I’m sure this is not the first time you read this:
“Every meal is an opportunity to shine. To nourish your mind and body with healthy ingredients and do something beautiful for yourself.”
Well, it turns out that it is true! But..
It’s not always so easy to come up with the right recipe. Maybe you don’t have time, or you just don’t feel like it.
Does this sound familiar?
What to do then?
Well, there are some healthy ingredients that you can keep in your pantry (or even in your purse to power-up your meals on-the-go) that can help you in these moments.
We call them “Boosters” and they are your shortcut to turn every meal into a health powerhouse.
I picked 3 of our favourites and listed them together with some recipe ideas and inspiration.
Not so fast!
Before starting, I want to be very clear with you.
If you are looking for more of the same old classics, you can stop reading now.
Nuts, seeds, seaweed. They are all fantastic and very healthy ingredients to boost any meal. I personally wrote about them on multiple occasions. They’re featured in guides, lists and slideshows all over the web.
Nothing wrong with them, but for this article I have other plans. I want to inspire you to think about 2 gorgeous spices and my very favourite herb in a different way.
So here you have it.
If you are up for a new take on meal boosters, with a couple of actionable ideas you can start implementing immediately, then look no further: this article has got you covered!
Our top 3 healthy ingredients to boost your meals
#1 Cinnamon: One for the heart
“Cinnamon smells like Christmas” that’s what my best friend used to say when we were just two little girls. And I still believe it this to this day.
But cinnamon is much more than that. It turns out, it’s one of the healthiest spices in the world.
Here is a quick overview of some of cinnamon’s superpowers:
- Protects heart health
- Lowers blood sugar
- Reduces inflammation
- Works as an anti-microbial food
- Boosts brain activity: even just smelling it!
A word of warning
The brick-red, sweet, warm powder you just brought home from the supermarket might not be what you think.
This is because there are 2 types of cinnamon: Cassia (or Chinese Cinnamon) and Ceylon Cinnamon.
They both starts with the letter “C”. And this might be as far as their similarities can go.
Cinnamon Cassia is a cheaper, nutritionally poorer spice that might even be dangerous if consumed in great quantities.
But most importantly, the Cassia variety won’t offer you the same incredible health benefits you will experience with the more expensive, harder to find, Ceylon Cinnamon. So make sure you check carefully what’s in that little glass bottle and buy from trustworthy suppliers.
And now the fun part: a few ideas to use cinnamon as a meal booster
This is easy, just sprinkle it over your porridge, or spoon it into your smoothie. Even a cup of natural yoghurt with a good amount of cinnamon and a touch of honey and lemon would be a fantastic way to start your day.
Power up your grilled cheese sandwich with half a teaspoon of cinnamon sprinkled over the cheese. Be warned, once you taste this version, you might never be able to go back to the classic recipe.
Do you want to bring it further? Add a couple of slices of apple and prepare to be wowed.
What if I’d tell you that you could make cinnamon-infused roast potatoes? Or add a dash of cinnamon to a warm portion of sweet potato fries?
Another easy one is to add it to your vegetable soups.
Or you could try this roasted acorn squash with cinnamon butter recipe by Martha Stewart.
#2 Ginger: One for the tummy
I am a ginger addict. Honestly, I love ginger’s warmth and its spicy flavour. And my husband and Leaves’ co-founder Nico loves it too. So we experiment with it every day, to find new ways to use it in different recipes and combine it with other healthy ingredients.
Nico has type 1 diabetes and suffers from reflux too. And ginger has been helping him to keep both conditions better controlled!
That’s because ginger too can claim a top spot in the list of the best healthy ingredients available on a supermarket’s shelf.
Take a look:
- Thanks to its bioactive compound gingerol, it helps as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient.
- Ginger helps with nausea, vomiting and sickness, including morning sickness during pregnancy
- Its anti-inflammatory effects might help with osteoarthritis
- Early stage research shows that ginger might help to treat diabetes thanks to its blood-glucose-lowering properties.
- It helps to protect your heart and your brain.
It travelled for thousands of years to help your belly
It’s believed that the Indians and Chinese have been growing ginger as a medicine for over 5000 years.
Ginger is even featured among some of Confucius advice on diet and healthy ingredients:
- Do not eat too much
- Do not talk at meals
- Do not take away the ginger
And now let’s get to some ideas to use it as a meal booster
It works with literally any fresh juice or smoothie. It works in the porridge and grated on your granola.
But did you know it’s delicious sprinkled with your scrambled eggs or scrambled tofu?
This is absolutely a must-try, trust me!
Let the fresh ginger marinate in lemon juice to use it a refreshing, flavorful salad dressing. Or you could make your own ginger-flavoured oil.
When I was younger, my family and I used to eat cheese and ginger “pannenkoeken” (which is Dutch for pancakes).
Guess what? This works extremely well in sandwiches too! One of my favourite combinations is ginger with blue cheese. What’s yours?
Putting ginger in soups is an easy win. You can use the ginger-flavoured oil we mentioned above.
Or what about a cold pasta that you can prepare in advance and avoid stressing out over dinner? One of our favourite recipes is this Buckwheat noodles with miso and ginger by David Tanis and published in the New York Times.
Flash Tip: why not try this recipe with our PastaMagic to make it even healthier by adding protein, minerals, fibre and vitamins?
#3 Basil: One for the happiness
In Italy, basil has been considered a symbol of love for centuries. This mighty herb’s scent is believed to increase energy level and improve blood circulation, hence increasing libido.
Maybe it’s time to reconsider that good old plate of pasta with pesto for your next date night!
But there is so much more to basil:
- Basil fights depression
- It improves blood flow
- It helps detoxify the body
- Basil makes the body more alkaline and restores proper pH levels
- It aids digestion
Basil: one or many?
Did you know there are dozens of varieties of basil each and every one with its own distinct flavour?
Among the most popular ones: purple basil, Thai basil and holy basil (or tulsi). This last one is considered the elixir of life in Hindu religion and Ayurveda practices.
I personally like Thai basil, with its anise-like aroma. What about you? How many did you try?
Healthy ingredients tips: how to use basil to boost your meals!
Wait, what? Basil for breakfast?
Oh Yes! Try to spice up your porridge by adding mango, lemon and basil. You’re welcome!
Pesto is the first thing that comes to mind. You can use it on your sandwiches, bagels, salads, and more.
But don’t underestimate the fresh punch that adding fresh basil leaves can add to almost any sandwich and salad for a healthy boost on the go.
We close this shower of recipe ideas which incorporate healthy ingredients to your days and boost your meals with a very exciting dessert: Basil and lime sorbet by Jamie Oliver.
There you have it: 3 healthy ingredients to power up your meals in an effortless way. 3 tools to add to your evergreen meal boosters such as nuts, seeds and seaweed.
And it doesn’t end here. How exciting and inspiring would be to discover how coconut oil, sage, turmeric, chickpeas and even matcha green tea can be used in creative ways as meal booster?
It’s an easy answer: very exciting! But it’s a story for another time.
In the meanwhile, please share with our readers your best tricks and healthy ingredients you use to supercharge your meals when you don’t have the chance to plan everything from scratch.
And if you think this article could be helpful for any of your friends, please spread the word and share it!
Til next time,