With the new year comes a host of health-related resolutions: exercise more frequently, perhaps cut out unhealthy ingredients like artificial sweeteners or maybe even reduce screen time and nomophobia.
There’s one resolution, however, that’s often overlooked, can have a direct impact on your health and is easy to do: cook more at home! In fact, preparing your own food is the main ingredient in a healthier diet. (1)
But as every home chef can attest, meals can be become monotonous. It’s easy to fall into a food rut, eating the same sad, bland chicken and veggies (is there a sadder meal?) or relying on staples like carb-heavy pasta.
That’s why I’m so excited to share some of my favorite new ingredients to cook with in 2017.
Why Cook with New Ingredients?
Why not just stick to those ingredients you already know and love? For starters, introducing new foods to your diet means introducing your body to nutrients that it might not be getting much of — or at all. So each time you a new food into your diet, you’re expanding the positive nutrition your body enjoys. If a food is a fruit, veggie or grain, you’re also adding in beneficial antioxidants, phytonutrients, carotenoids and more that can boost your immune system and help protect your body against disease.
Playing with new ingredients in the kitchen also leads to less meal boredom. Challenging yourself to use a new food means you’ll be expanding your menu repertoire, maybe even trying out a new-to-you cuisine.
Incorporating new ingredients can also make you a better cook, as you step out of your comfort zone. While every recipe might not be a hit, half the fun is in trying! Best of all, it might even help keep the pounds off.
Food neophiles, or people who have an adventurous eating style, were found to weigh less, be more physically active and more concerned with the healthfulness of food than timid eaters. (2)
OK, so you’re convinced it’s time to add some new ingredients into the refrigerator and pantry. While still healthy, kale and pumpkin are so five years ago. Check out what ingredients you should add to your shopping list!
19 of the Healthiest New Ingredients to Cook With
1. Asafoetida: This hard-to-pronounce spice is most often used with Indian cooking, where it’s usually combined with legumes and veggie dishes, and not just because those ingredients taste good. Asafoetida is known to reduce gas, so you can enjoy your meal without excess flatulence afterward. (3)
2. Avocado oil: It’s no surprise that avocado is one of my favorite foods, and now there are even more ways to join its benefits. Cooking with avocado oil is fantastic because it has a high smoke point. Oils that have lower smoke points, like olive oil, lose their nutrients once they’re overheated.
Try it: Use refined avocado oil in any high-heat recipe. Use unrefined avocado oil in salads or low-heat cooking.
3. Beetroot powder: Beets “Beets are loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. (6) In healthy adult men, at least one study has found drinking beetroot juice can consistently lower systolic blood pressure when compared to placebo. (7)
You can easily add it to any gravy, smoothie or sauce to enjoy the vegetable’s health benefits; one teaspoon is equivalent to about one bet. Plus, it’s an all-natural way to color baked treats, so you can avoid the harmful ingredients of artificial coloring. You can even use it to make a blush for some homemade beauty products.
Try it: Make your own beetroot powder with this Homemade Beetroot Powder recipe.
4. Protein made from bone broth: One of the best ways to enjoy all of bone broth’s healing benefits without the fuss of making your own, protein from bone broth is one of my favorite ingredients for 2017. Bone broth is packed with collagen, which is what keeps our joints moving smoothly, and is one of the best foods for healing leaky gut. (8)
Eating it in protein form means that you don’t have to cook up a batch of bone broth each time you want to enjoy its benefits. Instead, you can add easily add a scoop to most recipes to get a protein punch.
5. Cassava flour: Going gluten- or nut-free in your baking doesn’t have to be a hassle anymore. I love this gluten-free flour because of its neutral taste and texture; it works beautifully in cookies, brownies and dense breads, foods treats that other grain-free flours struggle with.
It’s also low in calories, fat and sugar, and has no refined carbs, which is great for those of us trying to avoid some of those red-flag ingredients — plus, it’s sustainable, making it a healthy option for the planet, too. (9)
6. Chickpea flour: If you’re looking for a high-protein, grain-free flour, then you’re going to want chickpea flour in your pantry. It’s made with only one ingredient — chickpeas, of course — and full of fiber. Insoluble fiber in legumes like chickpeas may balance unhealthy cholesterol and protect against heart disease.. (10)
Vegan Lemon Lavender Donuts
7. Coconut nectar
Really, is there anything coconuts can’t do? Coconut nectar is a natural sweetener derived from the blossom; the average coconut tree produces about 3 to 4.5 liters of nectar daily! With a low rating on the glycemic index and a sweet (but not overly so) taste, you’ll be seeing a lot more of this stuff in the year to come. (11)
Recipes that call for honey or maple syrup
8. Cricket flour: Cooking with insects? This might be the year to try it. Cricket flour is low in calories and high in protein, along with iron and calcium. In fact, it’s got more protein than a piece of steak! It’s also a lot more sustainable as a protein, because crickets require significantly less feeding, water and infrastructure, while producing 80 times less methane, a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. (12)
Replace 1/3 of almond, coconut, refined or whole wheat flour that a recipe calls for with cricket flour to add nutritional value to baked goods.
9. Freekeh: Though it’s not gluten-free, if you can eat grains, freekeh is one you might want to introduce this year. It contains three times as much fiber as brown rice, so you’ll feel super full after eating.
10. Grass-fed gelatin: If gelatin makes you think of Jell-O, you’re in for a treat. Gelatin helps deal with osteoarthritis, improves how well you sleep and can even improve your cognitive abilities. (14, 15) We get a lot less gelatin in our diet these days because the most abundant sources are in animal parts we don’t often eat, like the marrow and tendons.
11. Green banana flour: Bananas will continue to be a nutritional powerhouse in 2017. Long used in places like Jamaica and African countries as a less expensive option to wheat flours, green banana flour, also known as just banana flour, is a gluten-free alternative to traditional flour. (16) When cooked, the banana flavor is barely noticeable, and this flour can be used as a straight replacement for white or wheat flours.
Try it: Add a tablespoon to smoothies or use it to thicken up soups.
Gluten-free Brownies With Banana Flour
12. Hazelnut flour: Hazelnuts are often mixed with chocolate or added to desserts, but they’re terrific on their own as well. That’s because the healthy fats in them help manage diabetes. They also help reduce bad cholesterol levels and increase the good kind. (17, 18) When ground up, this nutty, grain-free flour is great for baking or cooking. You can even buy raw hazelnuts and ground them into a flour at home in a food processor.
13. Jicama: Expect to see jicama in produce sections this year. Because about 85 to 90 percent of jicama is made of water, it’s low in calories and natural sugars. It’s full of prebiotics, which help probiotics do their job well and increases immune function, and just one cup of the raw vegetable provides 40 percent of your daily allowance of vitamin C. Take that, orange juice.
14. Kombu: There are thousands of varieties of seaweed, but kombu is one that needs to be on your radar. Hailing from East Asia, this edible kelp is full of nutrients that it absorbs from the ocean. Not only that, but it improves digestion and reduces gas. (19)
15. Matcha: Green tea has been a popular drink for years, but matcha green tea is a whole different ballgame. It’s a more concentrated form of green tea, so it amplifies all of the tea’s benefits. And full of benefits it is! It might even help you perform better at the gym and detox the body. (20) Replace your cup of coffee with matcha in 2017 for these health benefits.
16. MCT oil: My love for coconut oil is well documented, but this year, expect MCT oils to make a bigger appearance. Medium-chain triglcyerides, or MCTs, are a fatty acid with heaps of benefits. While coconut oil is a type of MCT, more concentrated forms are now available. MCTs are a great source of healthy fats that are easily digestible by the body and help you feel full.
- Add it to your smoothies
- Substitute 1/3 of coconut oil in recipes with MCT oil
- Make a homemade salad dressing by whisking together MCT oil, raw honey, Dijon mustard and your favorite herbs
17. Natto: This superfood is so much better for you than normal soy products. Because it’s fermented, it’s easy for your body to digest and absorb, and goes down much more smoothly than normal soy products. While it’s an acquired taste, the abundance of probiotics and nutrients it offers makes natto worth trying. (21)
18. Turkey tail mushrooms: White or button mushrooms might already be a part of your diet, but have turkey tail mushrooms made the cut? They should, because they are great for you. These healing shrooms actually activate the immune system and resist stresses that upset our bodies. (22) Not bad for a little mushroom!
Turkey Tail and Turmeric Tea
1 cup chopped turkey tail mushroom
5 cups purified water
2.5 teaspoons ground turmeric
½ teaspoon local honey
1 drop lemon essential oil
- Chop the turkey tail mushroom into small pieces and add to a large pot of water on the stove.
- Bring the water to a boil, then simmer for an hour.
- Strain the mixture through a colander. Add a ½ teaspoon of fresh ground turmeric and the honey and stir.
- Add the lemon essential oil and stir again.
If you’d like to add additional flavor, almond milk, one drop of cinnamon, ginger or lemon essential oil, or stevia are good options.
Feel free to add the rest of your turmeric to your leftovers while it’s still warm since it’s easier to blend, and keep any leftovers in the refrigerator. You can then reheat or serve chilled or on ice.
19. Yarrow: If you’re suffering from inflammation, yarrow can help provide some relief. This herb tastes similarly to tarragon and is loaded with health benefits, such as help with anxiety. (24) For women who have recently given birth, it’s also an effective, natural way to treat mastitis.
Yarrow is super versatile. You can use it either fresh or dried in any recipes that call for herbs, or replace tarragon with it. You can also infuse oils with it or sprinkle it right before serving a dish for extra flavor.
Homemade Yarrow Tea Recipe
The flowers, leaves and stems can be used to make a medicinal tea. You can use either the fresh or dried herb. Yarrow tea can taste bitter so you can use honey to take the edge off if needed. Many tea recipes include lemon, which gives a nice boost of vitamin C.
1 teaspoon dried yarrow or 3 fresh leaves
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
1 lemon slice (optional)
- Steep yarrow in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove leaves if desired.
- Add honey and/or lemon juice if desired.
A Few Ingredients to Never Cook with
While I love incorporating those ingredients into my cooking, there are some I wouldn’t touch and I urge you to stay away from:
Artificial sweeteners: These are usually worse than sugar and can have serious side effects.
Canola oil: GMOS, partially hydrogenated oils, may have an effect on kidneys or the liver — skip this dangerous oil at all costs.
Tilapia: This farmed fish is loaded with pesticides, antibiotics and cancer-causing pollutants. It’s also known to increase inflammation and has less nutrients than wild-caught fish.