We all know that eating clean has tremendous positive effects on our well-being. From your body’s physical state, to the physiological aspects that affect its function, to mental health – putting whole, unprocessed foods into your body help fuel it to perform at its highest level.
The JERF (Just Eat Real Foods) movement has swept the health food nation, and from Keto to Paleo to Whole 30 followers, everyone agrees that real food is the key to success.
So with that, here are 11 clean-eating foods to keep on hand (and why they’re important).
These pantry staples are not only good for you but also commonly used in clean-eating recipes. Keeping these foods stocked in your kitchen will help ensure that each time you begin to prepare a meal, you’re equipped with the best food to fuel your body and mind.
They don’t call it the incredible, edible egg for nothing. One egg packs in 7 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat, in addition to vitamins and minerals needed for increased body function (1). The method used to raise the chicken that laid the egg impacts the nutritional value, so sticking with pasture-raised or free-range eggs ensures the birds got the natural, hormone-free diet they were intended by nature to follow – thus ensuring the egg’s chemical makeup is a nutrition-packed as possible.
Butter, though high in fat and demonized by the health industry for ages, is a real food. During the 1960’s and 70’s, margarine manufacturers marketed the butter replacement as a healthy alternative, without providing the science to back up their false claims (2). A food that has been around for thousands of years, butter comes from the cream from milk, and when your milk is from grass-fed cows, the resulting butter is full of nutrition that can provide a boost to your body. With selenium, iodine, and vitamin A, (not to mention essential fatty-acids) your body pulls nutrients from this fat-packed food that can benefit your heart health, hormone balance, and vision. Plus, it’s just down-right delicious.
Ground beef gets a bad rap in the clean eating world. Because it is “processed” by grinding prior to sale, it’s clout as a real food has taken a hit. Rich in iron and loaded with antioxidants, beef helps keep your blood sugar in check and your muscles working properly (3). By choosing a lean blend (80-20 or better), you’re ensuring you’re not over-indulging on animal fat and getting as much protein from the beef as possible. Choosing beef that is 100% grass-fed and finished is also key – science proves that pasture-based beef has a healthier fatty acid composition, more conjugated linoleic acid, and higher amounts of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals (4).
The list of benefits from eating onions is lengthy and impressive. From helping to strengthen your immune system to detoxifying properties to hair growth and even anti-aging (5), onions are a versatile food that help add tons of flavor to your cooking without having to break out the salt shaker or sugar bowl. With tons of varieties and flavor profiles ranging from bold and spicy to mild and sweet, onions are a must-have in every pantry.
We all know that green foods are good foods, and celery tends an unsung hero in our kale-obsessed world. Celery is proven to reduce inflammation (a huge issue in autoimmune disease), regulate your body’s alkaline balance, and soothe your nervous system (6). High in magnesium, fiber, and even “good” salt (yes – celery is a source of natural sodium!) celery maintains its health benefits even after being cooked.
We’re not talking about store-bought bullion cubes or engineered cartons of chicken-flavored water. We’re talking about real broth – the kind that is boiled out of meat and fat and bones. When you buy whole chickens, don’t discard the carcass before you boil out all the goodness it has to offer (not even the feet!). Good broth takes on a gelatinous form when cooled due to the gelatin cooked out of the bones, and that gelatin aids your body as it works against a myriad of diseases including digestive issues, diabetes, and even cancer (7). In addition, broth is full of vitamins and minerals – including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, and sulfur – and contains broken down materials from cartilage and tendons that are sought out in supplement form to treat joint pain and arthritis (8). You can amp up your broth by adding whole foods as you boil it (like the onions and celery we already mentioned) adding to both the flavor and the health benefits of your stock. (There’s a lot more to be said about good broth and you can check out this article by Weston A. Price for a more in-depth read.)
Known for their benefits related to eyesight, carrots are a great source of fiber, vitamin K, and potassium. They also contain high levels of beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A, promoting growth, development, and immune function. Studies prove that carrots are key in the prevention of certain types of cancer, regulation of cholesterol, and the prevention of cardiovascular disease (9), and as one of the most widely-used root vegetables in the world, carrots are another versatile flavor-booster you can’t go wrong with.
Another nutrient-packed root vegetable, the beet provides a little bit of almost every vitamin and mineral your body needs. Beets contain a high concentration of nitrates, which work to dilate blood vessels (vasodilation) and lower blood pressure (10). These nitrates can also help maximize athletic performance – improved vasodilation increases oxygen use in the body, allowing you to have more energy and better stamina during your CrossFit workout.
If you’re looking for a whole flavor boost, look no further than this little wonder. Fresh garlic is another food that has been proven to increase cardiovascular health and has been used medicinally for thousands of years by the Chinese, Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans. It can boost your immune system, treat the common cold, fight fat cells, and possibly even impact certain kinds of cancer (11).
Chicken (with lots of spices)
A lean meat loaded with proteins, chicken has to be one of the most versatile foods on the market. It can be grilled, broiled, baked, made into soup, ground, stuffed – the possibilities are endless. Armed with a boatload of natural spices, you can incorporate chicken into dishes from any part of the world. Ensure that you eat only growth-hormone-free and antibiotic-free chicken, and, even better, make an extra effort to seek out cage-free, pasture-raised chicken (and any other meat for that matter.) Chicken is high in selenium (a cancer fighter), vitamin B6 (which helps with the production of insulin) and B3 (to lower cholesterol and help convert carbs to energy) (12).
Lard, or pig fat, is one of the lowest saturated fat animal fats you can use in your cooking. Having been replaced by its hydrogenated vegetable-fat counterpart, Crisco, in the early 1900s, lard is just starting to become more commonly used due to its lower levels of omega-6 fatty acids (that promote inflammation) and low smoking point, meaning less of the oil is absorbed into the food you cook (13). Even more impressive? Lard from pasture-raised hogs is the second highest source of vitamin D you can get in food form next to cod-liver oil (14). Vitamin D is essential for prime hormone function, bone strength, and overall health.
The old adage, “you are what you eat” rings true. If you fill and fuel your body with clean, whole foods packed with the nutrients your body needs to thrive, you’ll feel better and maybe even live longer. Use this list the next time you head to your food supplier to ensure you’re filling your pantry and fridge with the foods you will benefit from most.
- – https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/ingredient-focus-eggs
- – https://bodyecology.com/articles/benefits_of_real_butter.php
- – https://www.mensjournal.com/food-drink/ways-to-eat-lean-ground-beef/1-the-classic-burger/
- – https://chriskresser.com/why-grass-fed-trumps-grain-fed/
- – https://www.naturalfoodseries.com/13-benefits-onion/
- – https://www.care2.com/greenliving/11-super-health-benefits-in-just-1-celery-stalk.html
- – https://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/health-benefits-of-chicken-broth
- – https://www.westonaprice.org/health-topics/food-features/broth-is-beautiful/
- – https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/carrots.html
- – https://chriskresser.com/6-ways-to-lower-blood-pressure-by-changing-your-diet/
- – https://www.selfhacked.com/blog/garlic-health-benefits/
- – https://www.livestrong.com/article/294298-chicken-drumstick-nutritional-values/
- – https://www.drweil.com/diet-nutrition/nutrition/is-lard-healthy/
- – https://empoweredsustenance.com/lard-is-healthy/