As I opened up my home last week to my lovely attendees of my health luncheon, I also opened up my fridge and cabinets. I’m an open book, it’s important for you to see that my fridge and pantry are stocked up with the tools I need for good health. Next to my favorite fermented cabbage, fresh veggies, and coconut yogurt there may be a bottle of wine or a wedge of imported cheese (because it’s all about balance), but 80% of your kitchen essentials should support and promote a healthy you.
The kitchen is your backbone and the key to good health is to keep it well stocked. There is no getting around it, if you want to be healthy, you need to be spending consistent time in the kitchen (or paying for someone who will!). To help you create your own checklist for good health, here are 10 food essentials to start with. I always have a variation of these on hand for key meal ingredients and smart snacking:
- Fresh Herbs
Herbs can protect you against diseases, clear toxins from your body, and provide you with vitamins and minerals. Every time you flavor your meals with herbs or spices you are literally “upgrading” your food without adding a single calorie.
Herbs are not only great in meals for spice and added flavor but are key to the nutritional density in the foods you eat. As just one example, plain black pepper actually increases the bioavailability of just about all other foods — herbs and other compounds!
As a general rule, you really can’t go wrong when using herbs and spices, allow your taste buds to dictate your choices when cooking. There is no “wrong” choice if it tastes right!
- Sprouted Nuts and Seeds
One of the easiest and most efficient ways to optimize your nutrition is to add sprouted seeds and nuts into your diet. When sprouted, the protein, vitamin, and mineral content of seeds and nuts greatly increase. Sprouts contain valuable enzymes—up to 100 times more enzymes than raw fruits and vegetables—that allow your body to absorb and use the nutrients of other foods you eat.
Sprouted foods are also easier on digestion, the process of sprouting removes enzyme inhibitors in the seeds and nuts that sometimes make it difficult on our system. Sprouted seeds and nuts are delicious in soups, on salads, in homemade granola or bars, and can still be roasted for crunch, check out easy ways to make your own here. Some of my recommended sprouted seeds and nuts to have on hand include: Sunflower seeds, flaxseed, sesame seed, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachio, and hazelnut.
- Organic Pastured Eggs
Eggs contain “complete proteins,” meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids. Eggs are powerhouses of healthy nutrition, but you must make sure the eggs you buy are harvested from organically raised, free-range, pastured chickens. The nutritional differences between these eggs and commercially farmed eggs are a result of the different diets eaten by the two groups of chickens. I cook with eggs or often start my day with one cooked in coconut oil.
To find a local source of high quality organic, free-range eggs, check out these sites: EatWild.com or LocalHarvest.com.
- Grass-fed Butter
Grass-fed butter is delicious and nutritious, just don’t get it twisted with conventionally processed butters! When produced from grass-fed cows, butter is rich in a substance called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is not only known to help fight cancer and diabetes, it may even help you to lose weight.
Grass-fed butter is also a rich source of easily absorbed vitamin A (needed for a wide range of functions, from maintaining good vision to keeping the endocrine system in top shape) and all the other fat-soluble vitamins (D, E, and K2), which are often lacking in the modern industrial diet. Butter is rich in important trace minerals, including manganese, chromium, zinc, copper, and selenium (a powerful antioxidant), and even beta carotene.
Find local sources of grass-fed butter at: http://www.realmilk.com/real-milk-finder/
Garlic breath isn’t such a bad thing (well, it kind of is, but it’s good for you!). Raw garlic boosts your body’s natural abilities to protect you from hypertension and osteoporosis, It is a potent antimicrobial, natural antibiotic, natural antifungal, antiviral, and antiparasitic.
Garlic must be fresh to give you optimal health benefits, though. The fresh clove must be crushed or chopped in order to stimulate the release of an enzyme called alliinase, which in turn catalyzes the formation of allicin. As allicin digests in your body, it produces sulfenic acid, a compound that reacts with dangerous free radicals faster than any other known compound.
To activate garlic, it must be chopped, crushed, or pressed first. If you’re not ready to take a raw spoonful, try adding a clove or two to your green juices, chopping up with veggies, or topping a salad with it. Only one to two cloves per day is needed for cancer fighting benefit.
Avocados are rich in healthy monounsaturated fat (which is easily burned for energy), avocado’s benefit your vascular function and heart health. They’re also low in fructose and a good source of fiber (both great for weight management).
Skip the banana, have an avocado, they contain twice the amount of potassium of a banana (making them great for post workout). Avocados also provide close to 20 essential health-boosting nutrients, including fiber, vitamin E, B-vitamins, and folic acid.
They’re also one of the safest fruits you can buy conventionally – so you can save a dollar and go conventional with avocado.
- Homemade Bone Broth
Bone broth is now part of my soup cleanse program, because it is soothing for the gut and healing for the body. It helps “heal and seal” your gut, it contains healthy fat and essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur, and trace minerals. It also contains chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, and speeds up healing time from illness or post surgery recovery.
You can easily make your own bone broth in the crockpot or stovetop overnight. It is important to note that you must use bones from organically raised, grass-fed or pasture raised chicken or beef, or wild, low mercury fish bones (like wild salmon). I share a very easy recipe for homemade bone broth here.
- Natural, Unprocessed Sea Salt
Too many people fear salt. Most of my clients come in the door unaware of just how essential salt is and that their body needs it to function properly. It’s easy to confuse refined and highly processed salt found in processed foods and regular table salt, and unrefined natural salt, like sea salt or Himalayan sea salt. Refined table salts and high sodium from processed foods will promote damaging health effects.
Natural, unprocessed sea salts, such as Himalayan salt, Hawaiian, or Celtic sea salt, contains closer to 85 percent sodium chloride and 15 percent naturally-occurring trace minerals. You can make a wholesome sports drink to replenish lost electrolytes and minerals by mixing a pinch of Himalayan salt and a dash of fresh lemon juice in a glass of water. Always season your foods with this, never use refined table salt.
- Canned or Fresh Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon
Rising pollution levels have contaminated most fish these days. We now must be conscious to choose fish that are high in healthy omega-3 fats, and low in hazardous contaminants. Wild Alaskan Salmon (NOT farmed) is one of the best options.
You can buy fresh or frozen, but another easy option is canned salmon. Look for a label that reads “Alaskan Salmon” or “Sockeye Salmon” to ensure that it is not from a farm source. Also, read label to ensure the can is BPA free. Avoid Atlantic salmon, as all salmon labeled “Atlantic Salmon” currently comes from fish farms. You can add canned salmon to salads, mix with a little Vegenaise and make a delicious wrap or serve over mixed greens, add to casseroles, and even soups.
- Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are big right now and for good reason. We’re finally beginning to emphasize the role that gut health plays in disease and cancer prevention. Your GI tract is home to about 100 trillion bacteria, 10 times your amount of cells! Our environment, over use of antibiotics, and our diets have wrecked havoc on our gut health.
To maintain a healthy gut, heal a leaky gut, and boost immune function, fermented foods are the key. You’ll want to include a variety of cultured and fermented foods in your diet, as each provides different beneficial bacteria. Just one quarter to one half cup of fermented food, eaten with one meal per day, can benefit you.
Sauerkraut, kimchee, fermented (not pickled) vegetables, tempeh, kombucha, coconut water kefir, and high quality yogurt all contain different strains of good bacteria. I recommend keeping a few options on hand at all times.