Tag Archives: healthy living

Nutritionist Reveals 10 Secrets to Keeping Energy Levels Up All Day Long

In today’s bustling everyday life, keeping energy levels up and steady can be a struggle. Over the last several years, I’ve incorporated doable strategies and practices into my daily routine that really work to keep my energy levels soaring. These are my top 10 tips for achieving that get-up-and-go feeling.

1. Drinking Lots of Water

For the last 15 years or so, I’ve made it a focus to drink plenty of water every day. Today, I’m never without my stainless steel water bottle when I leave the house. Drinking water keeps my energy levels up by keeping me hydrated, which is especially important during hot summer days, or after vigorous exercise. It’s also had a positive effect on my naturally dry skin, and my digestive system. And I never buy plastic bottled water unless I’m travelling and there isn’t a place to fill up my water bottle – we’re inseparable.

2. Exercising Regularly

This does so much for my energy levels – I love to move! Exercise also keeps my appetite strong (here’s what to eat post-workout), clears my mind and helps me sleep more soundly (I have always had trouble sleeping). This, in turn, boosts my energy levels and mood the next day. It also reduces my stress tremendously. And those post-workout endorphins really keep going – when I’m in a good mood, my energy levels soar, and exercising makes me happy.


Get the recipe for Sweet Potato Toast with Almond Butter, Banana and Coconut Chips

Here’s what I do: I walk everywhere I can, taking the stairs up to our apartment. I also do the rare run along with barre or yoga classes five times a week. It may seem like a lot, but I make it part of my every day routine. I choose to spend one hour at an exercise class instead of on my phone mindlessly scrolling through social media, which is a more positive choice for me (and my eyes). And I never exercise if I really, truly don’t feel like it – it’s all about balance.

I recommend starting slowly with an exercise routine. You may feel more tired at first, but that washes away after a few weeks of consistency. Start with a walk and build from there.

3. Sipping Coffee

After a few glasses of water, I start my day with a cup of pour over coffee. Two cups of coffee is my max, but I find this really propels me forward and gives my brain and body energy and clarity for the day ahead. I’ll occasionally have a bulletproof coffee, which is essentially grass-fed butter and coconut oil blended into hot coffee, if I’m feeling in need of a bigger energy jolt, but 99% of the time I drink it black.

4. Limiting Caffeine

Although I just said that coffee boosts my energy levels in the morning, I don’t overdo it and never use it as a quick fix for an energy boost. I find that too much coffee or green tea creates highs and lows in my energy levels and increases my anxiety. Limiting caffeine or cutting it out completely after 12 p.m. is critical for me if I want to get any sleep that night. I switch to herbal teas in the afternoon and into the evening, which also add to my overall water consumption for the day. Win-win!

5. Eating Intuitively

I don’t follow any diets, but instead, eat intuitively. Essentially this means that if I’m hungry, I have a meal, and if I’m not hungry, I don’t. When I do eat, I make sure to consume whole foods filled with produce, good fat, protein and complex carbs. However, nothing is off limits for me – I enjoy all foods. And I do eat dessert (see here for guilt-free ways to satisfy your sweet tooth), but I’ll have it after dinner or in the afternoon on a lazy weekend when I can spare the sugar crash.


Get the recipe for Healthy Vegan No-Bake Chocolate Brownies 

6. Eating Lunch

I never skip lunch because I need the energy to power me through the day. In general, dinner is always the biggest meal of the day, but I find that also eating a hearty yet light lunch is better for my energy levels. Bowls with vegetables, protein and healthy fats keep me full for hours, and ensure my stamina is high with no afternoon crashes.

7. Enjoying Balanced Meals

I look to get a ton of fresh produce into my diet including leafy greens, dark orange vegetables, whole grains, eggs, meat, beans and healthy fats (and an absurd amount of full-fat plain Greek yogurt!) I eat for energy and pleasure in equal amounts. Enjoying a range of colourful, real food is at the heart of my diet. And when I say enjoying, I really mean it. I slow down to chew, engage in conversation with the person I’m sharing a meal with and appreciate what it’s providing for me.


Get the recipe for Banquet Bowls with Cauliflower Hazelnut Pilaf, Dhal and Scallion Cucumber Raita

8. Regulating Blood Sugar

I experienced extreme blood sugar drops and energy dips my entire life until I started paying attention to what I was eating. For me, I love carbs, and my body does really well on them, but they need to be complex for the most part, which are rich in fibre and slower to digest, containing a lower or low-glycemic index. Pairing complex carbohydrates with a protein source, for example, an apple with peanut butter or sourdough toast with eggs, digest slowly for sustained energy. I make homemade energy bites or pack a small bag of almonds and dried fruit to take with me when I leave the house, which I can snack on in times of emergency. As much fun as a cookie is as an afternoon snack, I need something with more substance to help me through.

9. Turning to Healthy Fats

I am so excited about healthy fats, and make sure that every meal and snack includes some form of fat. If I need a real energy kick-start for breakfast (most days), I add a dollop of coconut oil on top of my fruit, granola and yogurt, or cook my eggs in extra butter. I’ve been amazed at how just a teaspoon or two of extra fat can steady my energy levels for hours. Incorporating more fat into my diet over the years has done wonders for my mood, digestive system, hair and skin, too.


Get the recipe for Shakshouka

10. Choosing Iron-Rich Foods

Like many women, I have ongoing problems with extremely low iron, which causes overwhelming fatigue for me, among other unwelcome side effects. Incorporating good-quality red meat once a week into my meals, as well as plenty of dark leafy greens (squeezed with lemon, as the vitamin C helps with iron uptake), flaxseed, chia seeds, beans and whole grains is what works best for me. A texturally appealing kale salad with a vibrant dressing (like this recipe) is one of my go-tos to ensure I’m on my way to getting enough iron for the day (here are 15 tasty ways to boost your iron intake).

Try one or more of my tips out if you’re looking for sustained or boosted energy levels throughout the day, or share what works for you. Even one or two minor changes can make a big difference – I’m a baby-steps-approach-to-wellness devotee.

How to Make Crispy Baked Salmon Fingers with Minty Peas

Transform Canadian salmon into a nostalgic, yet healthy, fish finger dinner, that will please the whole family. Spelt flour, cornmeal and breadcrumbs create an additive crispy coating, with tender salmon fillets, rich in protein and omega-3s. Vibrant peas tossed with sliced fresh mint make an easy, well-rounded meal and add a pop of colour to your plate. When serving, adults may prefer homemade tartar sauce, but don’t forget the ketchup for the kids!

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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1/2 cup light spelt flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup cornmeal (fine or medium-grain both work)
1 cup dried breadcrumbs
1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
3/4 tsp salt, divided
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
4 (6 oz) skinless salmon fillets, preferably wild
3 cups fresh shelled green peas or frozen peas (defrosted)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp sliced fresh mint

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Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Add flour to a large plate. Add buttermilk to a large glass baking dish or pie plate.
3. In a large skillet, combine cornmeal, breadcrumbs, oil, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper. Toast over medium heat, stirring often until light brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer cornmeal mixture to a third large plate.
4. Slice salmon into 2-inch wide fingers. Working one at a time, toss each fish finger with flour, shaking off excess, dredge in buttermilk and coat in cornmeal mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet, tucking in any thin pieces of fish to create uniform fingers. Repeat with remaining fish, flour, buttermilk and cornmeal mixture.
5. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until crust is firm and fish flakes easily. Meanwhile, heat peas in a large skillet over medium heat with butter until bright green and hot, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in mint and remaining 1/4 tsp salt.
6. To serve, using a fish spatula or regular metal spatula, transfer fish fingers to plates along with peas.

Watch this video to learn how to filet a whole salmon.

10 Food Scraps You Should Never Throw Away

Many of us are stuck in the conventional ways of food prep  throwing out rinds, tossing away stems and peeling off skin. Without knowing it, we’re discarding the best parts of fruits and veggies. In fact, some of the least thought about pieces have the most nutrition and flavour. Next time you’re cooking, make use of these nutritious fruit and veggie scraps.

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1. Apple Skin
Apple skin is often the first to go when using this fruit for cooking or baking. However, the skin actually has slightly more nutrition than the flesh. Rich in insoluble fibre, soluble fibre and vitamin C, these nutrients work to clean out the digestive system, remove toxins and waste from the body. The skin is also rich in quercetin, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can reduce inflammation in the body. Most recipes call for removing the skin, but try leaving the skin intact — you may be surprised by the outcome!

2. Orange Peel
Most of the orange’s incredible nutrients actually lie in the peel and the pith, which is the white stringy part around the flesh. The pith contains a herperidin, which has been shown to lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and inflammation. The pith and peel also contain pectin, known as a fruit fibre, which helps to keep the body full while suppressing hunger. When peeling an orange to eat, remember to keep the pith layer on, and use leftover orange peel in baked goods, zested on chicken or fish and tossed into smoothies.

3. Fennel Fronds
Fennel is a delicious bulbous vegetable that tastes just like licorice. The fronds actually contain just as much nutrition as the bulb; however, they are often discarded along with the leaves and the core. The whole fennel plant is rich in vitamin C with potent anti-inflammatory compounds. The fronds, leaves and core should be kept to flavour soup stocks, baked goods and even fermented foods like sauerkraut.

4. Kale Stalks
While people love the nutritious leafy green, most tend to discard the stalks and only make use of the leaves. The stalks are loaded in insoluble fibre, which acts like a bristled sponge cleaning out the walls of the digestive system. Eating various parts of plants — leaves, stalks or stems — also provides the body with a mixture of different phytonutrients. Use kale stalks in soups, juices, smoothies and chop them finely to put in salads or sautees.

5. Cilantro Stems
When using herbs, we tend to only use the leaves and throw away the stems or roots. Cilantro stems and roots carry nutrition while also providing bold flavor and texture. This tasty herb helps control blood sugar and free radical production. The stems and roots are best used blended into soups, stews, salsas, guacamole and can even be juiced.

6. Broccoli Leaves and Stalks
Broccoli leaves and stalks are usually the first to go but they make a versatile, delicious and nutritious ingredient. The stalks have a ton of fibre, which is important for keeping the body regular. The leaves contain beta carotene, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, antioxidants and folate, which supports red blood cell production. It’s no wonder broccoli leaves are being touted as the next kale! Use them in salads, steam them, sauté them, juice them and toss them into smoothies.

7. Celery Leaves
When eating celery we rarely think about celery leaves. Celery leaves look like a lighter version of flat leaf parsley and most of the time they are tossed away. The leaves have vitamin C, potassium and calcium which all work to support the immunity, healthy skin, the kidneys and control blood pressure. Celery leaves are perfect in soup stocks and great for juicing.

8. Beet Greens
Most people throw away the leafy greens that come with bunches of beets. These beet greens are very similar to Swiss chard in colour, flavour and nutrition. These greens contain a phytonutrient that keeps eyesight strong and prevents degeneration and cataracts. They also boast an array of vitamins, minerals, fibre and protein. Beet greens can be used for soups, sautées, smoothies, juices and salads.

9. Watermelon Rind
Watermelon is always a go-to snack in the summer, but the rind is usually left in the compost bin, with the white flesh intact. Citrulline, the nutrient in the white flesh is super powerful at fighting free radicals, preventing cancer and improving blood circulation. Some people even believe it to be a natural Viagra! Next time watermelon is on the table, remember to eat the white part too, or blend it up with some lime and mint for a refreshing beverage.

10 Cucumber Skin
The dark skin of cucumbers is often peeled off and tossed out, but the it contains more nutrition than the flesh. Cucumber skin contains vitamin K, which supports proper bone health and healthy blood clotting. If using the skin, wash the cucumber really well since it is often coated in a wax to prevent bruising during travel. Add to your smoothies, salads or make it into a cool soup.

Does Chicken Soup Really Cure a Cold?

Cozying up with a bowl of chicken soup certainly feels good this time of year, whether you’re on the mend or feeling in top form. If you happen to catch a cold, you’re probably looking for anything that will help ease those aches, soothe your tender throat and clear your sinuses. And while chicken soup is certainly comforting, can it really help make you feel better?Here, we dive into the facts to uncover the truth behind this old (and tasty) kitchen remedy.

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Fact: Chicken soup helps relieve congestion.

Enjoying a bowl of chicken soup can help ease congestion, according to Mayo Clinic. Warm liquids, like the savoury broth in chicken soup, make your nose run (in a good way), working to clear uncomfortable nasal congestion. The more your nose runs, the better, as this means the virus has less contact time with the lining of your nose.

Try this recipe: Tyler Florence’s Chicken Noodle Soup

Fact: Chicken soup can rehydrate you.

Eating and drinking when you have a cold can seem highly unappealing, but staying hydrated is key to a quick recovery. Chicken broth delivers hydration along with a bit of salt so your body retains the liquids more effectively.

Try this recipe: Ina Garten’s Chicken Soup 

Fiction: Chicken soup can boost your immune system.

You can’t truly “boost” you immune system, but you can support it — and chicken soup may help in this area with its rich mineral profile. Your body needs energy (calories) for recovery, and chicken soup brings this in a highly digestible form, especially helpful when you don’t feel like eating. And, the ingredients in chicken soup, like garlic, onion and carrots contain potent immune-supportive compounds.

Try this recipe: Michael Smith’s Roast Chicken Noodle Soup

Fact: Chicken soup has medicinal properties.

Surprisingly, it might. A study published in the journal Chest discussed blood samples of volunteers given chicken soup. These samples showed that the soup lessened the movement of neutrophils, which may be beneficial to the upper respiratory tract (where colds tend to linger). While this is just one study, it may make that soup you’re eating taste just a little better.

Try this recipe: Ricardo Larrivée’s Chicken Noodle Soup

Fact: Chicken soup eases an upset stomach.

A common cold can make your stomach ache, and while inherently flavourful, a classic (not spicy!) chicken soup is mild, cold-friendly food. Homemade versions, made with chicken bones, have the added benefit of gelatin, which can nourish the intestinal tract.

Try this recipe: Chuck Hughes’ Chicken Soup with Ground Chicken Meatballs

Fact: Chicken soup makes you feel better, faster.

While researchers realize there’s a bit of a placebo effect going on, slurping up chicken soup may help to speed up recovery thanks to its rich protein content, a macronutrient needed in larger amount for those who are sick.

Try this recipe: Awesome Chicken Soup for the Lazy Soul

Verdict:

Though it may not “cure” the common cold, research shows promise that the combination of the mineral-rich broth, lean protein and easy-to-digest cooked vegetables helps to make you feel better in an almost magic way.

Even if you’re on the fence about the science, it’s tough to argue about the comfort food factor chicken soup brings in both its aroma and taste. Enjoy one of our many chicken soup recipes and get well soon.

11 Easy Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

When you’re off to college or university for the first time, you have to take care of a few things, like tuition and books. But don’t forget to take care of yourself when it comes to a healthy diet. Eating nutrient-dense foods also means better brain health, so you’ll be able to ace those exams with your eyes closed. Of course, eating wholesome, nutritious foods can be quite expensive — unless you follow these nutritionist-approved tips.

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1. Make a Meal Plan
Sketching out a meal plan for the week is essential for focused, affordable grocery shopping. If you don’t have a plan of what you’re going to make for dinner and pack for lunches, you’ll likely run out for convenience food, which costs far more than a homemade meal. If you have roommates or housemates, get them involved as well; this will make the task more fun and you can split the grocery bill.

2. Embrace Plant-Based Protein
Meat and seafood can be expensive to eat every night, so rely on canned beans and dry lentils, both wildly affordable, for a plant-based source of protein a few times a week. Canned beans can be enjoyed in a salad, dressed up with a bit of spice for a salsa or mashed as a quesadilla filling. Lentils cook up in less than 30 minutes, and can cost less than $5 for a large bag at the grocery store.

3. Make Coffee At Home
Make coffee at home throughout the week and save your café-going for weekends and exam season. Depending on your order, you could be saving about $20 per week. You don’t even need a bulky coffee machine, just a kettle and French press. This guide from Detour Coffee shows you how to make a French press coffee at home (or in a dorm room). Pack in a travel mug and you’re all set for that early morning lecture.

4. Cook Once, Eat Twice
Make a double batch of your dinner and stop paying upwards of $8 for lunch tomorrow. Though I’ve been out of university for many years now, I’ve kept to this this habit in my working life. I make a large stew, like this Spicy Red Lentil Vegetable Stew (serves 8!) on Sunday to eat for lunch the following week.

5. Invest in Locking Glass Containers
These can cost a bit more than plastic containers up front, but unless you break the glass (which is very hard to do), you don’t have to replace them as often, if ever. I’ve been using my glass containers for many years and continue to pack them up with homemade meals for affordable days out and about. Pack yogurt, fruit and granola in them for breakfast, grain salads, sandwiches or leftovers for lunch, or snacks for late night cram sessions.

6. Stick to Classic Superfoods
Healthy ingredients like broccoli, bananas, beets, onions, sunflower seeds, raisins, eggs, lentils, black beans and plain yogurt aren’t expensive, and remain some of the most wholesome foods you can eat. You don’t have to eat all those hyped-up superfoods to be healthy, so keep it simple with the classics.

7. Skip the Pre-Packaged and Prepared Foods
You can make a salad yourself for about $1 (maybe even less) and skip the $8-plus pre-made salad from the store. Buy a large pack of lettuce to last the week and garnish with hardboiled eggs, chopped cucumber, sunflower seeds and dried fruit. Olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a bit of salt are all the ingredients you need to dress it up. Some salads, like this hearty Kale and Quinoa salad from Valerie Bertinelli, can be kept pre-made in the refrigerator all week long.

8. Visit the Bulk Food Store
I love getting spices from a bulk food store or bulk bins at the grocery store. I can purchase very small quantities if I know I’m not going to use it very often or I’m just looking to “sample” it in a new recipe. Small quantities of spices, which can really add a load of flavour to a meal, can cost under a dollar, compared to jarred spices, which can run you $5 or more per jar.

9. Your New Favourite Snack
Apples and peanut butter are where it’s at. Go for natural, unsalted peanut butter, and season it yourself. If you have it handy, a sprinkle of cinnamon makes this feel gourmet. Protein, fibre, healthy fats and a bit of salty-sweet crunch make apples and peanut butter a snack that almost feels like dessert.

10. Eat Seasonally
Eat produce that’s in season and local in your area. In-season foods, like apples appearing in fall, for instance, are often more affordable than out-of-season produce or produce flown from across the world.

11. Student Discount Days
Often, university and college towns and cities will have days of the week (usually a weekday), where students are offered a discount. Though you’ll likely face a crowd, this savings can really pay off on your final bill.

10 Pantry Staples This Nutritionist Can’t Live Without

Keeping a well-stocked pantry is always a top priority — menu planning and impromptu meals are made easy when I have what I need at hand. Building a healthy pantry takes time and can be overwhelming to shop for in one go, so start small. Go for one or two of the following recommendations and before you know it, a treasure trove of healthy cooking goodies will be at your disposal. The bulk food store is your best friend in the case for many of these goods, so stock up.

From canned beans to oils to grains to natural sweeteners, here’s a list of nutrient-filled pantry stars you should bring into your kitchen today.

1. Coconut Oil

The virgin variety of coconut oil, known for its luscious tropical taste, is heat-stable up to 350°F. I like to use this in place of butter for dairy-free baking, in smoothies, to sauté vegetables and as a foundation for coconut milk-based curries by toasting the spices in it. Coconut oil is one of my favourite ways to incorporate some healthy fats into my daily diet.

Try coconut oil in place of butter in pastry: Vegan Sweet Potato and Kale Galette with Pistachio Parmesan

vegan-sweet-potato-and-kale-galette

2. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

EVOO contains anti-inflammatory monounsaturated fats and cell-protecting antioxidants. I use the extra-virgin variety for salad dressings, to garnish soups and grains, and even bake with it. More refined “light” olive oils are better for high-temperature roasting (325°F plus) as they’re less likely to oxidize.

Try baking with EVOO: Zucchini Olive Oil Cake with Mandarin Orange Glaze and Walnut Olive Brittle

zucchini-olive-oil-cake-with-mandarin-orange-glaze-and-walnut-olive-brittle

3. Apple Cider Vinegar

I keep apple cider vinegar handy to perk up just about any savoury meal. It goes especially well in salad dressings, and can brighten up a bean soup without added salt. “Raw” unpasteurized apple cider vinegar contains probiotics for a healthy immune system, making it a pantry must-have.

Use apple cider vinegar to brighten up a whole grain salad: Quinoa, Roasted Eggplant and Apple Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

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4. Raw Nuts and Seeds

I keep raw chia, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin and hemp seeds in my refrigerator for quick nutrient boosters for any meal, whether it’s a bowl of oats or addition to a salad. Nuts such as almonds, walnuts and cashews get a workout in my homemade granolas, trail mix and homemade nut butters. Nuts and seeds are rich in healthy fats, protein and minerals, so I make sure to have at least a handful (all unsalted) every day.

Turn chia seeds into a creamy, dairy-free dessert: Berry Chia Seed Pudding

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5. Chickpeas

If I don’t have beans and legumes in my cupboard, I may go into full-on panic mode. I buy canned chickpeas (and cook my own when I’m feeling ambitious) for quick soups, stews, salads, vegan “fudge” and homemade hummus. Instead of egg or chicken, I mash chickpeas with mayonnaise and lemon for a chickpea salad to add between whole grain bread or tuck inside a wrap – it’s a quick, make-ahead lunch.

Have chickpeas this weekend for brunch: Smoky Chickpeas on Grilled Toast with Poached Eggs & Zahtar

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6. Whole Grains

I buy whole grains in bulk so I can try a small portion of each one. Millet, quinoa, short-grain brown rice and large-flake oats are my top picks, all delivering a unique nutritional profile. If you have a blender, you can grind your own gluten-free and whole grain flours for baking (for this, I recommend oats, millet or quinoa). Build a grain bowl, make a porridge or pudding, bake a cake, toss a salad, stir into a soup or stew — the sky’s the limit with whole grains.

Replace white rice with whole grain millet in risotto: Millet, Kale and Lemon Risotto 

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7. Whole Grain Pasta

Sometimes, only pasta will do. I buy spelt, kamut or gluten-free brown rice noodles in every shape and size available (I really love pasta!). To watch portion size, I’ll enjoy 2 to 3 ounces (dry weight) and fill it out with plenty of low-starch vegetables and some protein, like a fried or poached egg — and probably some cheese on top.

Bulk up whole grain pasta with lean greens and meaty mushrooms: Whole Grain Spaghetti With Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms

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8. Maple Syrup

I have a moderate sweet tooth and usually try to satiate it with fresh fruit (apples or bananas with peanut butter is my afternoon go-to). However, I always keep real maple syrup, preferably grade B “medium” for its full-bodied taste, in my kitchen. It is a great addition to granola, sweetening up Greek yogurt, baking, stir-fry sauces, beverages, as well as an obligatory topper for whole grain spelt pancakes and waffles.

Enhance your healthy comfort food dinner sides with maple syrup (and EVOO!): Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes

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9. Dried Herbs & Spices

If I want to add flavour to any meal and also bump up the nutritional prowess, I head on over to my spice cabinet. Like whole grains, I buy small portions of dried herbs and spices in bulk, for the most variety and best price. Dried herbs and spices contain lesser-known antioxidants that support good health. Cinnamon is great for sweet treats or Moroccan-inspired savoury dishes, cumin is always added to hummus, dried thyme tastes wonderful in roasted potatoes and chili powder helps to build a flavour-packed chili.

Give omega-3-packed salmon a hit of smoky, earthy spice: Blackened Salmon

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10. Sea Salt

I choose unrefined sea salt for its mineral profile and clean, crisp taste. Fine-grain sea salt goes well in baking and flaky salt adds texture to just about any food, both savoury and sweet.

Skip store-bought trail mix and make your own sweet and salty, heart-healthy walnut version: Maple-Glazed Walnuts with Sea Salt

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Want more pantry staple ideas? Check out 18 Staples You Should Always Have in Your Pantry and 11 Clever Ways to Use Pantry Staples

How to Choose the Healthiest Type of Salt for Cooking

With the ability to bring out the inherent, muted flavours in food, salt is added to most recipes — including sweets — to smooth everything out. Without it, home cooking can be bland and unappetizing, but getting in the habit of adding too much salt to foods is linked to high blood pressure and cardiovascular irregularities. While definitely less health-threatening, large amounts of salt can cause water retention, making your pants feel a bit snugger and leaving your skin looking dehydrated. However, salt is necessary for our bodies to function correctly, maintaining normal heart rhythm and nerve function — without it, serious complications can arise.

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How Much Salt Should I Eat Per Day?

Eating too little salt is generally not a concern for most, with the advent of packaged and convenience foods. Enjoying a diet rich in whole, unprocessed, naturally low-sodium foods is the most nutritious option, allowing you to add salt to taste when cooking, reducing the risk of overdoing your daily recommended amount. Current Health Canada guidelines advocate most healthy adults eat approximately 1500 mg of sodium per day, though most are consuming more than double that.

Sodium and chlorine are the two elements that make up salt, making all types of salt sources of these essential compounds, adding another layer of confusion to the mix, as most are indistinguishable to the palate from one to the next. Whether purchasing at a grocery store or specialty food shop, salt’s diverse price range, wide-spanning varieties and nutritional profile can leave you scratching your head.

What is Sea Salt?

Sea salt is derived from its eponymous source (the sea), originating from any number of regions around the world. Its clean, pure taste is adored by cooks and is available in coarse and fine options; the former is well suited for garnishing, while the latter is ideal for cooking food and baking thanks to its ability to dissolve. Coming in white, grey, red, pink and black, the colour you choose is a matter of personal preference and price point.

Regarding health benefits, sea salt is plentiful in trace minerals due to its marine derivation, delivering many of the same nutritional compounds that make surperfood seaweed so nutritious. The healthiest forms of sea salt are the least refined with no added preservatives (which can mean clumping in the fine variety). Pink Himalayan salt is touted by healthy home cooks as the ultimate mineral-rich seasoning, said to be the purest of the sea salt family.

What is Ground Salt?

The most common ground salt (taken from the ground, not the sea) is table salt, a cheap and common seasoning that can be found in most home kitchens. A more refined version of salt, table salt has added iodine, a trace mineral necessary for correct thyroid function, thyroid cancer-prevention and proper mental development and maintenance. Iodine deficiency is rare, and the mineral can be accessed from vegetables, seaweeds, milk, wild fish, eggs, and unrefined sea salts.

What is Kosher Salt?

Kosher salt tastes slightly less salty than table salt or sea salts (though it can be derived by either the sea or ground) due to its ability to dissolve more quickly on the tongue. Anticaking agents can be added to kosher salt, but can be purchased pure, too. Kosher salt makes it easy to grab a pinch and clings to food well, making it a favourite amongst chefs and home cooks alike.

What Are Gourmet Salts and How Do I Use Them?

Gourmet salts run the gamut in terms of price and taste. “Plain” finishing and naturally flavoured finishing salts can be a unique addition to any dish. They carry a heftier price tag than a basic sea salt or ground salt, but are used in moderate amounts, potentially lasting for years.

Fleur de sel (“flower of salt” in French) is a readily available sea salt ideal for garnishing (both sweet and savoury foods), and, while still expensive, carries a softer price tag than many other gourmet options. Fleur de sel’s pure nature, free of additives, preservatives or anticaking agents, will provide the same trace minerals as other salts, with a cleaner taste.

Smoked salts are just that; smoked. This gourmet treat is to be used sparingly on meats, fish, eggs and vegetables for a truly unique taste. Flavoured salts can include any number of natural additions, from lemon peel to lavender to dried truffles to chili, and can be purchased or made at home.

Are Salt Alternatives Healthier?

Like sugar, salt has low-sodium alternatives that are generally comprised of chemical sources. Some find the strange taste of chemically derived salt alternatives to be off-putting. Salt alternatives can adversely interact with some medications and health conditions, so check with a doctor before reaching for this product.

Natural, chemical-free options such as dulse (seaweed) granules are marketed as a salt substitute, containing the same range of minerals as “pure” sea salt. The taste of dulse granules is decidedly sea-like, so use judiciously when adding this salt substitute to a recipe.

And the Healthiest Salt Is…

No matter which salt you choose, the small amount used contributes little nutritional value to your overall diet, making your selection a matter of personal taste. If you’re concerned about increasing the mineral content in your diet, focus on consuming more grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, nuts and lean protein — salt shouldn’t be used as a supplement or alternative for the nutrition these foods contain. Reducing your total salt intake to the recommended daily intake (1500 mg) can be accomplished with a diet low in unprocessed foods and yes, a pinch or two of salt — any type you like.