Updated: Jan 5, 2021
I could give an outline of my entire pantry, but I’ll save you the time and cut to the essentials. I sense there’s a misconception that plant-based nutrition is either lacking in flavour and/or nutrition. If you prioritise the below list in your next shop you will be defying those common misconceptions and setting yourself to make many of the most popular recipes on my site.
1. Hemp Seeds
Making their way to the top of the list primarily because of their nutritional value. These small, pale beige seeds derived from the edible part of the hemp plant are incredibly nutrient dense. Just 3 tablespoons (tbsp) offers:
10g protein. About 1/3 of a serve protein for males and ½ a serve of protein for females.
2.25g iron. ¼ of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for males and 1/8 of the RDI for females
3mg of zinc. About ¼ of the RDI for males and 1/3 the RDI for females.
All of the 9 essential amino acids, which makes hemp seeds a complete protein source.
A rich source of Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA) which is an Omega-3 fatty acid that the body concerts to the heath protective forms: EPA and DHA.
No phytates. Which means unlike other plant-based sources of protein like lentils and chickpeas, hemp seeds don’t contain the ‘anti-nutrients’ which can disrupt absorption of nutrients such as iron and calcium.
Hemp seeds aren’t rich in flavour which makes them super versatile. I typically use hemp seeds as a sprinkling on legume-based curries just like this Tomato Coconut Curry. I also toss them through legume-based salads, sprinkle them on dips and even bake them within this Hemp Seed Granola. They can also be used to make milk and the powder can be used as a protein source in smoothies.
Hemp products were made legal for human consumption in Australia in 2017. To be clear, you can’t get high from eating these seeds because they don’t contain enough in THC (the hallucinogenic substance found in marijuana).
2. Chia Seeds
Appearing on this list for their nutritional value, but they get gold stars for their versatility. Originally from Mexico, this gluten free seed can be ground to make a meal (called Pinole) that’s perfect in porridge and baking. The whole seed can be soaked and used to make a pudding, as a thickening agent in smoothies or to make an egg replacement in baking (to make the equivalent of 1 egg simply blend a tbsp chia with 3 tbsp water and let sit for 15 minutes for a gel to form).
Chia seeds are tiny but extremely nutritious. Just 2 tablespoons (30 grams) contain:
10 grams of fibre, a whopping 1/3 of the RDI. Some sources recommend consuming up to 50g fibre per day for ultimate health, which wouldn’t be a hard task with these chia seeds in your weekly shop.
5 grams of protein and importantly, all 9 essential amino acids. So, it’s a quality source of protein. In fact, ‘chia’ is the ancient Mayan word for ‘strength’.
They're a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and other minerals essential for bone health, including calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Similar to chia in many ways, but with a few key differences which means they deserve their own line in this list. You may also hear flaxseeds being referred to as linseeds. They’re a very small, flat seed ranging in colour from golden to a reddish brown and they have a nutty taste.
Due to their incredibly high content of ALA (they’re about 55% ALA) and phenolic compounds (flavonoids, phenolic acids and lignans) they’ve been reported to have anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic properties. As they’re about 35% fibre they make an ideal prebiotic (food for the bacteria living in the gut microbiome) and support regular bowel motions. They’re high in protein (about 30% protein), including the amino acids arginine, methionine and cysteine. These seeds even exhibit anti-fungal properties against candida albicans. For these reasons I love including them in any case of gut healing and candida overgrowth.
The whole flaxseed can be used as a salad or smoothie topper and blended within a smoothie for texture. When ground the meal can be used within baking as an egg replacement (to make the equivalent of 1 egg simply blend a tbsp flaxseed meal with 3 tbsp water and let sit for 15 minutes for a gel to form).
These seeds are low in carbohydrates, high in nutritional value and incredibly versatile. So, now you know why they present so highly in my list of plant-based kitchen staples and why I use them meal after meal. Get inspired to do more with these seeds using this Flaxseed & Coconut Pancake recipe and this Flaxseed & Coconut Porridge.
4. Coconut Aminos
This salty and slightly sweet condiment makes it onto my list entirely for the flavour if offers. I use it in cooking as a replacement for soy sauce as it’s lower in salt and completely gluten free. In saying this, it is a touch sweeter than soy sauce so please be prepared for this the first time you try it.
The sauce is made from coconut-blossom nectar from coconut palms. The nectar is fermented and then blended with sea salt to form this uber versatile condiment. If you’ve spent any time cooking with my recipes, you’ll already know how much I love using it. Try it in this Gado Gado Bowl recipe or this Miso Dressing.
5. Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast is an inactive form of the yeast strain known as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Unlike brewers or bakers yeast, the yeast cells are killed during manufacturing and not alive in the final product. For this reason, it’s not used as a rising agent, rather it’s used in cooking for its cheesy, almost nutty flavour.
Naturally nutritional yeast is a great source of B vitamins and trace minerals, however the most commonly available forms of nutritional yeast are fortified which therefore makes them a complete source of protein, even higher in B vitamins and high in minerals such as zinc and selenium.
I personally believe the right plant-based diet needn’t rely on fortified nutritional yeast to achieve nutrient requirements. Nor should nutritional yeast be used to address any clinical nutritional deficiencies. I do however value its versatility and flavour, so for that reason it makes the list.
Nutritional yeast is sold as flakes, granules or powder and can be found in the spice section of health food stores or health food section of many larger grocery chains. It can be added to pesto, sprinkled on top of salads and works well with most Italian style dishes. It is naturally low in sodium and calories, as well as fat-free and sugar-free.
Kajla P et al,. 2015. Flaxseed—a potential functional food source. Journal of Food Science and Technology, 52, 4, 1857 - 1871.