Having the perfect ingredients on hand, like healthy staples, makes serving up good food easy. If you are ready to make a grocery list and wondering which healthy staples you should have on hand to help you eat healthier, here are 8 healthy staples that are plant-based, nutritious, and versatile. You can create dozens of dishes with these ingredients.
There’s an OLIVE love for this oil, as it’s a foundational food in the Mediterranean diet. Olive oil is a healthy staple must-have in your kitchen! A great option for making salad dressings or as a butter substitute in cakes. Olive oil is a form of plant-based fats, both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Population studies correlate olive oil consumption with better overall health, including the Three-City study which found an inverse relationship between olive oil and stroke risk in women. Researchers are looking closer at olive oil and note it appears to beneficially influence endothelial function, blood pressure, and inflammation.
One delicious healthy staple that will PEAS a crowd are edamame beans. A quick source of protein, frozen edamame beans are a fun snack dipped in hummus. These cute little green beans are also great additions to salads. As for the nutritional value of frozen vegetables (or fruit), studies show it’s comparable to fresh, making your freezer a treasure chest of healthy convenient produce.
Peanut butter might be the ultimate pantry staple in most houses, but why not go NUTTY and include a variety of nut butters and seed butters, along with whole nuts and seeds in your kitchen. Almond butter and tahini are growing in popularity for their amazing flavours and diversity. From dips to sauces, nut and seed butters are a creamy way to add protein to your meal or snack. Tahini is amazing in salad dressings and hummus. Almond butter takes an energy ball recipe to a new, delicious level. Plus, evidence suggests including almond butter and whole almonds has beneficial effects on cholesterol. Why is it that population data suggests most people don’t eat enough nuts? Food allergies play a role. In addition, there appears to be confusion regarding the effect of nuts on body weight with perceptions that nuts are high in fat, or too expensive.
It’s the LENTIL things in life that make it all worthwhile. A healthy staple in any house, particularly those eating more plant-based meals, lentils are easy to cook. Dry lentils cook in less than 30 minutes. Puree red or brown lentils to create the base of a vegetarian burger or add them to a vegetable soup. You can also create a vegetarian Bolognese sauce with lentils to top on pasta. Several studies have shown eating lentils is immensely connected with the reduction in the incidence of degenerative diseases in humans, due to the bioactive compounds, called polyphenols.
Bioactive nutrients in lentils include:
Amazingly versatile, words cannot express HUMMUS you can do with this healthy staple. A protein-rich addition to your next pasta, or salad, chickpeas are also delicious roasted. The main ingredient in hummus, the ultimate dip with raw veggies when you need a quick snack, be sure to have a few cans of chickpeas on your list of healthy staple must-haves in your kitchen. Fun fact: consumers of chickpeas or hummus have shown higher nutrient intakes of fiber, vitamin E, C, folate, magnesium, and iron, according to a study in the peer-reviewed journal, Nutrients.
A high fiber whole grain, this is OATally one of the most popular whole grains worth adding to your list of healthy staple must-haves. Research findings suggest it’s helpful at lowering cholesterol. Starting your day with a warm bowl of oatmeal, topped with a plant-mylk and berries, is a filling experience some find helpful for weight loss. So versatile, you can toss oats into your pancake batter, or use them in your favourite baking recipe to increase the fiber content of your treat.
Their creamy, mild texture is ideal to add to salad, soups, or stews. A plant-based source of protein, fiber, antioxidants, iron, and many vitamins. A can of cannellini beans is a fast, convenient, affordable way to enhance the nutritional value of your next salad. When buying canned beans (black beans, kidney beans, navy beans) that do not contain EDTA, or other additives, and be sure to drain and rinse beans thoroughly to remove as much salt as possible before using. Dried beans are also a healthy staple to have, and have the benefit of not containing any additives, such as salt.
Similar to quinoa, but a bit fluffier, sorghum is a whole grain that can be a great addition to salads, bowls, or used in porridge. Whole grains are a healthy staple and there are many options, such as sorghum, quinoa, oats, millet, buckwheat, wild rice, and barley, to name a few.
Interestingly, some food experts are suggesting nutritional advice should be to make half of your grains, whole grains. In a published perspective paper, these experts raise interesting points about human behaviour, nutrition, and guidelines. Firstly, what exactly is a whole grain, or not is difficult for consumers to decipher. For example, pasta, which is available in a gamut of various formats, is a commonplace of confusion. In addition, nutrition recommendations that are restrictive can decrease the acceptability of food.
Everyone is different, so what’s a healthy staple food for you, may be different for another. As such, when making food choices for yourself, loved ones, or as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist to clients, it’s important to remember when creating a kitchen filled with healthy staples it should be foods that work best for your unique body and your health goals.
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The effect of oat beta-glucan on LDL-cholesterol, non-HDL-cholesterol and apoB for CVD risk reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised-controlled trials. Br J Nutr 2016 Oct; 116(8): 1369-1382.
Sodium reduction in canned beans after draining, rinsing. J Cul Sci Tech 2011 Jun; 2:106-112.
The nutritional value and health benefits of chickpeas and hummus. Nutrients 2016 Dec; 8(12): 766.
Polyphenol-rich lentils and their health promoting effects. Int J Mol Sci 2017 Nov; 18(11): 2390.
Effects of plant-based diets high in raw or roasted almonds, or roasted almond butter on serum lipoproteins in humans. J Am Coll Nutr 2003 Jun; 22(3): 195-200.
Inclusion of almonds in cholesterol-lowering diet improves plasma HDL subspecies and cholesterol lowering efflux on serum in normal-weight individuals with elevated LDL cholesterol. J Nutr 2017 Aug; 147(8): 1517-1523.
Barriers and facilitators to nut consumption: a narrative review. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2020 Dec 7;17(23):9127.
Olive oil consumption, plasma oleic acid, and stroke incidence: the Three-City Study. Neurology. 2011 Aug 2; 77(5):418-25.
Virgin olive oil and health: summary of the III International Conference on Virgin Olive Oil and Health Concensus Report JAEN (Spain) 2018. Nutrients 2019 Sep; 11(9): 2039.
Perspective: whole and refined grains and health- evidence supporting “make half your grains whole”. Advances in Nutrition; 2020 May: 11(3): 492-506.
Contributed by Allison Tannis
Known for her deliciously geeky words, Allison’s articles and books are read around the world by those curious about where to find the most delicious (and nutritious) places to stick their forks. More at allisontannis.com. Follow @deliciouslygeeky.