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The 6 Healthy-Eating Staples Every Pantry Needs

Looking for simple ways to eat a little healthier? Start by stocking up on these nourishing basics. When you have the right ingredients on hand, it’s easy to build meals and snacks that are delicious and good for you, too.

 

Olive oil is one of the healthiest, most versatile cooking oils. It contains monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyphenols, which may help lower your risk of heart disease. Olive oil is somewhat delicate. Its smoke point (the temperature at which it begins to degrade) is 420 F, so it’s best to use olive oil for low-to-medium heat sautés. It’s also perfect as a salad dressing.

 

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Greek yogurt is made by fermenting milk with live, active bacterial cultures. Compared to plain yogurt, the Greek variety is strained of extra whey, leaving it thick and creamy but lower in calcium. The bacterial cultures used are probiotics, and they can help build up the good bacteria in your gut. Plain, nonfat Greek yogurt is a nutritional powerhouse. It’s a good source of calcium, potassium, protein and vitamin B12. It’s also a smart substitute for fats and liquids in cooking. For example, lighten up baked goods by replacing half the butter with half as much yogurt. Greek yogurt is a great standalone food, too. Top it with fresh fruit and nuts for a quick, healthy breakfast.

 

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In his New York Times bestseller, The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner highlights lessons for living longer from people in different geographic regions with the highest concentrations of centenarians. It boiled down to lots of plant-based foods, especially beans. Beans are high in fiber, which means they do a great job of filling you up faster and for longer periods of time than lower-fiber foods. They’re high in antioxidants, and aid in the elimination of cell-damaging free radicals linked to aging, cancer and a number of neurodegenerative diseases. Add beans to your salads, soups and chilis.

 

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Grains, especially whole grains, have been shown to reduce the risk of some chronic diseases and help with weight management. Fiber adds bulk to your diet, helping you feel fuller with fewer calories. Moreover, fiber cannot be digested efficiently by our guts, which further reduces the calories we receive from them. Whole grains are rich in fiber, along with B vitamins, iron and other minerals. Like beans, grains work well in salads, soups and simple side dishes.

 

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Spices can add loads of flavor without contributing many calories. They also contain antioxidants that aid in cardiovascular protection and cancer prevention, and have memory and anti-aging benefits. For example, turmeric and ginger are known for their anti-inflammatory benefits, chili powder and paprika contain metabolism-boosting capsaicin and cinnamon has antioxidants to protect cells against free radicals.

 

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Beef, chicken and vegetable stocks are filled with nutrients and minerals important for good health, including potassium and phosphorus. They’re also typically low in calories and easy to digest. Additionally, proper hydration involves balancing fluid, sodium and potassium, which are all found in stock.

 

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