The Clean 20: 20 Foods, 20 Days, Total Transformation  by Ian K. Smith, M.D. (St. Martin’s Press, 2018)


Dr. Ian K. Smith has written a delightful and easy to digest new book, The Clean 20: 20 Foods, 20 Days, Total Transformation. Unlike many diet books that are mired in technical language that become not only a bore but a chore to read, Smith’s writing style is not only user friendly, it is motivational in its simplicity. If you need a guide to help you learn how to incorporate healthy, nutritional foods into your lifestyle, Smith leads the way, not only defining the 20 best foods to include in your diet, but daily menus with simple and delicious recipes, exercise tips to keep your body intop condition, and other sensible tips that clarify why The Clean 20 is the right plan for you.

The first section of the book defines the term “clean eating,” which has become very popular in the world of nutritional education in the new millenium. Smith offers the premise that eating more natural, less-processed food, is not only good for one’s health but equally important for the environment. By decreasing the amount of processed foods that one consumes, avoiding added sugars and unnecessary additives to the food that one eats, Smith avers that not only can one improve his/her health, but enhance the  mind and general functioning as well.

Sign Up for E-News

The foods that Smith names in the first section of the Clean 20 are “super foods.” They consist of fruits, particularly berries, dairy, proteins, whole grains, nuts, and vegetables. Smith then details the specific benefits of the foods on the list, their nutritional value, the vitamins that they contain, and information about the best ways to incorporate those foods in delicious and satisfying meals.

For example, in discussing chicken as a healthy choice of protein, Smith states, “Chicken is arguably the most versatile of meats in how it can be prepared, served, and spiced. Roasting and frying (the unhealthiest cooking method and not to be done in the Clean 20 plan) are common preparations in the United States while in Spain, combining it with shellfish and rice creates the popular paella dish. Italians have perfected its preparation by sauteing it with mushrooms, tomatoes, and wine in their classic cacciatore.” (p.27)

Not only does Smith explain the value of eating the 20 foods on the plan, he also tells the reader how to shop for the best product available in the market. For instance, in selecting eggs, Smith recommends that in purchasing eggs, check the sell-by date on the carton and make sure that they have been refrigerated properly, examine the eggs to see that none are cracked, and purchase eggs graded “large” for use in recipes, which is the standard size used when recipes are tested. Once the eggs are in the home, they must be stored in the coldest part of the refrigerator to keep them fresh, not in the egg cups that some refrigerators have in the door.

Part II of The Clean 20 details how to integrate the plan into one’s life-style. Smith reiterates, “Remember, the purpose of the Clean 20 is to reintroduce your body to the wonders of clean eating and to give your organs a break from all the processed food that dominate the choices in our stores and restaurants.” (p.77) By using herbs and spices, the Clean 20 plan guarantees recipes that are flavorful and adventurous.

Smith also specifies foods to avoid such as soda, MSG, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, added sugar, white flour, store bought condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, and salsa. However, great recipes for those condiments are included in the recipe portion of the book.

The author then explains how the plan actually works, and gives day by day motivational tips and overall plans for daily food consumption. Smith details the importance of getting restful sleep, drinking plenty of water, eating plenty of fiber, and being open to trying new foods. Most of us fall into “eating habits,” and we avoid trying new foods. He advises, “Experiment with some of the recipes in the back of this book. When you visit your favorite restaurant, don’t order your favorite dish, but give something else a try.” (p142)

The final section of The Clean 20 offers recipes that can be used during the 20 day challenge to transform one’s lifestyle. The recipes are simple and offer a range of choices. For breakfast there is Berry Delight Smoothie, Baby Spinach Omelet, Egg and Turkey Casserole, and Energy Explosion Yogurt, as well as many others. Lunch includes Yummy Baked Tomatoes, Whole-Wheat Bruschetta, Chicken, Kale, and Sweet Potato Extravaganza, as well as a Juicy Chicken Burger. Dinner offerings vary between a range of chicken and fish with such choices as Lemon-Drizzled Grilled Chicken, Seared Herbed Sea Bass, and Deluxe Tuna Tartare.

The final section of Smith’s Clean 20 is a chapter on the importance of body movement and includes a few basic exercises to incorporate during the plan.

Although Smith has written the book to offer a 20 day plan for trying a new eating regimen, it seems that it is a plan that one could adapt to for life. The validity of keeping sugar free, avoiding processed flours, and eating more natural fruits and vegetables are the basics of any logical diet plan. The foods that Smith espouses, such as avocado and whole wheat pastas, are not only better for one’s body, they are great energy boosters as well.

The Clean 20 is Smith’s 15th book, so if you enjoy using this new plan, you can check Smith’s previous works, such as Shred and Blast the Sugar Out.