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Kitchen essentials

Store cupboard staples for quick and healthy meals

We spoke to the experts to find out their favourite store cupboard staples. Remember that all these items are available in your local independent health food store!

Chia seeds “Chia seeds are an essential in our store cupboards,” say nutritionist Dr Aparna Prinja and Shital Shah, authors of Plant Milk Power, Delicious, Nutritious and Easy Recipes to Nourish Your Soul. “Not only are they rich in plant-based omega-3 fatty acids but they are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties. They provide dietary fibre, protein, calcium, magnesium and iron. We like to add them to our smoothies and porridge as it adds texture and helps our skin glow!”

Gluten-free rolled oats “Preparing some porridge in the morning with some rolled oats can be an extremely quick and nutritious breakfast option,” says Uxshely Carcamo, a psychotherapist and nutritionist at the Food Therapy Clinic ( “With a healthy dose of fibre, rolled oats can help to ensure that you have healthy and regular bowel movements. Oats are also a source of slow-release energy and a plant-based protein source too. Oats offer a great source of vitamins and minerals including zinc, iron, magnesium and vitamins B1 and B5. With their substantial fibre content oats can also really be a great way to feel full and satisfied until your next meal.”

Herbs and spices Herbs and spices will add flavour and interest to your meals, so make sure you have a good variety in your kitchen cupboard. Turmeric, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, paprika, rosemary, oregano and cumin are all good options. Cinnamon adds a subtle sweetness to porridge and has been shown to help support blood pressure. “Turmeric contains the active ingredient curcumin,” says Dr Aparna Prinja and Shital Shah. “This powerful culinary spice has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years to promote digestion, joint and skin health. We add turmeric to curries, roasted vegetables, rice and soups.”

Ground flaxseeds “Flaxseeds are a great addition to soups, smoothies, porridge, yogurt or pretty much any meal,” says Uxshely. “They are a great plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids but they are also a good source of fibre, protein and a range of vitamins and minerals too.”

Cashew nuts “Cashew nuts contain mostly monounsaturated fats which are thought to be good for heart health,” say Dr Aparna Prinja and Shital Shah. “They also contain vitamins E, B and K as well as minerals such as copper, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus. We love to add cashews to curries and salads. The crunch adds a different dimension to meals and brings out their flavour. Cashews also make great vegan cheese, sauces and of course cashew milk. Cashew milk is easy to make and is simply delicious. We soak cashews overnight and then blend them with dates, vanilla powder and water.”

Legumes “Legumes are such a great base for a meal,” says Uxshely. “They are a plant-based source of protein and slow-release carbohydrates and they are packed with healthy fibre. They also count as one of your five a day too. Whether you are choosing lentils, beans or chickpeas, introducing a serving of legumes into your day can really boost the nutritional profile of a meal.”

Wholegrains Healthy wholegrains such as quinoa, brown rice and buckwheat make good accompaniments to stews, curries and chillis. Quinoa is a great source of protein, containing up to 18g per serving, and contains all of the nine essential amino acids. Add it to soups for an extra protein hit or use it to stuff mushrooms or peppers for a filling main meal.

Tinned tomatoes Every store cupboard needs a few tins of tomatoes for whipping up a super-quick and healthy dinner. They can be used in a whole host of recipes from veggie casseroles, stews and curries to soups, lasagnes, pasta bakes and Bolognese sauces.

Garlic Another vital store cupboard ingredient, garlic adds flavour to so many dishes and it’s also a great food to support your immune system. It has antimicrobial (antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal) effects due to the fact that it contains the compound allicin. When cooking with garlic be sure to crush it and then leave for around 10 minutes to properly release the allicin.

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