Whether it be a hurricane, tornado, or COVID, having a prepared plan of essentials is key. Many things should be included in that plan, including batteries, water, flashlight, etc. However, for the purpose of this article, we will focus on the top 6 nutrition boosting foods to keep in your freezer and pantry. These foods are some of the most nutrient dense options with long shelf life.
- Frozen Dark Leafy Greens – spinach, kale, collard greens can all be found in the freezer aisle. They are filled with micronutrients such as vitamins A, C, E, K and many B vitamins as well antioxidant. Some can also be found canned, but they are often filled with sodium. Sodium acts a preservative but may lead to excess sodium consumption which has been linked to hypertension, when not balanced by proper potassium intake1. As a result in an attempt to limit sodium, it may be best to stick to frozen. If fresh produce becomes limited, try baking a casserole with frozen spinach or a slow cooker kale stew. Alternatively, throw some in your smoothie to make sure you’re loading up on vitamins to stay healthy throughout the day. Check out this hidden spinach filled recipe: https://fitcrunch.com/green-protein-smoothie/
- Frozen Fruit – Like dark leafy greens, fruits are filled with antioxidants. Fruits are also high in vitamin C and potassium, among others2. It is important to have a wide variety of fruits and vegetables in the diet to ensure you’re receiving an array of different antioxidants and vitamins. Berries and pears (with skin) are fruits higher in fiber, and thus provide other specific health benefits. Like antioxidants and vitamins, there are different types of fibers. A specific fiber found in fruit is pectin, which is a soluble fiber with numerous health benefits associated with having a gel formation capacity.2
- Beans – These also come dried or canned. You are more likely to find canned beans with no added sodium than canned spinach with no added sodium. This is likely because there are more brands producing canned beans, so it’s still worth a shot to check both. If you are vegetarian, have limited access to animal proteins, or are participating in our Meatless Mondays[DA1] be sure to pair this with a complementary protein. Beans contain good amounts of protein but are incomplete sources. Pairing beans with complementary sources throughout the day such as grains (rice, oats, quinoa, etc.), will ensure you’re getting a full spectrum of amino acids.
- Canned Sardines/Salmon – one of the most sought-after canned products is tuna. However, I recommend picking up canned sardines or salmon. Why? The heart-healthy omega-3s! The specific amount of omega-3 can vary in seasonal fluctuation, but one can containing 200g of cold-water fish once a week nearly follows the recommendations for prevention of coronary heart disease3. Canned tuna is often lean, lacking significant sources of the healthy fats, and may be limited due to concerns of mercury toxification4. If choosing tuna, try to opt for the light variety over albacore which is likely to have less mercury4.
- Nuts/Seeds – Similar to canned fatty cold-water fish, nuts and seeds also provide us with heart and brain healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Additionally, this food is high in vitamins such as E, K, B9 (folate), B1 (thiamin) and minerals such as magnesium, copper, potassium, and selenium5. Nuts and seeds are also sources of antioxidant and phytosterol compounds5. All of these components have been recognized to provide numerous health benefits including metabolism, oxidative stress, and inflammation5.
- Whole Grains – Rice, oats, quinoa, etc. you decide! We’ve previously taken a deep dive in the health benefits of oats (HERE) and discussed how whole grains complement the proteins in legumes. Whole grains provide us with fiber, vitamin E, B vitamins, phytochemicals, antioxidants, fiber, and more. Fiber helps to lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugars. The phytochemicals and essential minerals like magnesium, selenium, and copper in whole grains has been suggested to protect against some cancers.
Needless to say, in any situation it’s important to stay healthy. These top 6 shelf-stable foods will ensure you’re the most prepared you can be.
1. Aaron KJ, Sanders PW. Role of dietary salt and potassium intake in cardiovascular health and disease: a review of the evidence. Mayo Clin Proc. 2013;88(9):987–995. doi:10.1016/j.mayocp.2013.06.005
2. Slavin JL, Lloyd B. Health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Adv Nutr. 2012;3(4):506–516. Published 2012 Jul 1. doi:10.3945/an.112.002154
3. Singer, P., Wirth, M., & Singer, K. (2016). Canned seawater fish with declared content of omega-3 fatty acids: a novel benefit for dietary practice and research. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70(9), 1093–1094. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2016.97
4. Groth, E. (2010). Ranking the contributions of commercial fish and shellfish varieties to mercury exposure in the United States: Implications for risk communication. Environmental Research, 110(3), 226–236. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2009.12.006
5. de Souza RGM, Schincaglia RM, Pimentel GD, Mota JF. Nuts and Human Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2017;9(12):1311. Published 2017 Dec 2. doi:10.3390/nu9121311
[DA1]Link to the campaign here or, if not created- can just link to the sustainability article.