Convenience is key to sustainable healthy cooking. Embellish fresh produce with select convenience products and enhance them with flavorful condiments, herbs, and spices for a win-win approach to good taste and long lasting good health.
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are essential to good health and a flat belly. Cooking oils are liquid fats derived from plant sources compared to butter or shortening, which are solid fats from animal sources. Light, heat, and oxygen cause oil to rapidly spoil. It is important to store them in tightly sealed, opaque containers in a dark and cool place.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Perfect for salads and assembled no-cook dishes. If used in cooking, it can only be added towards the end, to finish a dish, because vital nutrients are diminished with heat. EVOO also has a low smoke point and should not be used for high heat cooking. Cooking past smoke points cause chemical changes that create harmful compounds in food.
Light Olive Oil – A blend of refined olive oil and extra virgin olive oil that has a milder flavor than EVOO. This can be used for sautéing or stir-frying.
Canola Oil – High in MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids) and polyunsaturated fats. It has a neutral flavor, which makes it a good choice when you when to preserve the flavors of food.
Sesame Oil – Has an intense and nutty flavor that is perfect for Asian/Oriental dishes
Salt is indispensable from a culinary perspective. It enhances flavors, balances bitterness of some ingredients, brings out sweetness, tenderizes, and acts as a preservative. Unfortunately, there is also a direct link between eating too much salt and health diseases. Fortunately, it does not take too much salt to help flavors bloom. Salt can also benefit people with adrenal fatigue or those who are extremely stressed mentally, emotionally, and physically. The sodium level of salt varies by type and brand so be sure to check the label. The daily sodium limit for most adults is actually a measly 1 tsp of salt = 2,300mg sodium.
Himalayan Salt – Said to be the “purest salt on earth,” Himalayan salt is 80% sodium chloride and the balance is made up of over 80 types of minerals, which can help your body balance its natural pH, absorb nutrients, and flush toxins.
Sea Salt, coarse and fine – Sea salt does not contain additives and is minimally processed unlike other types of salt. Sea salt is best added at the end of cooking as the flavor is lost during the cooking process.
Vinegar adds a tangy flavor to dishes, tenderizes meat and vegetables, inhibits the growth of bacteria, and has many health promoting properties.
Coco Vinegar – Made from coconut sap or coco-water, coco vinegar is rich in nutrients and has an alkalizing effect on the body. Choose brands without added preservatives and adulterants. Perfect for dressings, marinades and sour broths.
Apple Cider Vinegar – The most popular type of vinegar in the natural health community because of its many health benefits including weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, and detoxification, among many other things.
Rice Vinegar - Made from fermented white rice, rice vinegar is very mild and is perfect for Asian dipping sauces and dressings.
Balsamic Vinegar – The traditional “true balsamic” vinegar is aged for a minimum of 12 years and is can be quite expensive. Commercial grade products are not a good choice because they are made of wine vinegar, coloring, caramel, and thickeners. A third variety, the “condiment” grade balsamic vinegar is aged less than 12 years and is more affordable than the traditional kind. Choose this condiment grade whenever possible.
Sugar imparts sweetness and balances bitter and sour tastes. Unfortunately, added sugar is probably the worst ingredient to a belly busting healthy diet. There are however, “less unhealthy” choices that you can use sparingly or in moderation to impart flavor and taste to your dishes.
Coconut Sugar - Naturally derived from coconut sap. It contains some fiber and have a lower glycemic index than regular sugar.
Honey – Contains nutrients, antioxidants, and trace amounts of vitamins and minerals. High quality honey in moderation is a good substitute for plain sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
Stevia – A sweetener derived from the stevia plant/herb. It imparts a slight licorice flavor.
HERBS & SPICES
Herbs and spices enhance the flavor of dishes without salt, sugar or fat. They also contain disease-fighting antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that help fight belly fat.
Garlic – A versatile herb that imparts bold flavor to dishes. It is anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants. To get the most health benefits from garlic, after chopping, allow it to stand for 10-15 minutes before cooking. Chopping releases stored enzymes and letting it stand allows the healthy compounds to fully develop so that heat will not inactivate the enzymes.
Ginger – An aromatic root spice that adds zest to Asian dishes. Ginger contains gingerols, which suppress inflammation and prevent free radical damage by minimizing the depletion of glutathione, one of the body’s most vital anti-oxidant. Ginger contains substances that promote elimination of intestinal gas and soothe the digestive tract.
Lemongrass – Highly aromatic with a citrus-like flavor, lemongrass has polyphenols that impair and inhibit inflammation. It is also a mild diuretic that effectively reduces swelling and water retention. Lemongrass can help aid digestion and detoxification.
Basil – Comes in two popular variants in the local market: Thai basil, which has a sweet anise-like flavor, and sweet basil, which has a clove-like scent and is perfect for Italian dishes. Basil inhibits inflammation that causes belly fat and fluid retention. It is high in iron, which is indispensable to the metabolism and survival.
Parsley – Has a delicious and vibrant taste, which comes in two varieties: flat and curly. Flat parsley has a stronger and bolder flavor than curly parsley. Both varieties contain enzymes that stimulate colon contraction and movement.
Cilantro – A fragrant mix of parsley and citrus used mostly in Middle Eastern, Mexican, and Asian dishes. It helps regulate blood sugar and minimize insulin resistance to help you lose weight. It is also high in fiber, iron, and magnesium to help fight belly fat.
Turmeric – Gives food a golden yellow color and a peppery, slightly pungent flavor. It contains curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties that are comparable to potent and over-the-counter drugs.
Cinnamon – Has a sweet-spicy flavor used commonly in sweet dishes, but is also perfect for perking up meats, fish, grains, and vegetables. Cinnamon is high in calcium and fiber. It is a spice known for helping regulate blood sugar, which in turn helps regulate fat storage.
Cumin – Has a nutty and peppery flavor and is an essential component to curry and chili powders. Cumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory spice.
Black Pepper – The strongest in flavor and bite, black pepper must be the world’s most popular spice. It is also anti-inflammatory and helps regulate blood sugar.
Described as the "fairy godmother of flat bellies," if there's anyone who can help you get back into shape, it's this US-trained nutritionist. Our guest editor for January, Nadine Tengco, who still slays in a bikini (check out her Instagram for proof), takes care of heavenly bodies like Anne Curtis, Jessy Mendiola, and Agot Isidro and is the author of Sexy at Any Age.