When you’re living a busy lifestyle, it can be hard to keep a well-stocked pantry of the best healthy foods. But there are a few key ingredients out there that you should try to keep on hand for quick meals. And, though they may seem like familiar faces, you may not have realized the incredible health benefits hiding behind each of them.
Here are 10 best healthy (and super convenient) foods that you should keep well stocked in your kitchen.
1.Extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil has long been an important staple in that Mediterranean heart-healthy diet, a region of the world that has longer life expectancies and lower risks of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke than the rest of the world. Olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats. Namely, oleic acid, which is a powerhouse antioxidant with strong anti-inflammatory properties. You’re going to want the extra-virgin olive oil as it’s an unrefined oil that contains the most flavor and is of the highest-quality.
Use olive oil for cooking, or to drizzle over salads, vegetables, or even Mediterranean-style cheeses.
2. Greek yogurt
Another delicious food that comes from the Mediterranean is Greek-style yogurt which is rich in calcium and protein and full of probiotics to keep you healthy from the inside. Unfortunately, yogurt has been corrupted from its simple beginnings in an effort to make it more enticing but that “harmless” low-fat, blueberry yogurt in your fridge actually has about twice as many calories and SIX times the amount of sugar than traditional Greek-style yogurt. You even need to be careful of some yogurt labeled “Greek-style” as many of these are also packed with sugar. But …
A TRUE Greek yogurt should be low in sugar, have no added flavor and be very plain.
Avoid “non-fat” as the sugar content is always high and don’t be fooled by labels that advertise natural fruit flavors. Look for labels that show sugar content under 6 grams per serving.
Greek yogurt is so plain that you can even use it in savory dishes. Cook up a batch of lentils, brown rice, and onions and add a large dollop of natural Greek yogurt mixed with cumin, chili, coriander and cinnamon for a Middle Eastern twist. Add your own fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey for a healthy breakfast or whip up a refreshing tzatziki dip.
One egg contains 6 grams of protein and has around 13 essential vitamins and minerals. They are also a great source of selenium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, phosphorus and riboflavin. Though the yolk of the egg has received some bad flack over the years for being relatively high in cholesterol, regularly eating eggs has been shown to actually lower “bad” cholesterol, and yolks contain most of the egg’s vitamins and minerals so you don’t want to let them go to waste. Like anything, moderation will always keep you in balance.
Eggs are the perfect go-to for a quick, easy and nutritious breakfast, lunch or dinner. You can hard-boil them to take them on the road, throw a heap of healthy vegetables into an omelet that’s ready in mere minutes, or top off any dish with a fried egg to boost your protein.
One of nature’s true superfoods, bananas are high in potassium and pectin (the fiber that helps regulate those bowel movements), as well as magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and antioxidants. According to the FDA, bananas’ high potassium and low sodium content may actually help protect your cardiovascular system against high blood pressure. Due to their carbohydrate content, bananas can provide a quick source of energy while the fiber will keep you full for longer.
Bananas are a great snack just as they are, but you can also add them to breakfast cereal or serve on toast with almond butter for a healthy one-two, protein-potassium punch. Use up brown bananas in your smoothies and you’ll never waste a banana again.
Hippocrates was a super fan and today garlic is constantly touted as your best natural weapon against a cold. But is there really any truth in that? Well, many studies say, yes! One particular trial over 12 weeks found that a daily supplement of garlic reduced the number of colds by a whopping 63% compared to the placebo group. The average length of cold symptoms was also reduced by 70%.1
Do you need more of a reason to always have garlic nearby? Add garlic to your marinades, or season your vegetables, breads, and pastas with it. Roast whole bulbs of garlic in your oven as a tasty side dish or pickle them for a handy snack.
You can never go wrong with a can, or packet, of beans or lentils in the kitchen. Lentils are a great source of protein and are a prebiotic carbohydrate, which means they help your body to create its own probiotics. Lentils are also flavorful, nutritious, filling – and cheap! They’re also convenient for padding out last minute meals.
Lentils may be one of the oldest crops known to man and are high in folate, manganese, iron, and phosphorus, making them especially great for vegans and vegetarians. They are also one of the best sources of soluble fiber which can help prevent your digestive tract from absorbing cholesterol which is beneficial in the fight against heart disease.2
Add lentils to cold salads; cook up an Indian-style dahl; make lentil soups or pot roasts in winter; or combine lentils, brown rice and vegetables, top with an egg and a splash of hot sauce and you’ve got yourself one of those Instagram-worthy rice bowls.
There are few things in this world that you can’t use a lemon for. The small, but mighty, yellow fruit is full of vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin E, folate, niacin, riboflavin, copper, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and protein. Wow!
Originally lemons were famed for warding off scurvy on the ships of early explorers. Unknown at the time, this was because of their high vitamin C content.
Foods that are high in vitamin C can also aid in the absorption of iron. Vitamin C is currently being studied for its potential to lower the risk of stroke, combat cancer and prevent asthma.3 To top it off, lemons have some rather supersonic cleaning, antibacterial and mosquitoes repelling powers.
Lemons add a zesty flavor to just about everything, so start using them in water, tea, sauces, dressings, marinades, and desserts. Many nutritional experts recommend starting your day with a glass of warm water and lemon as it helps to kick-start the digestive system and detox the body.
Avocado is packed with healthy monounsaturated fatty acids that’s purported to help protect against heart disease. They’re also rich in vitamins and minerals, high in fiber and don’t contain any cholesterol or sodium. Avocados are full of antioxidants and phytochemicals that are not only good for your eyes but have even been linked to cancer prevention.4 Avocados have more potassium than bananas!
Avocados are delicious so they’re an effortless, healthy snack to eat on their own. Though you can jazz them up quickly with a dollop of hummus and a drizzle of olive or macadamia oil. Make your own healthy guacamole; add sliced avocado to salads, sandwiches or smoothies; and there’s even a flood of avocado ice cream recipes out there.
Keeping frozen berries on hand is a great trick as we all know that fresh berries need to be eaten rather quickly. Frozen berries also retain their original nutrients. Berries are chiefly known for their antioxidant powers, which keep those free radicals at bay and fight the signs of aging. They also target inflammation.
Berries are full of vitamins and minerals, are high in soluble fiber (helping you to feel full) and low in calories. They’re also recommended by scientists as an essential part of a heart-healthy diet and have been linked with a decrease in cardiovascular disease. 5
Whether they be cranberries, blueberries, raspberries or strawberries, pull those berries from your freezer for instantly nutritious smoothies, sprinkle them on yogurt for a healthy dessert, add them to ice cubes for summer drinks, or use them to top pancakes or oatmeal for an added vitamin boost.
Fresh herbs and spices can make everything taste a million bucks. But if you’re worried about them wilting too quickly, select a few of your favorites and buy them in pots for your garden or windowsill.
Herbs aren’t all about pungent flavor profiles, they’re actually full of some mighty health benefits:
Holy Basil is a natural anti-inflammatory and pain reducer that has both cancer and diabetes-fighting properties.6 Thyme has strong antimicrobial effects and is thought to be beneficial for eczema, acne, yeast infections, and foodborne bacterial infections.7 Dill is said to relieve intestinal spasms and aid in digestion.8 Chives may be useful in warding off foodborne pathogens like salmonella.9
You truly can use herbs in everything: salads, marinades, drinks and even desserts. You can even chew a little dill or mint to neutralize bad breath. Get creative and experiment a little. You’ll kick yourself that you didn’t start using herbs earlier.
Bonus: Healthy Foods For Weight Loss
Trying to shed a few pounds? Certain foods can actually help! Here are some of the best healthy foods for weight loss to keep on hand:
Oatmeal is a great weight loss food. Its thick consistency actually moves quite slowly through your digestive tract, so you’ll get hungry less soon. It also contains carbohydrates called “beta-glucans” which encourage feelings of fullness.10 Go ahead and tell high-fat bacon to scram in the morning and opt for oatmeal instead. And if you’d like to add a protein boost to your oatmeal, you can stir in a tablespoon of almond butter.
Speaking of almonds, you might want to stash some in your car or purse. Studies have found that incorporating almonds into your diet is associated with lasting weight reduction.11 So when you start to feel hungry, grab a handful of almonds. The protein will give you an energy boost and will help you feel full until your next meal.
Fresh, whole fruits
Fresh fruits contain lots of fiber which can increase feelings of fullness, so you’ll be less tempted to overeat.12 They may also have properties that correct metabolism abnormalities that lead to weight gain.13 So instead of ice cream after dinner, slice up a pear or melon and enjoy!
Time To Hit The Store!
No matter who does the shopping in your house, print this list out and make sure the whole family is on the same page about which foods to buy. Focus on these 10 best healthy foods to ensure you stay on track with your weight loss and health goals!
Article updated: April 6, 2018
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2. “Coronary Heart Disease.” PubMed Health. N.p., 2017. Web. 12 July 2017.
3. “Vitamin C.” Linus Pauling Institute. N.p., 2017. Web. 12 July 2017.
4. Ding H, et al. “Chemopreventive Characteristics Of Avocado Fruit. – Pubmed – NCBI.” Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 12 July 2017.
5. Basu, Arpita. “Berries: Emerging Impact On Cardiovascular Health.” N.p., 2010. Web. 12 July 2017.
6. Baliga MS, et al. “Ocimum Sanctum L (Holy Basil Or Tulsi) And Its Phytochemicals In The Prevention And Treatment Of Cancer. – Pubmed – NCBI.” Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. N.p., 2017. Web. 12 July 2017.
7. “Effects Of Thymus Serpyllum Extract On Cell Proliferation, Apoptosis And Epigenetic Events In Human Breast Cancer Cells.” Taylor & Francis. N.p., 2017. Web. 12 July 2017.
8. Shekhawat, GS, and S Jana. “Anethum Graveolens: An Indian Traditional Medicinal Herb And Spice.” N.p., 2017. Print.
9. AGFD 106 – Antimicrobial Activities Of Chive Against Salmonella In Chicken Soup, Beef Broth And Sesame Salad Dressing.” Oasys2.confex.com. N.p., 2017. Web. 12 July 2017.
10. Rebello, C. J., O’Neil, C. E., & Greenway, F. L. (2016, February). Retrieved April 06, 2018
11. Wien, M. A., Sabaté, J. M., Iklé, D. N., Cole, S. E., & Kandeel, F. R. (2003, November). Almonds vs complex carbohydrates in a weight reduction program. Retrieved April 06, 2018
12. Flood-Obbagy, J. E., & Rolls, B. J. (2009, April). The effect of fruit in different forms on energy intake and satiety at a meal. Retr. April 06, 2018
13.Devalaraja, S., Jain, S., & Yadav, H. (2011, August 01). Exotic Fruits as Therapeutic Complements for Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome. Retrieved April 06, 2018