How Shailene Woodley Got Into Eating Clay

Have you ever eaten clay? Have you ever considered eating clay? It might sound absurd, but it's a real thing, and Shailene Woodley has done it.

"For example," Woodley told Into the Gloss while giving an example of how her study into the lives of indigenous people inform either her work with medicinal foods or beauty products, "clay is one of the best things you can put in your body." 

Fortunately for those nonplussed, she expounded on how she discovered this. While talking to a taxi driver, she asked him where he was from. He had emigrated from Africa and proceeded to tell her how the pregnant women in his country consume clay for reasons unspecified. According to Woodley, the consumption of clay is good because your body does not absorb it and because it cleans heavy metals out of you.

Although this is a condensed summary of what she says, the missing words do not give substance to what Woodley is talking about. In fact, the vagueness of why Woodley believes clay is a marvelous supplement seems to betray a surface-deep understanding of the unspecified culture from which she has drawn inspiration.

The nuggets of truth

The immediate question most may have after reading the interview is, "What?" Following that, one might wonder whether there is any truth to this.

Yes, the BBC reports in response to the confusion caused by this interview, it is common for people in Africa and the Middle East to engage in geophagy, the eating of dirt. However, this is mostly because they suffer a deficiency in zinc, which Woodley almost certainly did not, and sometimes when a pregnant women lacks minerals, she craves dirt. Similarly, kaolin, which is a medicine made from white clay, treats diarrhea. Woodley could suffer from such an inconvenience, but hopefully not enough to resort to a clay-based diet. "Often with health fads there's a tiny element of truth," Rick Wilson, director of nutrition and dietetics at King's College Hospital, told the BBC. "Then it's blown all out of proportion and a trend starts."

To be balanced, The Georgia Encyclopedia states that many do eat chalk because they like the taste or because they crave it. However, it continues on to say that despite their cravings, women should not eat white chalk as it can cause constipation, make them develop signs of anemia, and lead them to become generally malnourished as they have filled their stomachs with a substance they cannot digest. Other related worries are that clay could contain arsenic, though to be fair to Woodley, she did tell Into the Gloss that one had to source their clay carefully. Still, you probably shouldn't imitate.