plants, fungi, and animals harvested from their natural environment.
While you may find some crops and animals on modern farms, you will find the wild versions to be more nutritious and healthy. For instance, wild plants have more beneficial phytonutrients and wild animals have leaner meat (with less saturated fat).
Here are some wild foods that are compatible with eating clean.
Wild Blueberries (and other Wild Berries)
Wild blueberries have superior levels of antioxidants and 8 times more manganese than cultivate blueberries. This is great for healthy cell regeneration and blood sugar regulation. There seems to be also evidence that drinking wild blueberry juice helps regulate the gut microbiome (with more Bifidobacterium spp.) because of the rich polyphenol and fiber content.
Whether you juice or consume them, add wild blueberries (and other wild berries) into your clean-eating diet.
Wild salmon generally contain more health benefits than farmed salmon. But, due to rapid growth in human population, aquaculture farms are likely to supply around 60% of salmon sold in stores by 2030.
The calcium and iron content of wild-caught salmon is three times higher than that of farmed salmon. Wild-caught salmon is also 3 times leaner, containing less fat. The interesting thing about wild salmon is that it contains a higher ratio of beneficial omega-3 fats than farmed salmon, and contains fewer contaminants. What’s more — farm salmon are fed antibiotics that can disrupt your gut microbiome and cause issues.
As such, opt for wild salmon to enhance your cognitive abilities and gain other health benefits.
In North America, wild rice, a plant that grows in water, was among the first foods eaten by people. It was harvested by hand and canoe from a long stretch of prairie grass in the Great Plains of Minnesota.
True wild rice grown and gathered in the wild has a brighter color and cooks faster than wild rice grown in a field. But about 85% of the “wild” rice sold today is grown on a farm. So, your best chance of finding “real” wild rice is to search online. Whether it grows in the wild or in a field, wild rice is a great source of fiber, protein, niacin, magnesium, zinc, and manganese.
You can meet your daily potassium needs by eating one cup of wild plums daily since wild plums have twice as much potassium as regular plums. Also, wild plums give you 40% of your daily vitamin A needs, which is almost 10 times as much as you get from regular plums.
The summer season is an excellent time to pick wild plums. And they can be eaten fresh or made into jams or jellies.
Wild Mushrooms & Fungi
Wild mushrooms are often eaten for their flavor and health properties. They contain 29% of your daily calcium needs, 116% of your daily iron needs (which carry oxygen to all parts of your body), and 46% of your recommended zinc intake, according to a study published in Food Chemistry.
They are also a robust source of minerals (copper, zinc, and potassium), vitamins, potassium, dietary fiber, and carbohydrates, especially for vegan and vegetarians. Wild mushrooms appear to contain more phenols, which are linked to antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antitumor properties. They also contain less sugar.
Wild leeks (or ramps) contain iron and manganese, two minerals that can help control blood sugar levels. In spite of the fact that normal onions — too — have manganese, they don’t have a lot of iron.
Wild leeks can be used in place of chives in recipes. This wild plant is hard to find and tell apart, so it’s best to buy it from a trusted forager. Keep in mind that the Canadian province of Quebec also limits the harvesting of wild leeks.
Even more wild foods
It’s clear that many wild foods can be eaten. And most — beyond the examples above — are compatible to clean eating.
Wild food includes game animals like deer, elk, goose, and turkey in North America. Also, included are different fruits, vegetables, and fungi that grow wild in different terrain, climate, and conditions. Among these are berry bushes in the forest, mushrooms on rotten logs, cactus pads in the desert, and even edible weeds such as dandelion and sorrel that grow in an untended yard.
POCKET FIELD GUIDE SURVIVAL KIT
Take these weatherproof info cards when foraging in North America.
SMALL FORAGING BAG KIT
Comes with knives perfect for pruning and harvesting mushrooms, fruits, and vegetables.
Tips For Eating Clean with Wild Food
For inspiration, the tips below can help you mesh wild food with the “eat clean” philosophy.
Make sure you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables
Few people consume enough fruits and vegetables. According to the CDC, more than 75% of Americans fail to eat enough fruits and vegetables.
Eating enough fruits and vegetables reduces your risk of chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Moreover, the fiber is necessary for the good bacteria in your gut to thrive. Much of the gut issues can be linked to an imbalance of good gut bacteria.
So load up on both wild and store-bought organic vegetables and fruits. Include edible weeds in salads and soups.
Pick whole grains over refined grains
Go for grains that haven’t been processed. Think wild rice, brown rice, quinoa and oats.
You can also be a little flexible and eat whole-grain pasta and bread. If you’re going for store-bought grains, especially processed ones, read and understand the label. The ingredient list should be straightforward and short. Avoid processed grains with too much sugar and sodium.
If you’re foraging, wild rice, wild rye, barnyard grass, and lamb’s quarter are great options. The latter four can be turned into flour for baking. Just make sure you limit sugar and sodium to keep it clean!
Eat less red meat — eat more white meat or fish instead
Several studies have linked eating too much red meat to colorectal cancer, strokes, and heart disease. Red meats include beef, pork and lamb, while the wild variants include venison, buffalo, and boar.
The occasional consumption of red meat is alright provided that it’s unprocessed. It seems the fact that the meats are processed actually makes them unhealthy.
If you have to, opt for wild meats because they are free of antibiotics and have less saturated fat. Think wild buffalos and bison.
If you’re going for white meats — chicken, turkey, and fowl, in general, are considered white meat. As for seafood, wild-caught salmon, tuna and white fish are great healthy options with healthy fats.
Avoid eating ultra-processed foods
Research consistently shows that eating highly processed foods increases your risk of heart disease, causes a number of alarming health problems, and shortens your life. The culprits in such foods are additives and preservatives, including added sugar, sodium, hydrogenated oil and fat that are meant to enhance flavors and/or prolong their shelf life.
As mentioned in the beginning, some examples of ultra-processed foods include packaged snacks, sodas, sweetened cereals, and ready-to-eat frozen meals. Potato crisps, bacon, and dehydrated soup stocks are also included.
To be clear, simply baking bread or preparing your own soup stock is not a huge issue — without the preservatives, additives, and excessive sugar and sodium. Opt for whole grains and natural ingredients!
Preparing your own wild foraged foods and natural foods at the farmer’s market is amongst the best ways to reduce highly processed foods.
Weight Loss with Wild Food & Clean Eating
When eating clean natural and/or wild foods, you’re picking healthy options over unhealthy ones, often avoiding highly processed foods and cutting out unhealthy fat. This, in itself, helps you maintain your health and longevity. If you were overweight initially, the above can certainly help you lose weight as a side-effect.
You can, however, modify the diet to make it a Paleo diet to lose more weight.
Fully eliminate processed foods
Since highly processed foods are dense in calories and do not satisfy hunger, maintaining a calorie deficit that will help you lose weight is difficult. Taking them out of your diet can make it easier to keep a calorie deficit.
Eat fewer carbohydrates and grains
Low-carb diets have helped people lose weight while maintaining muscle mass. You’ll, of course, have to replace carbs with vegetables and protein.
Eat extra wild-sourced protein
Protein helps you lose weight by keeping you full for longer. It also helps you maintain muscle mass, which helps with burning fat. Because of this, you are less likely to overeat while still keeping your metabolism.
Load up on wild fruits and vegetables
As a result of its emphasis on healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, the wild foods diet can be helpful in losing weight. Fruits and vegetables are also low in calories, which makes them ideal for weight loss because they help maintain a calorie deficit.
When combined with a calorie deficit and other weight loss strategies, such as regular exercise, managing stress, and getting enough sleep — eating clean with wild foods can help you lose weight. But it would help if you talked to your doctor before you start any diet to lose weight.
The Bottom Line: Eat Wild & Eat Clean
Eating plants, fungi, and animals that grow naturally in the wild benefits your health — and is generally a cleaner diet. But that doesn’t mean you should avoid store-bought or farm-sourced natural foods. Be flexible and enjoy food with family and friends.
And if your goal is to lose weight, make some adjustments that can turn your diet into a more paleo-like diet.
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