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Healthy Shopping Basket Boosts

The basis of a healthy diet is not complex. It’s about consuming lots of simple, natural, real foods. These are the ingredients our grandparents used, before wide-scale industrial processing. However, we can also now benefit from new food discoveries and more widely available healthy alternatives. It’s quite surprising what your local supermarket stocks, if you detour from the regular route.

Next time you shop, add one or two of the following products to your basket. Then make it a mission to add them to your meals, for a health boost your body will thank you for.

Flexible Friends

The best healthy ingredients are ones with multiple uses that you can sneak into almost anything with little more than a flick of the wrist.

On my kitchen counter, there is always a jar of sesame seeds which I sprinkle on almost everything. Veggies, salads, soups and home-baked goods all benefit from the fibre, calcium and B vitamins they bring. Next to them sits a large bottle of apple cider vinegar, renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties. Great for salad dressings and sauces, it also adds flavour to most savoury dishes, without leaving a vinegary taste. In the fridge, there is always a packet of white miso paste, a rich source of pro-biotics for gut health. I add miso to soups, stir fries, dressings and marinades for a yummy umami hit.  

Spice It Up

A lot of spices have really great health benefits, so I use them all the time. Although the hot ones – like chilli and cayenne pepper – are very good for you, plenty of others are both healthy and mild in taste.

My favourite spice, which will be no surprise, is turmeric powder. It has proven links to relieving the symptoms of arthritis, but offers health benefits to all. Do handle with care, as the distinctive yellow colour can stain fingers, clothes and surfaces. Yet, it’s surprisingly easy to sprinkle into soups, stews and sauteed veggies. A lesser-known spice I really like is fenugreek. These slightly bitter, aromatic seeds are fantastic for digestive health. So, I roast a whole pot at once, to be stored for future use in curries and soups. Although not for everyone, I sometimes keep kimchi in the fridge (tightly sealed in a jar because it does have a strong whiff). Packed with nutrients and fermented for a dose of probiotics, this Korean superfood is now commonly available and makes a nice side dish for lunch.

Easy Switch

For many unhealthy foods, there is an easy switch to a better alternative. Rather than consuming inflammatory, processed, sugary ingredients, why not swap them out?

Amongst the worst offending foodstuffs are highly processed, industrial oils, like vegetable, canola, sunflower or margarine. Instead of those nasties, I use olive oil, coconut oil and butter for almost everything, except when I need to fry at high heat, then avocado oil is a great option. It’s not cheap, but I use it sparingly, mainly just when searing meat to avoid it steaming and losing the yummy juices. I also make room in my fridge for a pot of kefir - basically yoghurt on steroids. Thanks to the healthy bacteria it contains, kefir helps with immunity, bone health and digestion, and can be used instead of milk or cream. The thickened variety, with a few nuts and berries (which I always have in the freezer) makes a great breakfast or dessert. To avoid too many empty carbs, I often use almond meal instead of plain flour. It is surprisingly versatile, and the internet is packed with delicious desserts, like our very own pear crumble.

Snack Attack

The worst eating decisions are often made when the munchies hit. Whether tired, bored or peckish, it’s important to have things on hand that can stave off the attack.

At any time, half-a-dozen types of nuts fill in my cupboard, because I use them in everything. But my top anytime snacking treat is the magnificent brazil nut, one of the best natural sources of selenium, a nutrient few people know about, but everyone needs. Often snacking is just something to do, to add variety to the day. To add bit of colour to my days, I stock a large range of green and herbal teas. I mix exotic varieties with trusted favourites, all in pretty, colourful packaging, with quirky names, for a fun experience. For a more bittersweet flavour, I turn to 85-95% dark chocolate, which is both low in sugar and a source of antioxidants. It’s so rich, just one or two pieces last a while and can tide you over until mealtime.

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