Power up your pantry with these 10 food staples

Eating for a strong and slim body takes planning and nutritional knowledge.

Stocking your kitchen with these 10 health food staples will offer instant access to a world of body benefits in a quick and convenient way.

#1 Eggs

Whole eggs contain more essential vitamins and minerals than virtually any other food. “The yolks are where the majority of the goodness of the egg lies in the form of folic acid, biotin and lutein” explains Lila Bruk, a dietician at Lila Bruk & Associates in Johannesburg.

A review of more than 25 published studies on protein also concluded that egg protein may help boost muscle strength and development more than other proteins because of its high concentration of leucine.

Furthermore, American scientists have proven that people who enjoy eggs as part of their breakfast eat fewer kilojoules throughout the day because the egg protein keeps them fuller for longer.

“If your concern is cholesterol, one yolk per day is safe”, advises Lila. When shopping for eggs, choose free range eggs that are high in omega-3s and thus rich in healthy fatty acids.

#2 Tinned tuna

Canned tuna is convenient, inexpensive and healthy source of protein, vitamins, and essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3s.

Studies show that people who eat two servings of fish a week live longer, have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, greater mental capacity and less abdominal fat than those who avoid seafood.

Just ensure that you stock up on tuna packaged in water (brine) instead of oil to avoid those extra kilojoules.

#3 Oats

Eating oats adds fibre to your diet, which keeps you feeling fuller for longer. They also reduce your risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure and lessen the risk for type-II diabetes.

Additionally, oats deliver slow-releasing carbohydrates for sustained energy, as well as protein, manganese and selenium.

Avoid instant oats as they contain less fibre and tend to have more sodium and sugar. Instead, choose steel cut oats, which are an excellent option because they stabilise blood sugar levels and offer extended satiety.

#4 Canned tomatoes

Tomatoes are flavoursome, low in kilojoules, and are rich in the antioxidant lycopene, a carotenoid pigment believed to protect against heart disease and some cancers.

Fresh tomatoes have less available lycopene than canned tomatoes or tomato sauce because the heat from cooking and canning makes the lycopene more available to the body. Always opt for low sugar and low sodium options.

#5 Cauliflower

“Cauliflower is a nutritional powerhouse in its own right as it is high in antioxidants and therefore offers protection against cancer”, states Lila.

Cauliflower is also relatively low in kilojoules and high in fibre, vitamin C and water, which aids digestion, keeps you satisfied, helps prevent disease and allows the body to better eliminate toxins.

Eating more of this vegetable can thus be especially beneficial to women who are watching their weight. “Eat raw cauliflower in salads or lightly steamed as a side vegetable”, suggests Lila. “You can also try cooking it till it’s soft and then pureeing it as a mashed potato alternative.”

#6 Quinoa

Quinoa is a complete plant protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. It also provides a boost of energy and satisfies hunger without the fat or cholesterol of proteins like red meat.

Quinoa is also loaded with nutrients like magnesium, calcium, fibre, manganese, folate, vitamin B6 and phosphorous. And it is gluten-free, versatile and easy to prepare.

“Quinoa has a wonderful nutty flavour and it makes a great alternative to rice or couscous”, adds Lila.

#7 Tofu

Tofu is made from soybeans and provides a full complement of amino acids and isoflavones, which help muscles recover from exercise.

“Soya-based protein contains essential amino acids, is rich in calcium and protects against cancer”, says Lila. She recommends adding this versatile meat substitute to stir-fries or baking tofu in a tomato-based sauce. “You can even add tofu to smoothies or scramble it like you would eggs”, says Lila.

#8 Beans

Bean eaters typically weigh less because they contain a digestive hormone known as cholecystokinin, which acts as a natural appetite suppressant.

There is also strong evidence that beans help keep blood sugar levels on an even keel and lower cholesterol. The fact that they are also inexpensive, rich in fibre and packed with protein make these little legumes a healthy and affordable pantry addition.

Select dried beans for convenience and be sure to buy plain canned versions like kidney and black beans, but without the added salt.

#9 Nuts

A handful of nuts a day can help you slim down and lower your risk of Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Healthy nuts that nutritionists recommend you stock up on include pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts and Brazil nuts, which all contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, protein and fibre. They also contain a lot of vitamin E, calcium and magnesium, all of which help strengthen the heart and bones.

#10 Lentils

This often overlooked legume is a great source of satiating protein and fibre. Half a cup of lentils delivers 4g of resistant starch, which boosts the metabolism and burns fat.

Lentils also offer a good amount of folate and iron to keep your bloodstream and cells healthy. In addition, they are a good source of B-vitamins, potassium and copper.

Choose from brown, red or green lentils and prepare them by first rinsing and then cooking them in water or stock.

Written by Julia Lamberti

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

When he's not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He's worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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