This Key Healthy Pantry Foods guest post is provided by Kieran Stober, M.D., an Internal Medicine/Pediatrics Physician and nutrition specialist.

Keeping in mind the importance of balance when stocking your pantry is the key to maintaining long-term nutritional health. You must understand that balance; however, to be successful. The following guest post about key healthy pantry foods provides excellent insight into the healthy foods and elements you need to include into your daily diet.

Key Healthy Pantry Foods

HEALTHY FATS

First, we will discuss fats as key healthy pantry foods. Not all fats are BAD!! Your body needs fat. In fact, a diet that is too low in fat can have potentially dangerous effects on your body. Saturated fats and Trans fats are the harmful fats that stay in your blood longer and clog arteries. Butter, animal fat (e.g. bacon grease), vegetable shortening, and most margarine products are high in bad fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats increase your HDL (good/protective cholesterol), which lowers your total cholesterol and are essentially good for you. Olive oil and canola oil are the most widely available good oils and should be used in all cases when cooking with oil. Whenever examining nutrition information look at TWO things in regards to fat: Total Fat and Saturated Fat. If TOTAL fat is high this is potentially bad—but first look at saturated fat. If most of the fat is saturated fat then this is an unhealthy food item. If there is low saturated fat then most of the fat is unsaturated fat (GOOD fat) and this is a potentially key healthy pantry food.

HEALTHY CARBOHYDRATES

The proper carbohydrates are important key healthy pantry foods. Carbohydrates are basically large linked sugar molecules that your body digests into glucose, the most basic sugar. The Atkins craze has lead many to believe that all carbs are bad. This is not true. Certain carbs  (e.g. those found in enriched buns, enriched white breads, or potatoes) have a tendency to increase blood sugar rapidly—these are the carbs to avoid. However, complex carbohydrates—like those found in whole grain products—gradually increase your blood sugar and also contain the vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Whole grains (e.g. wheat bread, wheat pasta, brown rice, oatmeal etc) are also going to be high in fiber, which is the next topic of discussion. Rather than avoiding carbs altogether, get your carbs from complex sources like products made with whole grain. The proper carbs can be added to your checklist of key healthy pantry foods.

HEALTHY FIBER

Many studies have shown the health benefits of fiber; therefore, making fiber a key healthy pantry food. Fiber is actually a nondigestible carbohydrate that is present in natural food. From lowering blood sugar, to lowering cholesterol, to helping the body eliminates fats, speeding the process of digestion, fiber has many helpful benefits. However, the average American does not eat enough fiber (25 grams recommended). There are two types of fiber: insoluble and soluble. Insoluble fiber comes from many whole grain products, the skin of many fruits, and nuts. Soluble fiber is present in the pulp of fruits, certain vegetables (broccoli, carrots) and legumes (beans and peas). Eat foods with both types of fiber to be sure to include this food in your list of key healthy pantry foods.

HEALTHY PROTEIN

Protein is another necessary nutrient and important key healthy pantry food. The breakdown products of proteins, called amino acids, are important building blocks used by the body. Certain dietary proteins are called “complete” proteins because they are composed of all the amino acids that your body needs. Proteins from animal products, e.g. egg, steak, fish, chicken, cheese, are complete proteins. Incomplete proteins usually come from vegetables or legumes. However, by eating a variety of different vegetables and legumes, you can still obtain all the necessary amino acids. For example, a meal of beans (any type) and rice is a complete protein meal. It is important to eat protein from different sources.

HEALTHY VITAMINS/MINERALS

The final key healthy pantry food to add to your list includes vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals are necessary for the millions of chemical reactions going on throughout your body. Many vitamins also help detoxify harmful chemicals that can cause Cancer. There are a diverse array of different vitamins and minerals found in different types of fruits and vegetable. A good rule of thumb is to eat many different colored fruits and vegetables, because those with different colors often have high levels of different vitamins. For example, orange vegetables like carrots are high in Vitamin A, certain B vitamins, vitamin C and the minerals, Magnesium, Phosphorous, and Potassium. Green leafy vegetables, like Spinach are high in Vitamin C, E, K, Folate; as well as Calcium and Iron. Folate, is a very important B-Vitamin for mothers-to-be. Studies shown that diets low in Folate cause certain types of birth defects. While many foods are fortified with Folate, it is often difficult to obtain from the diet alone. Thus, it is recommended that all sexually active women of child-bearing age take a multi-vitamin tablet, all of which contain Folate. Otherwise, vitamins have actually been linked to premature death.