Fundamental healthy ingredients for well-stocked pantry

Published 9:53 pm Thursday, May 21, 2015

By David Crocker

Preparing meals can sometimes be burdensome for considerable reasons including time, expense, variety, healthfulness and appeal issues associated with formulating daily fare. Today, I’d like to share a list of fundamental ingredients to keep a well-stocked pantry or cupboard. These essentials will insure more healthful, savory meals.

Tomato products. Tomatoes – with their sauces and pastes — can be added to a variety of dishes. Canned tomatoes could be used as toppings for pizza or sandwiches, added to soups or stews, and can make a great base for homemade sauces. Tomato fruit products reduce chronic inflammation, fight off oxidative stress to the body, reduce risk for cancer (lycopene) including prostate and pancreatic cancers, and help control blood pressure. By the way, cooked and processed tomato products contain more lycopene than fresh tomatoes.

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Canned fish. Canned salmon is wonderful in salads, sandwiches, croquets (cakes), or stews. Canned tuna is excellent in salads, sandwiches and pasta dishes. Health benefits from canned fish include omega-3 fatty acids, which protect the heart and relieve inflammation. Canned fish also yields high quality, easily digested protein.

Canned beans. This staple is great, because beans are a great source of antioxidants, which protect our bodies from free-radical damage. Beans contribute protein and are high in fiber, too. The rich fiber content in beans makes them digest more slowly than meats, thereby helping you feel fuller longer. Beans are delicious in salads, casseroles, chili, or as a side dish.

Fat-free broths. Broths can be an inexpensive, satisfying addition to your diet. Beef, chicken, and vegetable stock adds savory flavor when cooking pasta, creating soups, or sautéing. Broths can also be rich sources of minerals and amino acids.

Nuts. Healthful nuts like almonds, walnuts, hazel nuts, peanuts and Brazil nuts supply heart healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids, protein and fiber. One study found that those who substitute other foods with nuts lost more weight. Nuts are also rich in arginine, an amino acid that converts to nitric oxide in the body, dilating blood vessels. This helps lower blood pressure. Nuts add crunch and flavor to rice and pasta dishes, vegetables and salads.

Whole grains. Oatmeal, couscous, barley, rice and some pastas are great as side dishes or in casseroles, soups and salads. Studies show consuming whole grains reduces risk for heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. They are also rich sources of vitamins and minerals.

Healthful oils and vinegars. Olive and canola oils are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids that may help prevent breast cancer, reduce risk of heart attack and stroke, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and relieve inflammation. These oils can add a light flavor to salads, pastas, soups and other dishes.

Apple cider vinegar. Cider, not distilled (white) vinegar, is rich in vitamins, minerals, and pectin (a heteropolysaccaride) which may benefit those with, or at risk for, cancer, and shows promise in the treatment of diabetes. Also, apple cider vinegar when digested, becomes alkaline, which can improve digestion and overall health. Cider vinegar is great for cooking and in salad dressings.

Diet or exercise question? Email me at Or visit David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 28 years. He served as strength director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach for the USC Spartanburg baseball team, S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, and the Converse College equestrian team. He served as a water safety consultant to the United States Marine Corps, lead trainer to L. H. Fields modeling agency, and taught four semesters at USC Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.