Monday, April 13, 2009

What Foods Go in a Healthy Pantry?

If you are one that shops at the regular supermarket, you are most likely missing out on some of the best foods - those that are full of flavor and higher in food value and nutrition. On the other hand, shopping at a health market may mean just a lot of higher price substitutes that may or may not provide you with better quality foods. So how do you choose which foods to buy?

First of all, keep in mind that healthy pantry items should have minimal processing and are not prepared foods - rather they are whole foods, staple items, and/or those with minimal processing. Here is a list of important foods that are part of a higher nutritious diet with reasons why, suggestions for use, as well as where to find them. You may want to copy it off and keep it handy when you shop.

Grains - whole grains are an important part of any healthy pantry and diet. However, don't make the grave mistake of eating grains only in a floured form, or thinking that wheat is the only grain to use. Having a variety is important for extra nutrition as well as eliminating mundane. Grains need to be eaten mostly in a whole form, cooked or sprouted, to get the full nutrition and important fiber they provide. Common whole grains may be found at the grocery store or in bulk food stores, however, the more specialty grains will only be found in health food markets, online, or food storage stores:
· Barley - hulled is best, good in soups and salads, used as a meat extender, great white flour substitute especially combined with brown rice or oat groats
· Brown rice - can store for years just like white, high in fiber and nutrition, great grain served at any time of the day
· Corn - use for making masa, tamales and ground into corn meal
· Oats - rolled: for cereals and baking; whole groats: grind to replace wheat flour
· Millet - great first baby's cereal, adults love it too
· Quinoa - also great first baby's cereal, largest variety of nutrients, great sprouted
· Spelt - great for people with wheat intolerances, does still have gluten
· Wheat - if you are going to use flour, get your own mill and grind it fresh: hard wheat is a must for yeast breads, while soft wheat is for quick breads
· Amaranth, Kamut, Buckwheat, Triticale, Rye all have great value and add variety too
· Cereals: 7-grain rolled, Germade (like Cream of Wheat with the fiber), Polenta (corn grits) are great cereals to have on hand

Legumes - high protein, low calorie whole foods, also a good source of carbohydrates. Again, a variety is important as the different ones provide different nutrients. Found as suggested for whole grains.
· Adzuki (Aduki), Small Red Beans, Kidney Beans - all red beans are very high in antioxidants and one of the most nutritious of beans
· Black Beans - small tasty nutritious bean takes a shorter time to cook
· Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) - great cooked, also made into hummus (better than any dip or mayonnaise)
· Lentils - small flat nutritious legume, high fiber, great in soups and sprouted
· Lima Beans - flat bean, small or large, great flavor in a variety of dishes
· Mung Beans - great sprout, also great cooked in soups
· Navy Beans, Northern Beans - white beans (small and large), great in soups, baked beans
· Peas - whole or split are great in soups
· Pinto beans - very versatile beans and common in the southwest, yet one of the gassiest beans to eat
· Soybeans - declared as one of the most nutritious foods to Ancient Chinese and still is when eaten in the ways they prepared it: tofu, tempeh, miso, soy sauce and edamame (the young green beans); only considered "bad" when eaten in its processed-to-death forms
· Anasazi Beans, Black-eyed Peas, Colorado River Beans - lots of other great beans too
Raw Nuts and Seeds - raw is always preferred, high in protein, fiber, nutrition, and a good form of fat, just don't overdo. Found mostly in health markets.
· Almonds - the king of nuts, highest in nutrition providing reduced risks of major diseases; best eaten soaked, made into the most of nutritious milks
· Cashews, Macadamia Nuts, Pecans, Pine Nuts, Walnuts - all great sources of nutrition; used in making non-dairy cheeses and milks like almonds; add to salads, cereals, and use in baking
· Pumpkin Seeds, Sesame Seeds, Sunflower Seeds - all great sources of nutrition, fiber and protein; use in salads, cereals for extra delicious crunch

Sweeteners - We really don't need all the sweets that we sometimes eat. It's not just enough to cut out, or cut down on sugar, we need to use sweetened foods on occasion, not eaten on the hour. Table sugar has no nutritive value (yes, none!), and even though these sweeteners are processed to some degree, they still provide valuable nutrients (vitamins and minerals).
· Brown Rice Syrup - about half the sweetness of honey
· Fructose - does contain nutrients and is much sweeter than sugar, much better for those with low blood sugar, yet not a whole lot better than sugar
· Honey - the king of sweeteners, nothing can still beat it nutritionally or cost-wise; always look for "raw" as the typical store kinds are heated to the degree of killing vital nutrients in order to keep it liquefied
· Maple Syrup (Pure) - does have nutrients, A or B grades
· Molasses - what's left behind in the sugar process; Blackstrap Molasses - after all possible sweetening is removed (not sweet at all), but excellent source of minerals: iron, magnesium, calcium - great supplement
· Stevia - said to be 200 times sweeter than sugar, a plant leaf which you can grow, minimal processing comes in liquid and powdered forms (look online if you can't find some), the healthy no-calorie sweetener used in warm herbal drinks, frozen desserts, and baking
· Syrups: Pure Maple Syrup and Agave Syrup - both great on cereals, in smoothies, baking

Oils and Fats - More and more information confirms that it's not just the cholesterol that is causing heart disease and other major diseases, but particularly the overconsumption of the omega-6 oils: corn, soy, canola, cottonseed, safflower and more. These are not only added to most every food, but they are hydrogenated (trans fats), and fried! These need to be eliminated from our diets as much as possible and replaced with the omega-3 and omega-9 oils which we are deficient in.
· Coconut Oil - the one saturated fat that is healthy, best for stir-frying but also used in desserts
· Flax Oil and Fish Oil (omega-3 oils) - use raw on salads (make your own dressings), use in place of butter or margarine on foods (these need refrigerated once opened)
· Olive Oil (omega-9 oil) - look for cold pressed, extra virgin
· Liquid Lecithin - great fat replacement in breads, cakes and more; use ¼ or less the amount of oil called for in a recipe, breaks down cholesterol and is a good fat to use
· Cold-pressed Oils (omega-6 oils) - rather than heat extracted these are pressed cold; use in making salad dressings sparingly if olive or flax is too strong
· Cooking Oils - if using any at all, one is not much better than the other: soy, corn, etc. - use sparingly or store for emergencies

Sprouting seeds - for the quick indoor garden! No healthy kitchen is complete without great sprouting seeds for providing some of the highest sources of nutrition!
· Alfalfa - a complete protein sprout, high in a wide variety of vitamins and minerals
· Lentils - a high protein sprout, crunchy flavor is great in salads
· Mung Beans - sprout short for salads, long for Asian stir-fries
· Sunflower Seeds (raw shelled) - great tasty quick sprouting seed
· Clover, Radish, Broccoli, plus all kinds of grains & beans can be sprouted too

Additional Miscellaneous Items - these are some basic staples that complement the rest
· Arrowroot Powder and/or Cornstarch - arrowroot is better but a little different, used for thickening sauces
· Baking Powder and Baking Soda - needed for baking, use non-aluminum powder
· Bottled or canned foods - it's best to bottle your own or buy foods in jars rather than cans; best home bottling suggestions: beans (all kinds), chicken, salmon, green and red chilies, salsa, apple pie filling
· Carob Powder - nutritious replacement for chocolate, no caffeine, makes great cookies, puddings, frozen desserts and more
· Condiments - Catsup, Mustard, Red Pepper Sauce, Salsa, etc. - look for those with natural ingredients; no need to buy mayonnaise or salad dressings if you have the ingredients to make them better
· Dried Fruits - raisins, currants, dates, prunes, dried bananas, apples, etc.
· Liquid Aminos (Braggs brand), Soy Sauce, Tamari - Liquid Aminos has a milder flavor and not so dark in foods, yet others add variety
· Nut Butters (Raw Almond Butter, Raw Tahini, Peanut Butter, and other all natural nut butters) - raw is best for higher nutritional content
· Olives - bottled are best, olives add great variation and flavor to foods
· Salt - Real Salt brand is high in a variety of minerals and provides mineral balance, whereas regular table salt is only sodium that causes a mineral imbalance
· Sea Vegetables (kelp, nori, dulse, wakame, more) - high in minerals, kelp is especially high iodine and other trace minerals; sprinkle on foods, add to soups and other dishes
· Spices, Brewer's Yeast - a large variety of spices adds to the nutritional content and flavor of foods
· Tofu milk powder (Better Than Milk brand, Original flavor ONLY) - a good quality and nice flavored milk, much better than using dairy powdered milk
· Tomato Sauce - organic brands are preferred
· Vitamin C granules or powder - used for baking and preserving, found in health markets
· Vinegar (apple cider, white, balsamic) - different ones are used for different reasons
· Vanilla - pure is best
· Yeast (Saf Instant brand) - instant yeast, found to be much more fool proof
· Ultra Gel, Xanthun Gum, GuarGum - instant thickeners with excellent results for no cook jams, frozen desserts and more, may be hard to find - look online

I know the list is long and I'm sure it isn't complete, but it's as complete as I can get for the moment. When looking for something that is unfamiliar, you may want to check it out online first so you know what you are looking for. Then go to a health food market, ask someone for help - they sometimes don't know what you want, so ask another person to help you and you will soon find it.

If you don't know how to use some of these items, then you may want to attend the upcoming workshops this spring - details coming soon!

Happy hunting and stocking your healthy pantry!!

For your best health,
Erleen Tilton