By Megan Moore, RD, LD, CDE
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
Ah, yes, and this just so happens to be the season for Spring Cleaning!
But what about the kitchen? How is it that canned goods and condiments seem to multiply and hide in the back corner of the pantry? And when was the last time you cleaned out your spice cabinet?
Spring is a great time to clean out your pantry and refrigerator -- throw out the old and restock with some new superbly healthy foods.
In addition to getting organized, there are health benefits to spring-cleaning your food stock.
There are certain foods that are deplete of any real nutritional value whatsoever, and then there are certain foods that are nutritional powerhouses! Obviously, we want the latter to be front and center for disease prevention and optimal health.
Toss it Out
The first step to cleaning out the kitchen is to go through each shelf of the pantry and fridge and toss anything outdated into the trash.
Next, with good nutrition in mind, decide what is not helping you reach your health goals and either trash it, donate it to a local food pantry, or place it in one single inconspicuous cabinet or drawer labeled “red light foods.”
Specifically, look for foods high in added sugars, foods with hydrogenated oils or trans-fats, highly processed foods, and foods with high sodium content. These foods should be limited, and only eaten occasionally and in small quantities. Discard or hide them away—out of sight, out of mind!
Now is the time to replenish your kitchen with high-quality, nutrient-dense whole foods, which have been proven repeatedly to help prevent and treat disease! Here are some fabulous choices to keep in stock, and place front and center.
- Leafy green vegetables. Spinach, kale, collard greens, and various lettuces are excellent sources of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and powerful cancer-fighting phytochemicals.
- Berries. Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are high in fiber (which keeps our colon happy), and bursting with wonderful antioxidants.
- Nuts. Raw, unsalted nuts are a good source of protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. Studies have shown that eating ¼ cup of nuts per day can lower your risk for heart disease.
- Beans. Beans, peas, and lentils are an excellent plant-based protein source, as well as a first-rate source of fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium, and iron. Studies have shown that diabetics who eat beans on a daily basis have better blood sugar control and lower HbA1c levels, as well as a reduced coronary heart disease risk score.
- Apples. Apples are one of the most popular fruits for good reason! They are rich in fiber, vitamin C, and important anti-inflammatory compounds. For the most nutrition, leave the skin on.
- Oats. With more than 13 various vitamins and minerals, fiber, and protein, oats are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat! Studies have shown that eating oats regularly can help lower both total and LDL cholesterol levels. 
- Turmeric. One of the main ingredients in curry powder, turmeric is well known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Thanks to the active ingredient, curcumin, turmeric has been shown to alleviate aches and pains associated with arthritis.  It is best to use it as a natural seasoning in cooking versus taking a supplemental pill, as high doses are not recommended.
- Flaxseeds. Research indicates that flaxseeds may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer due to its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, lignans, and fiber. Eating ground flaxseed daily may also help improve your cholesterol levels. 
- Beets. Beat high blood pressure with beets! Beets contain two important nutrients that can help lower blood pressure: potassium and nitrates. Potassium helps flush sodium out of the blood, while nitrates help relax the blood vessels.
- Broccoli. Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale, have potent phytochemicals that may help prevent certain types of cancer.
Not that these are all of the healthy foods that exist; there are hundreds more! Praise God for His creativity!
These tips can help you keep your pantry clean, add flavor to your recipes, and keep you lean. Have fun spring cleaning and restocking with all of your favorite nutritious foods in this fresh, new season.