When you come home from a busy day all you want to do is sit down, relax, and enjoy your night. The last thing that you want to be thinking about is “what can I make for dinner”, let alone whether it is healthy or not. With this busy world everyone is thinking about a million things at a time, your appointment on Monday, the kid’s soccer practice tonight, that report due in the morning. Taking the extra time to consider what you are making for dinner and if it’s healthy doesn’t really seem like a priority.
However, it may not have to be that complicated. Many everyday foods that you may have in your fridge or pantry right now, can have some surprising health benefits. By continuing to stock healthy kitchen staples, you can begin to create healthy eating habits with little to no effort. Simply taking the time to educate yourself on some common healthy foods can make the biggest difference. Having them on-hand when you start to cook can save you from just opting for pizza rather than a trip to the grocery store.
Here is our list of Top 10 foods you may already have at home that have surprising health benefits. It features all kinds of good and healthy options including natural remedies, anti-inflammatory foods, immune-boosting foods, and some surprising additions you may not expect. For further information on the health benefits of food and health conditions, check out the rest of our News page.
Now you may be thinking, “but isn’t chocolate packed full of sugar?”. And you would be right, it can be most of the time. However, dark chocolate can be quite healthy in small amounts. Dark chocolate contains a higher-than-normal level of cacao and lower levels of sugar and milk, making it a healthier treat. It also contains healthy minerals such as potassium, zinc, and selenium, and has been linked to reduced risk of stroke and potential protection against harmful sun rays. When eaten in small amounts, dark chocolate can improve your overall health, and provide a nice treat.
If you keep pure cacao on hand, it can be used to add a rich chocolate flavour to smoothies and baked goods without adding any sugar at all! Eating a little bit of healthy chocolate can also satisfy your ‘choco-cravings’ and stop you from demolishing a party-size bag of M&Ms after dinner.
Another food that may come as a major surprise is bread. Bread is often associated with heavy amounts of carbs, sugars, and overall seen as an unhealthy food. However, the right bread can provide you with some missing nutrients. White bread is the type that contains all the harmful sugars and carbs. Whole grain, not whole wheat, bread is surprisingly healthy; it’s high in folate, iron, and fiber. It has also been linked to lowering your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease, as well as lower levels of cholesterol.
All white bread, however, isn’t bad. Enriched white bread, which is white bread that has had additional nutrients added back in after the milling process, can have some good vitamins. Enriched white bread often contains vitamins B1 thiamine, B2 riboflavin, and B3 niacin. If you’re watching your waistline, limit the bread (and total carbs) on your plate to around 33% of your total calorie intake.
When most people think of lean and healthy meats, they often go to skinless chicken breast. However, pork loin or roast can often provide you with similar health benefits. Some cuts of pork can contain a lot of fat, however, the leaner cuts such as the loin or roast can often be just as lean as chicken breast. Pork also contains good B vitamins like B1 thiamin, B2 riboflavin, and B3 niacin. So rather than always going for that plain skinless chicken breast, maybe mix it up and throw in some pork loin every now and then.
Just remember that pork is still a red meat, no matter how much the pork board wants to call it the ‘other white meat’. Red meat can affect your cholesterol and studies show that eating a lot of red meat may be linked with certain bowel cancers.
Like many other spices, people only think of garlic as a seasoning, meant to add extra flavour. However, garlic can provide you with some great health benefits on its own. Garlic has been proven to be an anti-inflammatory food, lower cholesterol, improve your heart health, aid in digestion, and lower your blood sugar levels. It has also been linked to reducing cell damage and blood pressure. It can also help reduce your chances of getting a cold or the flu, so maybe consider it the next time you are starting to feel under-the-weather. However, like most things, too much garlic can be harmful; leading to bloating and heartburn so be careful how much you are adding.
Eating raw garlic also can be more beneficial than adding it into a cooked dish. During the cooking process it can lose some of its important nutrients. By eating it raw and whole, you can get more health benefits out of it. Raw garlic is also a natural remedy for when you are sick.
Black tea & Green tea
When thinking of healthy tea most people typically gravitate towards green tea as it is high in antioxidants. But what they don’t know is that black tea is also very healthy. Black tea contains something called catechins, which are a naturel type of antioxidant that comes from tannins. Black tea has also been linked to helping lower your risk of developing heart disease. So next time you are looking for a healthy tea, maybe choose black rather than green.
It's important to make sure you are following the correct methods for brewing the tea you have chosen. Different teas require different temperatures of water and steeping times. For example, Green Tea releases the most flavour and nutrients in water that is 175-180 degrees Fahrenheit. If you bring the water to boil (around 212 degrees Fahrenheit) it will destroy some of the benefits and make the tea taste bitter. Green tea should be steeped for 3-4 minutes and then the tea leaves (or bag) should be taken out.
Whether they are a fruit, or a vegetable, it does not matter because either way they are extremely healthy. Tomatoes contain some of the highest levels of vitamin C, even higher than most citrus fruits like oranges. Because of their red pigment, tomatoes contain a very concentrated amount of vitamin C. This level only continues to rise when using tomato paste, because it has been concentrated and reduced even further. Tomatoes are also one of the few sources of lycopene, which has been linked to skin and other health benefits.
Canned tomatoes are a healthy option as well, just make sure you choose the no-sodium or low-sodium varieties. You can always add salt to the recipe, and control how much you add, so there’s really no reason to have it in the can.
Mushrooms or fungi may not seem like much from the outside, but on the inside, they are packed full of good nutrients. All mushrooms or fungi contain high levels of vitamin D. Specifically, portabella and cremini mushrooms are also a great source of vitamin B2 riboflavin and B3 niacin.
Aside from being a very versatile food and quick and easy breakfast, oats can be great in other ways. Rolled or steel-cut oats, not instant, can be a great source of complex carbs, fiber, vitamin B1 thiamin, B3 niacin, B5 pantothenic acid, B6 pyridoxine, folate, and iron. They have also been linked to a 21% decrease in heart disease as well as decreasing blood sugar spikes.
Nuts can be very healthy, when they aren’t coated in mass amounts of salt or ground into sugar filled spreads. Unprocessed nuts can provide you with more nutrients than you think. They contain healthy minerals such as magnesium, copper, iron, selenium, and zinc. They are a source of healthy fats and have been linked to lower cholesterol and control appetite.
Nuts can also be an anti-inflammatory food source, promote cell growth, increase your overall energy, and improve digestion. However, you should keep in mind that the recommended serving size for most nuts is about an ounce or one handful. This number of nuts is good for your health but over doing it can reduce the beneficial effects.
Many fruits have been said to provide you with health benefits, however, berries such as blueberries and raspberries have some of the best health benefits. Berries are a great way to get a lot of your needed nutrients, they are easy to eat on the go, pair well with other foods, kids love them, and they don’t taste healthy which is always a bonus.
Berries are a great source of both vitamins C and K, as well as probiotics, potassium, fiber, and antioxidants. They have also been linked to helping reduce conditions like type-2 diabetes. For more information about type-2 diabetes check out this blog post.
They also help reduce the risk for heart disease, as well as improve heart health, reduce inflammation, and boost immunity. Consider adding a side of berries to your lunch or giving a little extra to your kids for a snack each day.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be a chore, it can be as simple as stocking healthy kitchen staples. Most of the common foods in your fridge or cupboard right now could have amazing health benefits you just have to know what you are looking for. When it comes to developing healthy eating habits all it takes is to take a step back and recognize what you have and where you can make improvements.
Even when it comes to cooking methods for healthy eating, all you must do is reduce the amount of salt and bad fats you are using and start integrating healthy food choices. Consider food pairing for maximum health benefits. And remember it doesn’t have to be overthought or complicated, you probably have everything you need already at home.
If you are unsure where to begin your healthy eating journey, come ask a pharmacist at a Cook’s Pharmacy location near you! We are in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Wellesley, and New Hamburg, or give us a call. Our pharmacists are always happy to help and give you healthy recommendations. If you are simply interested in more health-related content, check out our News page for more blogs covering a wider range of health topics.
| Poshin Jobanputra |
November 16, 2023