Over winter, I see many people start to take short cuts when it comes to their diet due to less motivation to cook or increased temptation for comfort foods. However, having the right ingredients on hand and stocking your pantry well for winter can make a huge difference to your diet and motivation to cook healthy meals. If you can relate, Nutritionist, Zoe Bingley-Pullin shares 5 things you should have in your pantry this winter!
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Legumes are a great plant-based protein to have on hand, to create healthy meals from. In addition to protein, legumes offer a good source of fibre. Both protein are fibre are key over winter, especially if looking to maintain your weight because they help to make you feel fuller for longer. Fibre is also important to support immunity because it helps to support a healthy microbiome. Considering that 70-80% of our immune system is housed in our gastrointestinal tract, it only makes sense that by supporting our gut and microbiome, we are also supporting our immunity.
Warming spices – ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and star anise
Winter cooking is all about the warming herbs and spices and I love having a pot on the stove for hours permeating the house with beautiful smells. A few of my most favourite winter spices are ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and star anise. Aside from taste, these spices are rich in polyphenols, a class of chemical compounds found within plants, which exert antioxidant activities in the body. Therefore, polyphenols can help to neutralise free radicals from oxidative stress and inflammation. Including sources of polyphenols in the diet can benefit gut health because they act like prebiotics, helping to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria and inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Once again, helping to support overall health and immunity.
Cacao powder is a delicious ingredient to make warming hot drinks from or use to make baked goods. Cacao is equally as healthy as it is delicious and contains important minerals such as magnesium potassium, calcium and zinc. Cacao is also known for its antioxidant content, specifically, flavonoids which can have beneficial effects on cognition, memory, mood and immunity. To make a warming hot drink, combine 1-2 tbsp. cacao, 1 cup coconut or almond milk, pinch cinnamon and sweetener of choice in a small saucepan over low-medium heat until warm and mixed through.
Miso paste is made from fermented soybeans and can also include grains such as brown rice or barley. Miso paste acts as a healthy replacement for stocks and can be used to quickly whip up a nourishing soup. Miso also contains protein and traces of vitamin K, B-vitamins, zinc, iron and copper. A key benefit of unpasteurised miso is that is contains live bacteria ‘probiotics’ – therefore its important to add miso at the end of cooking to help preserve the probiotics because they are susceptible to heat. Store in the fridge once opened.
Freekeh is a grain harvested from green durum wheat and it has a nutty savoury flavour profile. When it comes to cooking with grains, freekeh is a good choice because it offers a nutrient dense option. Specifically, it has a good fibre and protein content while also containing B1, B2, iron, zinc, potassium and magnesium. In addition, freekeh contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two beneficial carotenoids, which have antioxidant activities in the body. Freekeh works well in soups, boiled and served with curries and stews or simply tossed through roasted vegetables and feta cheese as a quick meal.
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