3 Pantry Essentials You Need Right Now

Is your food cupboard stocked mostly with light bulbs, paper towels, jerky and cookies? Or are there actually pantry essentials you could make into a healthy meal you wouldn’t be embarrassed to eat in front of other adults? If a pantry makeover is in order, start by stocking up on the following three items.  With these healthy ingredients on hand easy, economical meals and snacks are within your reach.

The Pantry Essentials You Shouldn’t Be Without

Healthy Saturated Fat

The guidelines that define “healthy” seem ever changing, and the list of good-for-you fats is a prime example. Once considered the scourge of healthy hearts everywhere, new information is bringing saturated fats back to the table. Research suggests that limiting saturated fats may reduce your risk of chronic inflammation, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some types of cancer. But not all saturated fats are born equal. We don’t want you to stop using that delicious, omega-3-rich extra-virgin olive oil, but do add—da da dum—saturated fats back to your shopping list for pantry essentials. Organic extra virgin coconut oil and organic butter from grass-fed cows are especially recommended.

The push for more natural foods has opened up a demand for old-fashioned dairy goods sourced from grass-fed animals. Not only does grass-feeding produce a better taste and leaner product, grass-fed butter is healthier than some other dietary fats on the market. Products made from grass-fed cows contain a healthy ratio of omega 6 and omega 3 fats, around 3:1 if you’re counting. Ratios above 4:1 have been determined to create health problems.

The many benefits of coconut oil are widely discussed on this blog, but the main reason this saturated fat has been taken off the naughty list and given the super-food crown is because of a little thing called a medium-chain triglyceride or MCT. MCTs are metabolized into energy more quickly than some other types of fatty acids; they help create a healthier ratio of “good” and “bad” cholesterol. In addition, coconut oil contains anti-inflammatory properties. It may help patients suffering from chronic pain caused by inflammatory diseases such as ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Prunes

Lookout world, Grandma’s favorite remedy for constipation just became trendy. We always understood the high-fiber content of prunes helped promote, erm, movement, but turns out providing fiber isn’t the humble prune’s only super power. Eating prunes may also reduce the risk of colon cancer. Prunes help the colon retain beneficial bacteria, namely Bacteriodetes and Frimicutes. They may also slow bone loss and increase bone strength in menopausal women. Yep, prunes truly are Grandma’s best friend.

Like many dried fruits, prunes are a tasty snack that will satisfy your sweet tooth without loading you with unwanted calories. Pureed plums make a healthy replacement for a portion of the sugar in baked goods. They also provide an extra boost of fiber to whatever you’re baking.

Yeah, but prunes. Okay, you can call them dried plums if it makes you feel better.

Pulses

Technically, a legume is any plant from the Fabaceae family including alfalfa, clover, lupines and peanuts. Pulses are legumes which are harvested specifically for their dry seed. The most popular pulses are lentils, beans and chickpeas. By any name, pulses are an economical, versatile and delicious source of protein that you should probably be eating more of.

Adding 5 cups of pulses per week to the diet may be as helpful as cutting 500 calories. Their low-calorie, high-nutrition punch makes them a great help with weight loss. Lentils help lower bad cholesterol and can decrease the risk of heart disease. All pulses contain antioxidants, dietary fiber and a wide variety of nutrients. When stored in an air-tight container they last practically forever.  And talk about versatile!The list of dishes starring pulses or legumes is almost endless. In soups, stews, salads, as a side dish or main entrée, even as dessert–pulses are practically perfect.