Want to give your diet an overhaul for 2020? While you probably know you should be packing in loads of fresh fruit and vegetables, you might underestimate the cupboard basics you reach for all the time. Choose well and these staples can be a fantastic source of nutrients – and help you get creative with healthy dishes. Here’s my pick of the store cupboard superfoods...
This amber-coloured curry spice has been hitting the headlines for a while, with studies linking it to a reduced risk of a range of conditions. It’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and been shown to help ease arthritis pain and soothe IBS,1 and may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and dementia, too.2
Top tip: always use black pepper along with turmeric, as that increases the amount of curcumin – turmeric’s key active component – absorbed by your body.
Try this! It doesn’t just belong in curries. Add turmeric to scrambled eggs or tofu for a more intense, peppery flavour.
Most of us rely on the same old whole grains – wheat, oats, rice, maybe some couscous. They’re all great but why not shake things up with quinoa? Although classed as a whole grain, quinoa is technically a seed, and is packed with protein. And unlike most plant proteins, quinoa is a complete protein – meaning it contains all nine amino acids our bodies can’t make.
Try this! Substitute quinoa for rice or couscous in recipes. Or use it for porridge, blended with coconut milk and sweet spices such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon.
The chances are honey’s already one of your store cupboard staples - but make it manuka. A 2016 review of studies confirmed manuka honey has been found to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It may also help your body fight viruses.3
Try this! For a light breakfast, swirl a teaspoon of manuka honey into plain live yoghurt or coconut yoghurt, then add some chopped pear and seeds.
Apple cider vinegar
Produced by fermenting apples, apple cider vinegar (ACV) is usually left unfiltered, leaving it with a collection of yeast and bacteria known as ‘the mother’. Many believe this is what gives ACV its wellness-boosting qualities. Fans swear it helps with everything from acne to arthritis and IBS but so far most of the research has centred around its ability to help with weight management.4
For an immune-boosting wake-up drink, add 1tbsp ACV, 1tsp manuka honey, 1tsp ground ginger and a squeeze of lemon to hot water.
This is a spice that has it all – antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, it’s also been shown to help balance blood sugar. Some preliminary research has even suggested it may help lower cholesterol levels.5 Health benefits aside, it’s a great way to add sweetness and flavour to everything from stewed fruit and crumble to porridge and muesli, without the calories of sugar.
Try this! Sprinkle a little cinnamon into stir-fried veg, along with ginger and garlic, for a deeper flavour.
Made from ground chickpeas, this versatile flour is gluten-free, so is safe for anyone who needs to avoid gluten, and more digestible for those who are sensitive to it. It’s high in fibre – something most of us lack in our diet - and has a distinctive nutty flavour.
Try this! Use it instead of wheat flour to make pancakes – for a vegan version, you can blend gram flour with water, baking powder and a little maple syrup to taste.
Packed with protein and fibre, these are a kitchen essential for anyone who doesn’t eat meat. But you don’t have to be veggie or vegan to enjoy lentils. They’re a cheap, simple way to add a hit of nutrition to meals from soups and curries to casseroles.
Try this: Make a lentil ragu with tomatoes, bay leaves, red wine, mushrooms and carrots – just as tasty as the meat version.
1. Henrotin Y et al. Curcumin: a new paradigm and therapeutic opportunity for the treatment of osteoarthritis: curcumin for osteoarthritis management. Springerplus. 2013 Dec;2(1):56.
2. Hewlings SJ and Kalman DS. Curcumin: A Review of Its effects on Human Health. Foods. 2017 Oct; 6(10): 92.
3. Carter DA, Blair S, Cocketin NN et al. Therapeutic manuka honey: no longer so alternative. Front Microbiol. 2016; 7: 569.
4. Khezri SS et al. Beneficial effects of Apple Cider Vinegar on weight management, Visceral Adiposity Index and lipid profile in overweight or obese subjects receiving restricted calorie diet: A randomized clinical trial. J Funct Foods. Vol 43 April 18
5. Rao PV et al. Cinnamon: A Multifaceted Medicinal Plant. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014; 2014: 642942