Healthy Ingredients You Should Always Have In Your Kitchen
The healthy cooking and eating campaign is well underway, and if you’re not on board yet, then you’re missing out on all the benefits a healthy diet and lifestyle has to offer. If you have already decided to start eating more whole foods and less processed meals, then good on you! A nutrient-rich eating habit should always start in your kitchen, and it means stocking up your pantry and refrigerator with only the right ingredients you need to prepare your meals.
Granted, you don’t want to eat the same meals every day – and you shouldn’t. But certain ingredients are always a must in your health-focused kitchen, regardless of your menu.
But if you’re still new to this health and cooking resolution, you might be wondering where to start. What ingredients or foods should you always have in your kitchen to make the best meals? This article should set you off with the right options.
If you need a go-to option for your favorite fried meals, you need something other than the usual vegetable cooking oil. You can use olive oil for all your sauteing projects, as well as for your frying, roasting, and even salad dressings. You should find regular, refined, and extra virgin olive oil options on the market, but your best bet is to have both options in your kitchen for different cooking projects.
For example, if you are preparing a meal that requires higher heat, like searing some fish, you will find regular olive oil a better option, as it usually has a higher smoke point. On the other hand, if you need some oil for something that requires less or no heat, virgin olive oil should be a better option, as it offers more flavor.
So what makes olive oil a good option? The primary fat type it contains is monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which help to lower cholesterol and minimize the risk of heart-related issues. Some research also suggests that MUFAs can also be beneficial for insulin levels and blood sugar control. And this is important for those with type 2 diabetes.
If you don’t have a crate or carton of eggs in your refrigerator right now, then it’s time to do some shopping. Eggs are so essential to any kitchen that it should be a crime not to have them unless out of choice, preference, or medical reasons. Aside from their nutritional value, eggs offer one of the most versatile ingredients, as you can use them to prepare so many varieties of dishes. From a quick breakfast to a hearty dinner, you can add eggs to transform several meals – whether you boil or fry them.
In terms of nutritional value, one egg offers you 6 grams of protein as well as vitamins B12 and D. It also contains choline, which is very important for pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant, as it plays a huge role in fetal brain development. Plus, it can also help prevent some neural tube defects.
Garlic and onions
Not many people are a fan of garlic, mainly because of the strong smell it leaves behind. But when it comes to adding flavor, taste, and nutrition, you can’t go wrong with this ingredient. Even that pungent smell that so many people tend to dislike results from a sulfur compound called allicin. And even this has potential effects on blood pressure and the health of your blood vessels, in general. If you want to enjoy the full health benefits of allicin, it’s best you crush, chop, or slice your garlic and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes before using it.
Another member of the gloves family is onion. Onions may lack that pungent smell in garlic, but they sure can make you cry. Plus, they can add flavor to almost any dish, from your salads to your sauces. Onions are rich in antioxidants, which play a huge role in protecting the cells in your body and reducing your risk of developing certain chronic diseases.
Fresh or canned tomatoes
For most people, pasta is the first thing they think about when they see canned tomatoes. And this is unfair to the versatility this ingredient offers, as you can use canned tomatoes for so many dishes, including sauces, stews, and soups. Fresh tomatoes are also a must-have ingredient in any kitchen. Tomatoes are the major dietary source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been proven to offer several health benefits lowering your risk of cancer and some heart-related issues. They are also an excellent source of vitamins C and K, as well as folate and potassium.
One of the main problems most people have with fresh tomatoes is their short shelf life. You can expect fresh tomatoes to last about a week on the shelf and two weeks when refrigerated. If you want to extend the shelf life of your tomatoes, there’s one thing you can try. Keep them on the shelf and wait until they ripen fully before storing them in your refrigerator.
Herbs and spices
Although herbs and spices have been a part of various homes for centuries, they’re beginning to take on new roles in the modern kitchen and food preparation. These days, not only do people use them to enrich the flavor in the meals, but they also help add color and variety to meals. You can also use certain spices or combinations of herbs and spices to reduce sugar and salt contents in some foods.
The good thing is that you don’t need any herbs or spices in your kitchen. Just keep an essential collection, and you’re more than good to go. Some herbs and spices worth having in your kitchen include black peppercorns, whole or ground cumin, whole dried chilies, crushed red pepper flakes, turmeric, bay leaves, cinnamon, smoked paprika, oregano, cardamom, and ground mustard or mustard seeds.
Herbs and spices can also help reduce damage to your body cells by fighting inflammation. You can also benefit from antioxidants, and immunity boosters, depending on what herbs you use. And speaking of antioxidants, another ingredient worth having is Chaga mushroom as capsules, in powder form, or you can even in its original form. If it grows anywhere close to you, then take the time to learn how to take Chaga mushrooms.
Different types of vinegar
You can use various vinegar types to whip up the taste of your soups, sauces, stews, and other meals. They are also excellent when used as a base for dressings and marinades and even adds a little touch of acidity to your meals.
Vinegar types like red wine, balsamic, and apple cider vinegar are perfect additions to any home. You can use your red wine vinegar for all your favorite summer salads, work out your green veggies with apple cider, and use our balsamic vinegar to add a touch of flavor-boosting magic to almost any dish. Aside from adding some punch to your meals, vinegar can also help to improve your blood pressure.
Unsalted nuts offer almost anything you need in a perfect all-rounder ingredient. Whether you are looking for something nutritious to snack on in between meals, or the perfect addition to your oats, cereals, smoothies, or sauces, you can always rely on some unsalted nuts. According to some experts, consuming about a handful (or 20 t0 60 grams) of nuts offers several health benefits, including helping people with health conditions like diabetes, cancer, and various forms of respiratory diseases.
And if you’re someone who struggles to gain weight, you can try adding nuts like walnuts and almonds to your meals or even snack on them; they are high in calories. A 100 grams of walnuts, for instance, will give you about 650 calories, making it an excellent option for healthy weight gain. However, if you suffer from a nut allergy, it is best to avoid nuts altogether.
You give your dishes a bit of brightness and favor by adding some lemon, whether in the form of juice or grated lemon zest. For example, you can drizzle some fresh lemon juice over dishes like asparagus, steamed broccoli, or green beans without needing to add too much salt for flavor. You can also squeeze some fresh lemon juice over your fish to taste or add it to your salad dressing. And if you need to add liquid to some meals, you can opt for lemon zest instead. Lemon is also a rich source of vitamin C, which can help boost the immune system.
This list will not be complete without mentioning flaxseeds. There are a number of reasons why some people refer to flaxseeds as a superfood, and you don’t want to leave them out of your shopping list. If you’re already a lover of flaxseeds, then you know how unthinkable it is to go through a day without them.
How can you use flaxseeds? How can you? You can snack on them, add them to your smoothies to add texture and make them chewier, sprinkle them over your veggie salads, or even add them to your yogurt. But be sure to drink enough water afterward if you prefer to snack on them. Flaxseeds are rich in protein, fiber, and a form of omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid.