Do your fridge and pantry need a makeover? Filling your refrigerator and pantry with nutritious (and delicious) staples can inspire you to eat well and stay healthy. But eating healthy doesn’t mean eating boring. Julie Robarts, MS, MPH, RD, LDN at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) suggests plenty of bright, flavorful options that can make cooking and eating a pleasure.
Dark chocolate: Did you know that dark chocolate can help boost your endurance? It’s true. Dark chocolate is a rich source of epicatechin, an antioxidant that’s been shown to help improve blood flow and cardiac function. Dark chocolate also contains cocoa flavanols, and research shows that regular consumption of cocoa products containing flavanols may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. With all the good things dark chocolate has going for it, consider swapping out your afternoon soda for a square or two of dark chocolate instead.
Sweet potatoes: Sure, sweet potatoes taste great, but it’s the health benefits of this nutrition-dense root vegetable that make sweet potatoes truly sweet. Packed with vitamin A, loads of fiber and fewer calories than regular potatoes, sweet potatoes have earned their spot as a pantry staple.
Popcorn: It’s with good reason that popcorn has been eaten for thousands of years. This ancient snack can help lower cholesterol, improve digestion, and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and obesity. The health benefits of popcorn come from its wealth of fiber, polyphenolic compounds, antioxidants, vitamin B and magnesium content. Of course, make sure to avoid the buttery movie theater-style popcorn—that’s just loaded with salt and fat.
Black beans: Delicious, low-fat, and full of vitamins and fiber, black beans pack a serious nutrition punch. They’re also an excellent source of protein at around 6 grams per ½ cup. Black beans work well as a side dish or a quick snack. Just watch out for canned beans that can be high in sodium. For canned beans, choose a low sodium option, or you can always give your beans a quick rinse before use.
Low-fat yogurt: Luckily, good quality yogurt is readily available today because low-fat yogurt is one of the most healthful snacks. It’s packed with calcium and vitamin D to strengthen your bones, protein to build muscles, and probiotics that are good for your digestive system and brain. Low-fat yogurt is also a great substitute for sour cream, mayo and sometimes oil and butter—another way to cut fat and boost protein.
Fresh greens: From supporting weight loss to protecting eye sight, preventing inflammation to strengthening the immune system, fresh greens do it all. Try to eat at least 6 servings of broccoli, cabbage, spinach, lettuce and kale.
Mushrooms: Eating colorful foods is the key to getting enough vitamins and minerals. But mushrooms are the exception that make the rule. Packed with potassium, antioxidants and selenium—a mineral that’s good for your immune system—mushrooms are a nutritious but sometimes overlooked food. So whether you prefer portabella, button or shiitake, make sure mushrooms have a spot in your fridge.
Blueberries and dark fruits: Blueberries have shown to reduce inflammation, tart cherries have shown to help fight pain, and pomegranates are great for muscle strength recovery. This is partially because dark fruits are high in anthocyanin—the pigment that gives fruits and vegetables the dark red, purple or blue color. And not only are dark fruits good for you, they taste great too. So reach for a plum, some blackberries or purple grapes—whichever fruits are in season.
To start eating healthy—start with your fridge and your pantry. When you have the right ingredients, cooking a healthy and delicious meal is a breeze. Need help staying organized? Customize your shopping list to give your fridge and pantry a complete makeover.
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