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5 Healing Staples Nutritionists Swear By

by Renée Leonard Stainton
Posted: April 05, 2016

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Quinoa is all the rage and chia seeds are the new black. But what about the health benefits of basic pantry items? Expert nutritionist, Renée Leonard-Stainton, reveals which everyday kitchen heroes have healing powers.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." - Hippocrates, ancient Greek physician

Food is undoubtedly a super, natural medicine, and not just in the self-medicating-with-chocolate kind of way. But with seemingly a new ‘super food’ taking centre stage nearly every week, it’s comforting to know that some of the trusted staples we can find in our humble kitchens can have heroic healing powers too. 

Here's five healing, healthy staples that nutritionists (including myself) swear by.

1. Garlic

5 healing, healthy staples nutritionists swear by

This plant is widely recognized as one of the most potent medicinal plants. Greek physician, Hippocrates (circa. 460-370 BC), known today as "the father of Western medicine", prescribed garlic for a wide range of conditions and illnesses. 

Hippocrates promoted the use of garlic for treating respiratory problems, parasites, poor digestion and fatigue. It’s continued to be highly recognised today for its natural antiseptic, antibiotic and healing qualities. Regular consumption of both raw and cooked garlic can greatly help to fight common colds, ‘flus and coughs.
It’s a natural expectorant, meaning it can help with the expulsion of mucus from the lungs and throat. Garlic is also renowned for lowering the risk of heart diseases and strokes and can help to reduce cholesterol and improve circulation. Garlic is also beneficial to include in the diet to avoid or help treat recurrent thrush or urinary tract infections. 

Creative ways to ‘dose’ yourself

Crush raw garlic and add to salad dressings; roast whole garlic cloves to enjoy with root vegetables; stir-fry with fresh chili and green beans. 

2. Brussels sprouts

Brussel sprouts

Currently trending in culinary circles, this cruciferous vegetable is certainly no longer something to screw your nose up at.

Brussels sprouts are rich in powerful free-radical-fighting carotenes. They also contain natural chemicals which help the liver to break down the toxins that can promote degenerative and age-related illnesses like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. 
They are an excellent source of bruise minimising vitamin K, bowel-regulating fibre and immune-enhancing vitamin C. Along with broccoli, they are also considered one of the best sources of the anti-carcinogenic compounds called glucosinolates. 

Creative ways to ‘dose’ yourself

Roast in coconut oil with sea salt; shred and serve raw in a salad with apple cider vinegar, honey and olive oil dressing; stir-fry with tamari and sesame seeds.

3. Turmeric


While many of us have this vivid yellow spice in the pantry ready to add flavour and colour to exotic dishes, turmeric has long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory aid in both the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine. 

It’s been used to treat a wide variety of conditions including flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, toothache and joint pains. Curcumin - the active ingredient in turmeric - is said to help prevent dementia and cancer

Turmeric has been shown to reduce the pain and inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis

Creative ways to ‘dose’ yourself

Mix through scrambled eggs with baby spinach; spice up brown rice salads; Sprinkle into sautéed or braised greens like kale, collards, and cabbage.

4. Oats 

Oats with banana

Oats are traditionally renowned for their qualities as a mild sedative and nerve restorative, which is not surprising when you consider how nutritious they are. They are rich in the B complex vitamins, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium and silicon. This comforting staple is highly stabilising to blood sugar levels, making oats an excellent dietary inclusion for people with diabetes. 

Oats have also been shown to help lower blood cholesterol levels, one of the reasons people with heart or circulatory problems are advised to eat whole oats. Many digestive disorders including constipation, respond to regular consumption of oats as their demulcent qualities can help to soothe the stomach and intestines.  

Creative ways to ‘dose’ yourself

Add a tablespoon to your favourite smoothie; good old-fashioned porridge with Manuka honey; bircher muesli with natural yoghurt and grated apple.  

5. Ginger 

Lemon and ginger tea

Ginger root is valued for its cleansing, warming and stimulating qualities. It aids digestion, helps remove gases from the stomach and intestines, is valued for its antiseptic qualities and helps to loosen mucus. It is widely used to alleviate the symptoms of colds and flu. Ginger also helps to improve circulation and, with its warming qualities, can be useful in the treatment of rheumatism and arthritis.

Feeling the burn from the extra-hard session at the gym? Approximately two teaspoons of raw ginger can greatly relieve muscle pain and inflammation as antioxidants in ginger called gingerols can have inflammation-reducing properties similar to drugs like ibuprofen.

This wonder-root is also well-known as a stomach soother so it’s great for relieving just about any gastrointestinal illness, including motion sickness and pregnancy morning sickness. 

Creative ways to ‘dose’ yourself

Grate and mix with lemon juice and  hot water to make a fresh ginger tea; mince and add to stir-fries and soups; eat it pickled as a sushi accompaniment. 

Next time you're suffering some minor ills, just remember: There may just be a snack for that!

A little bit of dark chocolate can of course go a long way too… 


Got a passion for food and nutrition? Research the opportunities to build a career in the industry here.


Renée Leonard-Stainton

Renée is a qualified Naturopath, Nutritionist, and Western Medical Herbalist. She has worked with a growing list of clients around the world, from her home country in New Zealand across Australasia, to the States and the Middle East.

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