10 pantry superfoods

You don't need to eat fresh to eat well. Find out which cupboard staples pack the healthiest punch

If you’re looking for vitality, your kitchen cupboards may seem like an unlikely place to start. Yet, some of the staples in your pantry pack a dose of disease-fighting power. We’ve scoured the latest nutrition research to bring you our top 10 picks for your pantry. These dry and canned foods will rev up your immune system, boost your calcium intake and slash your risk of cancer and heart disease. If you don’t already have them on hand, clip this article, grab a grocery cart and stock up your healthiest pantry ever.

Canola oil
Why we love it Canola boasts even more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than olive oil and it’s packed with vitamin E, which has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Drizzle it into your salad dressings or substitute it for butter or shortening in baked goods.

Canned tomatoes and corn
Why we love them Usually fresh is best, but with these veggies, canned may be better. Cornell University researchers recently reported that the heat used during the canning process increases the antioxidants in sweet corn by 550 per cent. These antioxidants prevent the cell damage that causes diseases such as cancer. For an easy healthy meal, why not toss a can of corn together with some tomatoes in soup or chili? Cooked canned tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, another powerful antioxidant.

Brown rice
Why we love it Brown rice—rice in its original form—hasn’t been stripped of its fibre-rich coating during processing. Eating high-fibre foods may prevent colon cancer. To get a real nutritional bang, try soaking brown rice before cooking it. Japanese scientists discovered that immersing brown rice in a pot of water for 22 hours plumps up its fibre content and decreases its cooking time. It also sweetens the flavour and adds 10 times more gammaaminobutyric acid, an amino acid that improves kidney function.

Canned fish
Why we love it Low in fat, high in protein and packed with nutrients, canned fish is a winner. Dutch researchers found that people who ate fish once a week were at lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Toss a can of salmon in a salad and don’t pick out the soft edible bones—they’re a good source of calcium. When buying tuna, opt for water-packed, not oil-packed, and solid albacore or white tuna, which dishes up more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than chunk light.

Why we love it Garlic can rejuvenate skin, improve blood circulation and increase energy levels. And it contains potent antioxidants, which may help prevent heart disease, cancer, arthritis and cataracts. Eat it raw, crushed or just slightly cooked to maximize its famous benefits, but don’t let it linger in the cupboard too long—it loses some of its potency when it’s old and sprouted. The real thing is better than powdered garlic because you probably won’t sprinkle on enough of the dry stuff to get the health perks.

Why we love them The superhero of fibre-rich foods, beans are a great source of iron, protein and other essential minerals. The most nutritious varieties include navy, pinto, kidney, chickpeas and soy. To cut your risk of colon cancer, add beans to your salads or serve them as a side dish. According to researchers at Tulane University School of Public Health in New Orleans, eating beans four times a week may also lower your risk of heart disease by 22 per cent. Canned beans can be high in salt, so buy beans dry and store them in airtight jars. Canned will do in a pinch—just pitch the canning liquid and give your beans a good rinse.

Why we love it Cereal fibre may lower your risk of developing adult-onset diabetes, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, possibly because it regulates blood sugar levels. Unsweetened oatmeal is a good choice because oat bran also helps reduce cholesterol levels. If you prefer cold cereal, pick one with oats or bran topping the ingredients list. It should be high in fibre (four grams per serving) and low in sugar (as close to zero as possible).

Nuts and seeds
Why we love them They’re a good source of protein and healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. According to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, women who nibble nuts five times a week lowered their risk of type 2 diabetes by almost 30 per cent. Grab a handful of raw almonds or unsalted sunflower seeds, which contain vitamin E, to reduce your heart disease risk. Or top your oatmeal with 1/2 cup (125 mL) of dry-roasted soy nuts, which lowered blood pressure by up to 10 per cent in women who ate them daily, according to a study at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Green and black teas
Why we love them Filled to the brim with phytochemicals, natural plant substances that help prevent the cell damage that causes diseases, tea consumption may prevent heart disease. One recent U.S. study also showed that people who drank five cups of black tea a day lowered their “bad” or LDL cholesterol levels by as much as 10 per cent.

   Whole-grain pasta
Why we love it It’s loaded with fibre, which lowers cholesterol levels and regulates blood sugar, according to a study at the University of Minnesota. Whole-grain foods such as pasta are also a good source of phytoestrogens, naturally occurring plant estrogens, which are important for the prevention of hormonally dependent cancers, such as breast cancer. And they keep you feeling full long after dinner is over, so you’ll be less tempted to indulge in late-night snacking.