Pantry Essentials by Rachel Schwartzman | #WellBeingWednesday

sun dried Turkish apricots

Winter is long and our fresh food choices tend to be less than exciting this time of year. I love making food look pretty and an easy way to do this is with healthy food toppings. So, for this Wellbeing Wednesday I thought I would share with you my top pantry essential items everyone should have stocked, that will turn any meal from ordinary to extraordinary.

Hemp Hearts. These tiny seeds are highly nutritious and come from the inside of the hemp seed, hence the name “heart”. They are rich in Omega 3’s, one of our essential fatty acids, as well as being an excellent source of protein and fiber. I blend them into smoothies, top them onto oatmeal, cereal and even salads. You really can add them to anything.

Goji Berries are one of the most nutritionally dense foods on earth. They have been used for thousands of years in Tibet and China as a culinary item, as well as medicinally. They are high in protein and fiber, loaded with vitamin C, beta carotene, iron, calcium, zinc and selenium. They truly are a nutritional powerhouse. I add them to cereal, oatmeal, trail mix, smoothies, or salads. You can also try adding a handful to a cup of hot water, letting them re-constitute, drinking the water and eating the berries.

Black Sesame Seeds. In Chinese medicine, these seeds are known for their anti-aging ability as they support the kidney essence, which depletes as we age and is the cause of many aging processes. They are rich in protein, fiber, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc. They are a potent antioxidant, and support the liver in its detoxification pathways. I add them to more savoury foods such as rice, noodles and salads.

Dried Apricots. This fruit is rich in fiber and high in beta carotene and vitamin C, both essential for a healthy immune system. I put them into oatmeal while it’s cooking to avoid sugar and still have natural sweetness. We want our dried apricots to be brown in colour, so make sure you buy them organic. The commercial ones have sulfites added to them, a chemical used to maintain their orange colour.

Cacao Nibs. Who doesn’t love chocolate? These dark chocolate pieces are a true superfood. They are a great antioxidant, high in fiber, as well as magnesium, a mineral that helps us relax. I love topping them onto my smoothies, yogurt, cereal or sprinkling them onto fruit. I have also been known to just eat them by the handful.

For more on chocolate, stay tuned next week as I differentiate cacao from cocoa and delve into all of the health benefits. Just in time for Valentine’s day.

Hope you give these healthy food additions a try.

Rachel Schwartzman is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor, Doula and Acupuncturist. She practices in Toronto and can be reached at 416-371-3422. To learn more about Dr. Rachel take a peek at


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