Kitchen Pantry Basics 101
Now that January is almost over and New Year’s resolutions are in full swing, it’s a good time to add one more positive life change in the mix. Let’s call it, February’s Resolution. After all, February is all about love (Valentine’s!), so there’s no better time to show yourself some love too!
Love can manifest in many different ways but one of my favorite ways to love myself is by eating a real foods diet. Real fruits, real vegetables, real fats, and real proteins. Avoiding processed junk food has completely changed my life and mood, and I know it can for you too! (A lovely saying I like to remember: “Junk foods=Junk moods”)
So, where do you start? The pantry!
A pantry clean-out is the first step towards creating delicious healthy meals in the kitchen. Begin by removing all sources of food with added sugar (one of the most addictive substances on the planet), refined carbohydrates (bagels, chips, baked goods, cookies, cakes, crackers, pastries, etc.), refined cooking oils (soybean, canola, corn, cottonseed, peanut, safflower, sunflower), and sources of gluten such as whole-wheat bread, noodles, pasta, and cereals.
All the foods above have one thing in common: inflammation. High-sugar foods not only suppress your immune system for 2-4 hours after eating them but they contribute to blood-sugar dysregulation, hormone imbalance, low level inflammation, and potentially heart disease. Most of these foods are deplete of fiber or phytonutrients which are found in fruits and vegetables.
The good news is that there are many things that we can replace these inflammatory foods with! See below for what to stock your pantry with in 2018:
Healthy fats Nuts and seeds are a great pantry item. I like to stock up on cashews, almonds, and walnuts (great source of omega-3)! Extra-virgin olive oil has been shown to improve lipid levels and decrease markers of oxidative stress...so use olive oil abundantly as salad dressings or drizzled on roasted vegetables.
Protein sources for the pantry A great way to get protein and omega-3 fats is through sardines. Sardines have almost 15g of protein in one serving and almost 1200 mg EPA/DHA Omega 3 per serving. Wild-caught tuna is another great go-to for me, especially when I’m on the go. P.S. Omega 3 fatty acids are essential for brain development and maintenance and keep our cell membranes fluid and healthy!
Legumes Legumes in a BPA-free can or dried whole beans are rich in soluble fiber which helps to reduce the glycemic effect of a meal and improve blood lipids by modifying bile acid and cholesterol absorption. They are also a great source of vitamin B6 (necessary to make the neurotransmitter GABA), B2, B1, and pantothenic acid.
Spices Anti-inflammatory herbs can spice up any dish while providing medicinal effects. Spices such as garlic, turmeric, rosemary, ginger, oregano, cumin, and cayenne are a few to start with. Ginger is one of my favorite roots to cook with as well. The root contains compounds that play a role in decreasing pain and inflammation without adverse side effects, like NSAIDS and some studies have shown that ginger significantly reduces joint pain. Like ginger, the root turmeric inhibits inflammatory enzymes and increases the amount of circulating cortisone in the blood which in turn can decrease total body inflammation. To add to the list of benefits, turmeric has been shown to improve memory as well as reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Ginger and turmeric can be blended in smoothies or in skillet meals, taken in supplemental form, or in beverages like hot tea.
Kendall-Reed, P. (2006). Spice it up!: Relieve pain and inflammation naturally. Alive: Canada's Natural Health & Wellness Magazine, (289), 88.