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Health Food Store Tour: Pantry Items

May 10, 2012

Hi there! I’m Christy Goldfeder, Health Coach and IIN Graduate, Class of 2006. Join me on IIN’s virtual Health Food Store Tour, where I’ll give you weekly tips on how to shop healthfully. Come back each week as we stroll through the aisles to discover which foods are the healthiest.

Here’s what I look for when I’m seeking items for my pantry:

Flavorful and Whole

I like a pantry full of exotic flavors – variety is the spice of life. Bring on the Middle Eastern, Indian and Chinese spices.

When choosing oils, I think about how much processing needs to happen before you can extract the oil. For example, if you squeeze an olive, you’ll notice that it’s naturally oily. It’s the same thing with nuts. Not so much with vegetable oils.

Here are some of my favorite pantry items:


Coconut oil: This tropical oil was once vilified as artery-clogging oil, but recent studies have shown its medium-chain fatty acids are actually heart healthy and can aid in weight loss. Use it for sautéing, stir frying, and baking as it can withstand high temperatures.


Olive oil: Look for extra virgin olive oil to get the least refined version. Olive oil degrades quickly with heat, so it’s better to use in your salad dressing than for cooking.


Ghee: Also known as clarified butter, ghee is renowned in Ayurveda as oil that is particularly healing and nourishing to the body. It is great to use for cooking on medium to high temperatures.

rice vinegar

Rice vinegar: the white variety is less acidic and milder in flavor, perfect for Asian inspired dishes. Use in a stir-fry or for a different flavor in your salad dressing.


Tamari: This Japanese product is the gluten-free version of soy sauce – no wheat, just soy, is used to make it. Use it in place of salt in a dish and to add depth of flavor to your cooking.


Cayenne pepper: This red hot chili pepper is high in vitamin A and helps fight inflammation, offers natural pain relief, and boosts heart health. Sprinkle on anything if you like a little heat.


Cumin: this nutty, peppery seed is a source of iron, boost immune function, and can help prevent cancer. And, if you ever have really bad digestion (and gas), take a spoonful of cumin seeds, chew well, and swallow. Within minutes, you should have relief.


Turmeric: Not just a colorful, flavorful ingredient, turmeric is known as a powerful medicine used in Indian and Chinese healing systems. It is anti-inflammatory, can inhibit cancer cell growth, may prevent colon and prostate cancer, improves liver function, and lowers cholesterol. Commonly used in Indian cooking, I like to put it in just about anything – great with sautéed greens or scrambled eggs.

What’re your favorite healthy pantry items?