A number of people come to me when they're trying out a new healthy recipe and ask if it's worth buying certain ingredients, as they don't want them sitting in the back of the cupboard gathering dust once they've been used! Some of the culprits on this list include raw cacao powder, buckwheat flour, maple syrup, agave syrup, coconut nectar, vanilla powder, dates, nut butter... the list goes on! Whilst I do actually have most of these ingredients to hand now, it wasn't always the case. When I first started out in this new world of healthy eating, I was overwhelmed with all the new foods, some of which I'd never heard of! So to help you along your way I've complied my top 10 ingredients for healthy living below to take all the hard work out of it for you!
These 10 ingredients are things I use pretty much daily. They're super nutritious and delicious and I'd highly recommend having these stocked in your cupboard or fridge for whenever you feel like making something scrumptious :)
Top 10 Ingredients for Healthy Living
Not only are avocados packed with goodness, they're super scrumptious. I LOVE avocados. We probably get through 5 or 6 a week in our house! Add this delicious fruit to your green breakfast smoothie for extra creaminess, spread it on your favourite toast with a sprinkling of salt and pepper, or lemon juice and a pinch of hot smoked paprika for a mid afternoon snack, or chop it up and throw it onto your dinner (whatever it is!) for another layer of texture and colour.
Food fact: "The addition of avocado to already well-balanced diets has been shown to lower risk of heart disease, improve blood levels of LDL, and lower levels of oxidative stress in the bloodstream" (http://bit.ly/1IdYctS)
I think of lemons as a super food as they have SO many benefits. Lemons have long been known to help with indigestion and constipation, cleaning your teeth, adding shine to your hair and removing dandruff, treating a range of skin problems from scars to wrinkles to sunburn, losing weight, and its antiseptic and coagulant properties can stop internal bleeding, to name just a few!
Lemons are also a great antioxidant helping remove toxins and free radicals from your system. Add lemon into your life by drinking a glass of lemon water in the morning to aid digestion, squeeze lemon juice over your vegetables and salads as a dressing to lift the flavours, or rub lemon juice on to your left over avocado half (always save the half with the stone in as this also helps preserve the fruit) or slices of apple to stop them going brown, i.e. oxidising!
Food fact: Lemons help strengthen your immune system, cleanse your stomach and is considered a blood purifier (http://bit.ly/1IVusT1)
3. Nut butter
I only recently discovered nut butters and boy have they changed my life! I'm not talking about the sugary salty peanut butter you ate growing up. I'm talking about 100% organic nut butters made only from nuts, with no added sugar, salt or oil. Biona is my favourite brand and they have a broad range including almond, cashew, peanut, hazelnut and mixed. My favourite is roasted cashew butter. Try adding a dollop to your porridge or breakfast smoothie, spread it on fermented sourdough or sprouted rye toast, spoon it onto fresh fruit or dates (yum yum yum), and of course the best way, straight out of the jar!
Nut butters are a great sugar free snack and plant-based way to add protein into your diet. They'e packed with bone building magnesium, skin glowing vitamins and heart healthy monounsaturated fats. Just remember to keep your nut butter consumption to no more than 2 tbsp a day.
Food fact: Walnuts are best for heart health due to their omega-3 content (http://bit.ly/1DCb87D)
Since having Jasper I've stopped cooking with salt as babies are only allowed 1g of salt a day (0.4g of sodium), and have increased my use of herbs. Herbs add so much flavour to dishes and are so versatile that it's tough to go wrong with them. My staple herbs are coriander, mint, parsley and basil, but there are tons to choose from so try something new this week and see if you like it!
Coriander and mint always gets added to curries in my house with a dollop of full fat organic yoghurt and a handful of toasted cashew nuts, mint and butter will find their way onto new potatoes, and I'll melt some butter on the hob, add in chopped parsley just after turning the heat off and pour that over a simply baked fillet of sea bream. Then I have days where all three get added to everything!
Food fact: Herbs are low in calories, rich in antioxidants and essential oils (check out specific health benefits of your favourite herbs: http://bit.ly/1DsGfRz)
5. Raw cacao powder
If you follow this blog you'll know I have a slight obsession with chocolate. Raw chocolate in particular. So if like me you have a sweet tooth but don't want the sugar and processed crap that comes with store bought chocolate bars and desserts, raw cacao powder is a must have item for your kitchen. Packed with immune boosting antioxidants and muscle building magnesium, raw cacao powder is not only nutritious but forms the basis for delicious recipes such as raw chocolate and raspberry cheesecake, raw fruit and nut, mini chocolate hazelnut cups and raw bounty bites.
Food fact: "Raw cacao beans are rich in antioxidants, which lower free radicals, which are chemicals that can alter or damage the body" (http://bit.ly/1Gp8SRP)
Whether you're baking up a storm or whizzing together a raw sweet treat, dates are a great natural sweetener. Unlike other natural sweeteners like agave, maple syrup or stevia, dates contain dietary fibre and a range of minerals and vitamins so have numerous nutritional benefits, rather than just adding sweetness to a dish. Dates also have the lowest fructose level (32%) of all natural sweeteners, which is the thing we become addicted to.
Most recipes suggest using medjool dates, but I've always used the deglet nour variety as they're much cheaper and always give a great result. TIP: If your dates seem a little dry, simply soak them in warm water for 5-10 minutes then drain before using.
Try out your new dates in one these delicious recipes: almond date and coconut balls, raw chocolate brownie with avocado frosting and super simple raw lime cheesecake and I promise you'll never look back!
Food fact: The minerals found in dates help strengthen bones and fight off painful diseases like osteoporosis http://bit.ly/1HKoQtQ
Kale has risen to fame in the last few years as a super food, and I for one am a BIG fan. I particularly like cavolo nero, but good ol' curly kale makes its way into my shopping bag regularly too. Kale is packed with vitamins A, K and C, and is a great source of calcium (fab for vegans who don't get this from dairy), folate (essential for pregnant women and building a strong immune system) and lutein (an anti-oxidant that helps with keeping eyes healthy).
Add a handful of raw kale to your green smoothie or juice in the morning, throw some chopped kale into your curry or stew 5 minutes before the end to give it time to wilt, or massage some chopped kale (stems removed) with a little lemon juice and salt (optional) to take away the bitterness and add it to your salad. Not sure which salad to make? Check out my kale, squash and beetroot salad, or my top 10 tips for creating the perfect salad.
Quinoa (pronounced ‘keen-wa’) is another super food, called so for good reason. Originating in South America, this wheat-free grain is the only plant based protein to contain all 9 essential amino acids. Essential amino acids are the building blocks of protein that we're unable to produce on our own, and so must find from our food. If you're a vegetarian or don't eat a lot of meat or eggs, quinoa is a great way to ensure you're replenishing your store of all 9 amino acids.
Quinoa is such a versatile grain that can be used for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert! It's naturally high in dietary fibre so gives you a slow steady stream of energy.
Cook up a batch of quinoa at the beginning of the week and add it to your mid week salad for some extra texture, throw it in with your roasted veg or curry as an alternative to rice or potatoes, or heat it up with coconut milk, banana and cinnamon for a hearty breakfast.
Food fact: Quinoa is related to spinach, beets and chard and isn't actually a grain at all! It's the seed of the plant we eat, which is why it's gluten free (http://huff.to/1EdLG7k)
10. Nuts and seeds
I've lumped these into one because you could buy just one or two, or go the whole hog, it's up to you. My shopping list tends to include chia, hemp (shelled), ground flax (and called linseed), sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, as well as pecans, cashews, hazelnuts, almonds and brazil nuts. I would also suggest buying walnuts as they're a great nut (as the food fact shows above!) but for some reason I always use pecans instead. Pecans are much more expensive but i just love them!
Nuts and seeds each have their own health benefits, so try to eat a variety whenever you can. They're high in heart healthy fats, dietary fibre, protein and immune boosting vitamins and minerals.
Sprinkle your favourite seeds and nuts onto your porridge, breakfast cereal or smoothie, or why not toast some in a frying pan with a little oil (1 tsp oil per 100g is fine) and add to your salad, curry, roasted veg, or any other meal for that matter!
Food fact: Chia seeds contain 8 times more Omega 3 fatty acids than salmon (http://bit.ly/1ESpsbQ)
So try out some of my top 10, and let me know which foods you have on your list!
p.s. More blog posts are coming soon on my top 5 foodie blogs to follow, as well as recipes for little people :)