17 Jan 2022

Laurann O'Reilly: Healthy staple ingredients to keep in your Tipperary kitchen

This week's column in The Nationalist

Six top nutrition tips for boosting your immune health with Laurann O'Reilly

Laurann O'Reilly

Whilst many of us try to be conscious of the foods we purchase and have in our cupboards, it can sometimes be helpful to know what staple ingredients we need help us to compose delicious dishes and that hold some valuable nutritious benefits too.

Here, nutritionist Laurann O’Reilly and owner of Nutrition by Laurann, runs us through her recommended ingredients to always have at home which work as the key components of recipes as well as being good for your health.

Healthy Oils – Whether for cooking or for salads, having the right type of staple and nutritious oils in the cupboard at home is a must, such as:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – One of the healthiest oils, it contains over 30 antioxidant compounds as well as being a natural anti-inflammatory. It’s not only delicious but great for cooking and for use in salads.

Rapeseed Oil – Another healthy fat option with it being a good source of omega 3,6,9 containing vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant) as well as being high in monounsaturated fats (the good fat).

Sesame Oil – Commonly used in Asian and Indian cooking, this one not only gives a nutty taste to your recipes but is also heart healthy due to having anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Flaxseed Oil – Rich in omega 3 fatty acids, it’s great for circulation, concentration, joints, eyes, hair, skin and nails. Tip: Add a little to your cereals, yogurt, on top of vegetables for an extra nutritional boost

Sunflower Oil – High in unsaturated (good fats) and low in saturated fat. This is a great option for cooking as well as having the added benefit in lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. It’s also a great source of vitamin E which gives it extra anti-oxidant properties too.

Dried Herbs & Spices – Not only do these add the most amazing flavour combinations to meals, they are a great alternative to salt, they also have some health benefits too. Why not explore some of these and your dishes.

Turmeric - Contains the active compound curcumin, is a potent antioxidant protecting our cells against damage. Curcumin has also been found to improve brain activity and neural connections as well as anti-inflammatory properties. This is delicious added to curries, soups or smoothies for an extra nutritional boost.

Ginger - Contains the active compound gingerol which has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger has also been found to be helpful in stabilising blood sugar levels. Giving dishes an extra kick, similar to turmeric, ginger works well in curries, soups, smoothies and yogurts.

Cinnamon – Another great one for the cupboard, cinnamon has been found to be both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory as well as antibacterial and antifungal. Similar to ginger it’s also been shown to have effects in stabilising blood sugar levels. With it’s unique and warming flavour it can be added to cereal such as porridge, yogurts, smoothies, soups, curries or dessert dishes.

Paprika – Contains capsaicin, a compound found in peppers that has been shown to have antioxidant properties. As well as giving dishes a vibrant colour, smoked or sweet paprika is a delicious addition to eggs, salads, marinades, curries, added to meats, poultry or fish.

Oregano – With some wonderful health benefits, oregano is antibacterial and rich in the vitamins E and K and the minerals manganese, iron, and calcium. It works great with tomato based recipes such as pizza, pasta sauce and olive oil-based dishes.

Rosemary – a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which are thought to help boost the immune system and improve blood circulation. This is a beautiful addition to meat and potato dishes.

Thyme – Packed with Vitamins A and C as well as the minerals copper, iron, and manganese. It’s a beautiful ingredient for adding to savory dishes like roasted meat, vegetables and fish as well as  marinades, soups and stocks

Eggs – Not only are eggs a common and affordable ingredient, they’re also extremely versatile. From a nutritional perspective also rich in protein, vitamins and minerals and can be enjoyed as part of any meal or as a healthy snack.

Apple Cider Vinegar - Is made from fermented apples & water. During fermentation enzymes create cloudy residue called the ‘mother’ which can be found in unpasteurised apple cider vinegar. It has been found to be a natural probiotic, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Being an acid, it also helps to stabilise our blood sugar levels by influencing the rate at which sugar gets absorbed into our blood stream, making it great for controlling sugar cravings. Tip: Why not mix 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil with 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar for a tasty salad dressing

Nuts & Seeds – Not only are they great for the cupboard with a long shelf life, they’re also rich in protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, making them perfect to add a nutritious boost to your cereal, yogurts, smoothies, salads, curries and soups.

Dried & Canned Beans – A great source of plant based proteins, they’re the perfect nutritious and delicious accompaniment to your meals. These work great in sandwiches, salads, soups, as side dishes, in burgers and stews.

Healthy Grains – Grains such as spelt, brown rice, oats, couscous and quinoa can be kept safely at room temperature for months. Not only are they a great source of energy, for healthy digestion and for regulating blood sugar levels, they are also perfect for breakfasts, side dishes, boosting yogurts, smoothies and soups.

Frozen Vegetables – Being comparable to fresh produce in micronutrient content, frozen vegetables make a healthy and convenient freezer staple. Not only are they great for those on a budget but they’re versatile for a quick side dish, adding to soups, stews and casseroles.

Frozen Fruit & Berries – Similar to frozen vegetables, fresh fruit and berries which are frozen whilst still fresh maintain much of their vitamin and mineral content. They make great nutritious additions to cereal, smoothies and desserts too.

Honey or Maple Syrup – For those who need a little added sweetness, honey and maple syrup make great natural sweeteners as well as having additional health benefits. Honey is known to have both anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Whilst maple syrup, often a preferred option for those on vegan diets is also rich in antioxidants as well as the minerals magnesium, potassium and magnesium. Note: These are also high in natural sugars so it’s best to eat sparingly.

Garlic – Contains the active compound called allicin which gives garlic its smell. Not only is garlic rich in valuable vitamins and minerals it’s also antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antibacterial and great for heart health too.

Onions – Again packed with vitamins & minerals, they’re also anti-inflammatory, powerfully antioxidant (containing 25 different antioxidants) and great for our immune and heart health.

Pineapple – Not only are pineapples loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They also contain bromelain – a digestive enzyme which is great for digesting foods especially meat protein. Tip: Why not chop up and freeze to preserve the amazing benefits.

Healthy Condiments – Having the right sauces and condiments in the cupboard can really help to tie your dishes together, here are some…

Tahini – Middle Eastern in origin, tahini is made of ground sesame seeds. Great for use in sauces, dips such as hummus, dressings, desserts, and vegetables

Salsa – A spicy tomato based sauce, this one works great as a dressing, dip, in sandwiches, mixed with omelettes, in salads and main meal dishes such as burritos.

Balsamic Vinegar – Italian in origin, it is a dark, concentrated, and intensely flavoured vinegar. Although traditionally used along with olive oil as a delicious salad dressing it can be also used to enhance meats such as steak, eggs, fish as well as giving fresh fruit such as strawberries and pears an extra kick.

Mustard – With so many different types of mustard to choose from, my two favourites are traditional English mustard and wholegrain Dijon Mustard. It again is so versatile with it being delicious added to meats (particularly ham), in sandwiches and as a salad dressing.

Soy Sauce – Chinese of origin, another great ingredient which works as a marinade, added to stews, in sauces, vegetables, sushi and other rice dishes. This is definitely one for the cupboard.

Sriracha – For those who like an extra spicy kick to their meals, sriracha is hot sauce made from a paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar, and salt. Being hot and tangy with just a hint of sweetness. This one is super versatile ingredient which can be added sour cream, mayonnaise, or cream cheese-based dips for a little kick. It’s also the perfect addition to soups, stews, meats, marinades, eggs and sandwiches.

About Laurann: Laurann O’Reilly is qualified and experienced nutritionist with a BSc. Degree in Human Nutrition from University of Nottingham and a Master’s in Public Health Nutrition from University College Dublin. She has over 10 years of experience including working community and clinical care, research, personalised nutrition consultations (dealing in healthy eating, weight loss, digestive health and sports nutrition), teaching and developing nutrition courses at FETEC level, nutrition education talks and workshops (corporate wellness, schools, sports teams, public and private talks), previous food manager of the Coeliac Society of Ireland and is part of the roll out team for the Healthy Ireland Smart Start health promotion programme for pre-schools.

For further information see or contact Laurann at 

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