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SuperPantry & Nutrition 101

Healthy eating is easy when your pantry is stocked full of simple, whole foods. SuperFoods are foods with the most nutrient-density per calorie. In other words, you get the most ‘bang for your buck’ by eating foods packed full of vitamins and minerals.

The SuperFoods featured on this website are all inexpensive, readily available, and incredibly easy to incorporate into your life. The foods below were chosen because they  have been proven to help prevent and, in some cases, reverse the well-known effects of aging, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers.

Click to expand the SuperFoods below to learn more about their health-promoting properties. You can also download our list of SuperFoods. Be sure to check out the Food Prep handouts under “Additional Resources” at bottom right of this page.
Whole Grains
Most needed in food banks: Rice (brown, wild), whole grain dry cereals (at least 5 grams fiber/serving), whole grain pastas (whole wheat or brown rice flour), quinoa, wheat berries, kasha (buckwheat), amaranth, teff.Whole grains are complex carbohydrates and they provide fiber and essential B-vitamins, iron and zinc.
Most needed in food banks: Steel-cut or rolled oats. Oats are low in calories, high in fiber and protein. They’re a rich source of magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, thiamine, and pantothenic acid. Oatmeal is on virtually every menu of every restaurant serving breakfast in America, and if you only remember to eat a bowl of oats regularly, you’ll be on your way to better health.
Canned Soups, Beans & Legumes
Most needed in food banks: Black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, low sodium soups.Beans provide a great alternative to meat, as a low-fat source of protein. For example, one cup of lentils provides 17 grams of protein with less that 1 gram of fat. Aside from being a great source of protein, beans are a delicious source of fiber, B vitamins, iron, folate, potassium, magnesium, and many phytonutrients, and should be consumed on a regular basis to promote optimal health. It is recommended that you should eat four ½ cup servings of beans per week.
Nuts & Seeds
Most needed in food banks: Non-hydrogenated nut butters (peanut, almond, etc), pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, pistachios.Great sources of protein and fiber! Nuts and seeds pack a nutritious punch with heart-healthy monosaturated oils, vitamins, and minerals. The lignans in seeds have been demonstrated to reduce cholesterol levels. Walnuts provide the healthy Omega-3 fats for non-fish eaters.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
If you were to make one change in your kitchen to promote health and gain substantial benefits in countless ways, it would be to use extra virgin olive oil in place of other fats. Studies show that adding olive oil to your regular diet can reduce the risk for breast and colon cancer, lower blood pressure, and improve cardiovascular health. In addition to healthy fat, olive oil is a good source of vitamin E. One ounce of extra virgin olive oil contains 17.4 percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin E.
Canned Fish and Meats
Most needed in food banks: Tuna, sardines, wild salmon.Wild salmon is one of the richest, tastiest, readily available sources of marine-derived omega-3 fatty acids. By including wild salmon in your diet two to four times a week you should achieve optimal protection against a multitude of diseases that have been associated with low intakes of these critical fats, including heart disease. Salmon is easy to get in a non-perishable form: canned in water. Costco even sells canned salmon in bulk!
Vegetables (Canned)
Vegetables provide vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, chlorophyll, and essential fatty acids. A good source of dietary fiber, complex carbohydrates, good sources of vitamin B and minerals. Spinach, kale, and swiss chard contain beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin that are powerful phytochemicals that promote overall health.
Tomatoes are a good source of potassium, niacin, vitamin B6, and folate – a great heart-healthy combination of nutrients. Potassium-rich foods are especially effective in helping to achieve optimal blood pressure while niacin is used to lower elevated blood cholesterol levels. Processed tomatoes are actually of more benefit than fresh tomatoes! Get them canned in a low-sodium variety.
Extremely high in fiber and low in calories, pumpkin packs an abundance of disease-fighting nutrients, including potassium, pantothenic acid, magnesium, and vitamins C and E. The key nutrient that boosts pumpkin to the top of the SuperFoods list is the synergistic combination of carotenoids, which have been shown to decrease the risk of various cancers, including those of the lung, colon, bladder, cervical, breast, and skin. Carotenoid consumption also decreases the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.Pumpkin is a terrific source of fiber. Most people aren’t aware of the fiber content of canned pumpkin because it seems so creamy. Just one cup serving provides 5 grams of fiber – more than you’re getting from most supermarket cereals.
Fruits (Canned in juice, not syrup)
Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, folic acid, and potassium. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines, contain flavonoids that are unique to the citrus family. Naringin produced in grapefruits and hesperidin found in oranges are both powerful antioxidants. Pomegranates are rich in powerful, free-radical fighting antioxidants called polyphenols.
Berries (Dried)
Berries contain antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins that reduce free-radicals in the body, which may help to slow the aging process.Blueberries are great brain food, having a very positive effect on your memory. The healthful benefits of blueberries stem mainly from their incredibly high levels of antioxidant phytonutrients. Research has shown that phytonutrients help the body cells communicate with each other more efficiently, prevent mutations at the cellular level, prevent the proliferation of cancer cells, and there is still much more that we are learning about the powers of phytonutrients everyday. Get these little gems dried with no added sugar. Add them to oatmeal, baking, or just eat them with nuts as an excellent snack.
Herbs & Spices
Many herbs and spices are rich in antioxidants and may support healthy digestive function and the nervous system.
Perhaps the most exciting recent discovery concerning cinnamon is its effect on blood glucose levels as well as on triglyceride and cholesterol levels, all of which could benefit people suffering from type II diabetes. A USDA study shows that consuming a half teaspoon of cinnamon per day may significantly lower blood sugar in people with type II diabetes, as well as reduce triglyceride, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol levels.In addition to being a glucose moderator, cinnamon is recognized as an antibacterial. The essential oils in cinnamon are able to stop the growth of bacteria as well as fungi, including the common yeast Candida. Cinnamon has also been shown to be effective in fighting the E. coli bacterium.
The power of honey comes from the wide range of compounds present in the rich amber liquid. Honey contains at least 181 known substances, and its antioxidant activity stems from the phenolics, peptides, organic acids, and enzymes. Honey also contains salicylic acid, minerals, alpha-tocopherol, and oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides increase the number of “good” bacteria in the colon, reduce levels of toxic metabolites in the intestine, help prevent constipation, and help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Never give honey to children younger than a year old.
Green & White Tea
Tea consumption is associated with a lowered risk of heart disease and stroke. The arteries of Chinese-American tea drinkers were compared with the arteries of Caucasian coffee drinkers and the tea drinkers had only two-thirds as much coronary artery damage and only one-third as much cerebral artery damage upon autopsy compared with the coffee drinkers. Another study from Harvard showed that there was a 44 percent lower risk of heart attack in people who drank at least one cup of tea daily.Tea seems to have a positive effect on your dental health. Drinking tea lowers your risk of developing cavities as well as gum disease. One study found that tea may reduce cavity formation by up to 75 percent. The fluoride content of the tea inhibits cavities from developing. Green tea is rich in catechins, which are compounds that have been shown to enhance the immune system and help reduce the risk of heart disease as well as certain cancers.

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