The Top Pantry Essentials for Excellent Health

Many people run out of fresh food and think they automatically have no other healthy options to eat in the house, but this isn’t true at all! In fact, some of the most life-extending ingredients can — and should be — kept in the pantry. 

To make room for all the good stuff, you’ll have to clean out the bad stuff. So remove the white and whole wheat pasta, the bags of white or brown sugar, and even those “healthy” granola bars and boxes of cereal. The white flour, fruit roll-ups, and “healthy” chips must go, too.

Any food with tons of labels and marketing claims (like granola bars and chips), refined and processed foods, grains containing gluten, and sugar-laden foods simply aren’t healthy. These foods have been linked to type 2 diabetes, weight gain, inflammation, digestive upset, poor brain health, aging of the skin, and worst of all, they’re a waste of money because they don’t fill you up or offer any real benefits. Don’t worry though, you won’t miss these foods when we replace them with all the amazing foods below.

So now that your pantry is all clear and clean, here’s what to fill it back up with!

Grain-free flours

Coconut, almond, quinoa and even hazelnut and chestnut flour are some of the grain-free flours we’ve seen on the market over the last decade. They first became popular as a gluten-free option, but they are now gaining momentum for grain-free eaters and Paleo enthusiasts too. These flours are filled with nutritious protein, vitamins, minerals and are ground using a cold-milled process. Though they may require a different ratio when baking, they can be used in a multitude of ways. You can make great muffins or savory breads, and you can even stir together a quarter cup of one of these flours with chia seeds, fruit and almond or cashew milk for a grain-free porridge in the morning.

Herbs and spices

Did you know oregano is rich in antioxidants? It’s also anti-inflammatory, antifungal and promotes a positive mood. Thyme, basil, mint and sage also act in similar ways and provide incredible benefits for the brain and digestive system. Plus, they’re the best option for adding real flavor to your food in place of highly refined and processed condiments or seasonings, which are also high in sodium.

Gluten-free “super grains”

Gluten-free super grains are more popular than ever, and with good reason! Most of these grains are technically seeds but cook up just like grains. They’re also a great source of amino acids, B vitamins, magnesium, fiber, calcium, iron, and potassium. They can be used in any dish that you would use rice, and make for a more nutritious meal. 

Here are some gluten-free super grain options: 

  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Amaranth
  • Teff
  • Kaniwa
  • Millet
  • Gluten-free oats (Though these are a grain, when purchased gluten free, they provide phenomenal benefits for longevity, especially concerning the heart and an overall healthy body weight.)

Cocoa powder (and/or raw cacao)

It is said that raw cacao has a higher concentration of antioxidants than any other food. This alone makes raw cacao and plain unsweetened cocoa powder must-haves for a healthy pantry. They improve blood pressure, blood sugar, brain function, fight free radicals, improve heart health, and can even prevent aging of the skin! Just avoid those with added sugars since sugar ages all parts of the body.

Organic canned veggies

Don’t let canned veggies be a missing item in your pantry! They are great to have on hand for those times when you’re sure you had some more of that fresh kale and broccoli in the fridge! Or, when you pull out something fresh to cook and discover it’s gone bad. 

They even make great backup ingredients for days when you don’t feel like cooking, or for those who are watching their grocery budgets. Green beans, tomatoes, artichokes, olives, pumpkin, mixed veggies, carrots, green peas, chickpeas, lentils and black beans are all great items to keep on hand. These contain the same amount of antioxidants as most fresh items when purchased organic and non-GMO. Choose no-salt-added varieties whenever possible, and even better, those in BPA-free cans.


Mustard is greatly underrated for its ability to promote health and longevity! It is an anti-inflammatory food, promotes healthy digestion, and even improves metabolism. It can also tame cravings, balance blood sugar levels, and is a nice replacement for salt if you’re looking to improve blood pressure. Mustard contains turmeric and vinegar, both of which have tremendous health benefits; you can even find many forms made with apple cider vinegar instead of distilled vinegar. Choose organic when you can since it will be more nutrient dense than other options.

Raw nuts and seeds (and their butters)

Technically these should be kept in the fridge after opening, but you can certainly store them in your pantry until that point. Raw nuts and seeds contain magnificent benefits for the brain and body. They’re rich in healthy fats that improve heart health, mood health, and they can reduce inflammation when consumed in a raw state (roasted options will be more acidic). It’s also important to note that their vitamin E, omega-3s, magnesium, iron, and potassium provide even more benefits for the heart and for anti-aging. Choose any and all, they’re great no matter which ones you enjoy and tolerate the best!

Wild rice

Rice VarietiesDid you know wild rice is actually a grass, not a grain at all? It’s called rice because it resembles black rice and brown rice so much. Wild rice was a staple of the Native American diet. It is incredibly easy to digest, has more antioxidants than other types of rice, and is one of the best foods for a healthy brain and metabolism. It goes well in soups and stews, but can also be enjoyed as a side dish, or even a sweet breakfast porridge when combined with some nut milk and cinnamon. Choose organic and Minnesota-grown rice to obtain true wild rice, since many rices on the market are not true wild rice.

Healthy oils

Refined vegetable oils and GMO sourced oils have an inflammatory effect on the body. Those listed below are among the most nutritious because they provide anti-inflammatory benefits, beneficial fats and have been linked to improving heart and brain health. 

Do note that you should store extra-virgin olive oil and avocado oil in your fridge after opening, unless your pantry is particularly cool or you use them within a month. These oils can turn rancid quickly when exposed to air, heat and light. Coconut oil, however, is a shelf-stable fat and can be stored at room temperature; do not refrigerate it since it will turn too hard and the flavor can change.


Coffee is packed with magnesium, iron and B vitamins, something many people aren’t aware of. It’s also a great source of mood-boosting properties aside from just caffeine. Best of all, coffee has been shown to improve longevity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver disease and even depression. To avoid ingesting pesticides, choose organic whenever you can since coffee is one of the most heavily sprayed crops.


Tea is also rich in antioxidants that improve heart and brain health. Green tea, oolong tea and white tea have even been shown to improve weight and metabolism. Green tea is a great choice for relaxation since it contains high amounts of L-theanine, an amino acid that reduces anxiety. All teas contain plant-based nutrients that can improve digestive, heart, liver, and kidney health. Choose bagged or whole leaf tea whenever possible as the best options. Peppermint, chamomile, matcha, green, white, chai, burdock, ginger and dandelion teas are all great to keep on hand.


To sweeten your tea and coffee without sugar, go with the purest form of stevia you can find. Stevia is a green leaf herb from South America that is naturally sweet and has been shown to improve diabetes. It is naturally calorie and sugar-free, and it is not an artificial sweetener.

However, due to its rise in popularity, stevia has unfortunately become a marketing opportunity for companies, who may add sugar and chemicals to their stevia product. This is why you should choose liquid and alcohol-free stevia, which is simply made by distilling the whole leaf in water without chemicals.

The next best option is to use a pure white stevia powder that is made with just pure stevia leaf. Read the ingredient list and avoid all those that include maltodextrin, dextrose and inulin, which are fillers and often mean you’re getting much less stevia than you think. Of course the best option is to choose green leaf stevia, which is the whole herb ground into a powder, but it is green and can be a bit herb-like in flavor, so many people use other forms.

Raw honey

For raw food enthusiasts, Paleo eaters, or those who are not vegan and want a little natural sugar in their diet, raw honey is the best option. Unlike maple syrup, it is not heated, and it’s one of the best natural sweeteners because it contains incredible antifungal powers. Raw honey has been shown to beat viruses, infections, stomach ulcers and even some forms of deadly bacteria. It is also a staple for those who choose natural remedies to reduce cough, cold and flu symptoms quickly. Buying raw organic honey is the best option.

Are you ready to restock your pantry yet? For more tips on how to organize and maintain a healthy kitchen, be sure to check out these 5 tips too.  What other healthy, long-lasting foods do you keep on hand?

—Heather McClees

When shopping for avocado oil, look for an extra virgin, unrefined avocado oil. Unrefined avocado oil is dark green and has a floral smell with a mild flavor. The only avocado oil we use in our kitchen is from Ava Jane’s Kitchen. Try a bottle for free today!


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