If your kitchen is brimming with pre-packaged snacks and processed junk, your odds of going for something healthy when your stomach starts grumbling aren’t too high. But fill your fridge and pantry with fruits, vegetables, and superfoods, instead, and it becomes infinitely easier to make healthy choices when hunger strikes.
I truly believe that food is medicine, and keeping your kitchen well-stocked with nutritious ingredients is one of the most effective ways to stay on track towards better health. Here are a few of the items I always have stocked in my fridge and pantry, and why they make the cut.
In The Refrigerator
This refreshing fermented drink does double duty by promoting hydration and supporting the gut microbiome by giving the beneficial bacteria in your gut a healthy boost. Drinking kombucha regularly can boost your immune function and brain power, and even help keep your waistline in check. I drink at least one glass a day and love trying new organic and raw varieties from brands like GT’s Living Foods.
Tiny but powerful, blueberries pack a serious nutritional punch. They’re loaded with antioxidants, which fight the free radical damage and oxidative stress that have been implicated in so many chronic diseases. Blueberries also contain fiber to support regularity and curb cravings, and they’re highly versatile; I enjoy sprinkling them over some yogurt, throwing a handful into my morning smoothie, or adding them into a delicious berry salad.
3. Organic, Grass-Fed Bison
If bison meat isn’t currently in your weekly dinner rotation, there are plenty of reasons to add it. Bison is lower in fat but richer in flavor than grass-fed beef, and it’s jam-packed with protein and an array of important micronutrients such as vitamin B12, zinc, and selenium. I often simmer up some slow cooker bison chili, use it to make avocado bison burgers, or add it to stir-fries and tacos to give my dinner a healthy and flavorful twist—but you can swap it into any recipe that calls for beef!
4. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens such as kale, romaine, and spinach are staples in my diet—and for good reason. Greens contain a concentrated dose of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to optimize your health. They’re also low in calories but high in fiber, so they keep you feeling full without driving up the scale. I love to bake kale chips, sauté the greens for an easy side dish, or mix them into crustless spinach quiche.
Avocados have it all: heart-healthy fats, fiber, vitamin K, and even more potassium than bananas. Interestingly enough, research has even associated eating avocados with better overall diet quality and nutrient intake, and a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. And, trust me, the potential uses for avocados extend way beyond guacamole: Use them to spice up your grilled cheese, add them to soups and salads, or whip them into a chocolate mousse to satisfy your sweet tooth, guilt-free. I also enjoy them drizzled with some olive oil and a bit of seasoning for a nutritious and delicious snack.
Unfortunately, lemons are often dismissed as little more than a garnish. In reality, though, this citrus fruit offers up plenty of nutrition, including a solid dose of vitamin C, fiber, potassium, and iron to ramp up immunity. I like to start my day with a refreshing cup of lemon water, make lemony-delicious protein bars, and add a squeeze of lemon to side dishes and main courses for a little extra zing.
In the Pantry
As the most abundant protein in the body, collagen plays a central role in the health of your muscles, skin, bones, digestive system, and tendons. As you get older, however, collagen production slows down, allowing some undesirable changes—like wrinkles, joint pain, and saggy skin—to start popping up.
To support my body as I get older, I add collagen to my daily post-workout smoothie, but you can also use it to bump up the protein content of baked goods, mix it into chia pudding, or even stir a scoop into your coffee.
2. Bone Broth Protein
Bone broth is rich in gelatin, collagen, amino acids, and trace minerals, making it another great addition to your daily routine. In fact, studies show that the compounds found in bone broth can support intestinal integrity, skin health, and joint health.
And now that bone broth protein is available in a wide range of flavored powder supplements, it’s easy to add to everything from baked treats to soups, smoothies, and shakes. I love using the powder to make pancakes for a protein-packed way to start the day.
Derived from the leaves of the Camellia sinesis plant, white tea, green tea, and black tea are loaded with beneficial compounds like catechins, antioxidants that combat damaging free radicals. Some research suggests that drinking tea can preserve brain health, kick up fat-burning, and even improve oral health. Since the different varieties of tea vary in both their methods of processing and the range of health benefits that they provide, be sure to switch up your cup to make the most of this amazing beverage. Gaia Herbs and Organic India are two of my favorite brands, and offer a wide array of tea varieties to mix into your weekly rotation.
Adaptogenic herbs contain specific compounds that have been shown to bolster the body’s ability to deal with stress and help us restore and maintain a sense of balance and well-being. Many also boast other health benefits, such as enhanced energy and antioxidant protection against free radicals. Astragalus, schisandra, and ashwagandha are a few of my favorites, and can be conveniently consumed in capsule form. I also love ginseng, holy basil, licorice root, and cordycep mushrooms, which I typically use in powdered form to give broths and beverages a healthy upgrade.
5. Himalayan Pink Salt
High-quality Himalayan pink salt is an unrefined form of salt rich in a variety of trace minerals, including potassium, magnesium and calcium, which are absolutely vital to health. Thanks to its impressive nutrient content, Himalayan pink salt may aid in maintaining proper fluid balance in the body, support respiratory health, and even promote better sleep. It’s super-easy to add to your diet: Simply swap out regular refined salt for the pink stuff in your favorite dishes and recipes.
Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., D.C., C.N.S., is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist, author, and member of The Vitamin Shoppe’s Wellness Council. Dr. Axe operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites, sharing healthy recipes, herbal remedies, nutrition and fitness advice, and information on essential oils and natural supplements. Dr. Axe founded one of the largest functional medicine clinics in the world, in Nashville, TN, and has served as a physician for many professional athletes.