This healthy ingredients glossary is in alphabetical order and is a list of commonly referred to ingredients. We aim to provide information regarding what is it, how to prepare it, why you should eat it and where to source it. For inspiration to streamline your shopping routine and save money and time, click here.
‘Real food doesn’t have ingredients. Real food IS ingredients’ Jamie Oliver
Almonds are so incredibly nourishing and a very worthwhile inclusion in any diet. They are a rich source of ‘good’ monounsaturated fats, many fat soluble vitamins and a plethora of minerals. They are a very concentrated source of many health giving Phyto (plant) chemicals and are also a great protein source. Soaking them overnight (4-12 hours) further improves their nutrient availability. Almonds are available in the nut isle of your supermarket, health stores or online.
Is simply ground up almonds. Almond meal is a gluten-free, grain-free high protein substitution for regular grain flours. It produces a moist, delicious crumb and great results in baking. It is my first choice when baking a treat that doesn’t need to be nut free. It is available in the nut isle of your supermarket, health stores or online.
Apple cider vinegar is a naturally fermented vinegar made from apple juice. It is a great source of potassium and is great for making chutneys. Many people take half a teaspoonful before a meal to promote digestion. It is available in the health isle of your supermarket, health stores or online.
Arrowroot is a rhizome or root which yields a fine, easily digestible starch. It is gluten-free, very nutritious and a great starch for use in gluten-free baking or to thicken sauces. It is available from health food stores or online.
Is an oil pressed from the avocado fruit. It is a nutritious oil, rich in unsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E (which makes it very good for your heart and blood vessels). Unlike olive oil, it is stable when exposed to heat so it can be used in cooking. It also makes a lovely salad dressing. Like olive oil choose one that is cold pressed.It is available from the oil isle of your supermarket or in health food stores.
Brown rice is the least processed rice, with only the hull removed. The nutritious bran and husk are not removed (as in white rice). It is, therefore, a rich source of many vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre and essential fatty acids. It has a slightly nutty taste and has more texture than white rice. It does take slightly longer to cook. If soaked in water with a tsp of lemon juice or natural yoghurt, boil in water for approximately 30 minutes, or if un-soaked boil for 40-45 minutes. Add 10 minutes on top of the time it takes to cook white rice in a rice cooker. In the Thermomix cook for 20-30 minutes as you would white rice. The size of the grain (long or short) can vary the cooking time, so taste it and see. Brown rice is still slightly firm when cooked. I absolutely love the flavour of brown basmati rice so try it if you get the opportunity. Brown rice is available in the health or rice isle of or online.
Is a versatile sweetener made by culturing brown rice with enzymes. It is gluten-free and fructose-free and is an excellent substitute for honey, maple syrup and golden syrup. It is sometimes called rice malt syrup. Just check, its ingredients list should be brown rice and nothing else. It is available in the health or sugar isle of some supermarkets (Coles and Woolworth’s in Australia) or in health food stores.
To address a concern a few have mentioned – what about arsenic in rice malt syrup?
The Arsenic concern was based on an American inquiry of US rice products (whole rice, rice cereal, rice milk etc), not just rice malt (Arsenic is commonly found in many grains).
In response to this controversy, Pure Harvest, an Australian company, released this statement:
“The FSANZ standard 1.4.1 permits a level for cereals of 1 mg/kg (ppm) of total arsenic. As can be seen from the test report provided, our rice syrup has a level of <0.040 mg/kg (ppm) of total arsenic (note the less than, this is the detection limit for the specific test used to detect the arsenic in this case, so the actual levels are less than this), so is well below the maximum permitted levels stated in the code. The American FDA do not have any standards set for arsenic in food or beverages, and are in general many years behind Australia and New Zealand in the development and implementation of Food Safety systems.”
Is a gluten-free seed that is high in protein, fibre and very nutrient dense. Buckwheat whole or flour is a very nourishing, versatile and pleasant tasting seed. The flour can substitute regular flour (usually mixed with rice flour) in some dishes though you may need to increase the liquid content. Try it whole and lightly roasted in muesli, on breakfast cereals or porridge. It is also great to sprout. It is available from the health section of some supermarkets, health food stores or online.
Raw cacao is the pulverised un-roasted seed of the Cacao tree with all of its enzymes in tact. It’s a rich source of minerals, antioxidants and many beneficial Phyto (plant) chemicals. Unsweetened cocoa or cocoa powder is made using the roasted seed. Source either raw cacao or pure, un-sweetened cocoa powder which are both available in health food stores, many supermarkets or online.
Cacao nibs are natures chocolate chips. That is cacao beans that have been roasted, husks removed and broken into small pieces. They are a rich source of minerals (especially magnesium), mood elevating amino acids and antioxidants. They have a crunchy texture and rich bitter flavour. They can be added to smoothies, snacks, blended with nut mixes or just eaten alone. They are available from the health section of some supermarkets, in health food stores or online.
Cannellini beans are large white beans with a mellow flavour and are often used in Italian dishes. Like many beans, they are a low fat, high protein and fibre, vitamin and mineral dense food. Also like other beans, they need to be soaked overnight and cooked well (simmered for 1-2 hours), so as to not cause tummy upsets. Cooking times may vary depending on the age of the bean. Always cook ample amounts and freeze in portions (topped with water). Alternatively, use canned beans, always strained and rinsed well. I love to mix cannellini beans into salads and casseroles. They even feature in some of my sweet baked items like this cup cake. They are available from the canned vegetable section of supermarkets and in health food stores.
Capers are the unripened fruit of a prickly perennial plant found in Europe and Asia. The buds are sun-dried and preserved in vinegar (much like olives) and salt. They are a nice edition to fish dishes and in salads. They are in the olive section of supermarkets.
These gluten-free seeds are a balanced blend of fibre, essential fatty acids, carbohydrates and protein (and many other phytonutrients). As such they are very nourishing and can be very simply incorporated into ones diet. They have a mild flavour and crunchy texture that becomes gelatinous when soaked in liquid. The different textures make them a versatile inclusion in many recipes. Try to source an organic seed. They are available in health food stores, the health section of some supermarkets or online.
Chickpeas are large white pea with a nutty flavour and are often used in middle eastern dishes. Like many peas, they are a low fat, high protein and fibre, vitamin and mineral dense food. They need to be soaked overnight and cooked well (simmered for 2½ -4 hours), so as to not cause tummy upsets. Cooking times may vary depending on the age of the bean. Always cook ample amounts and freeze in portions (topped with water). Alternatively, use canned chickpeas, always strained and rinsed well. Chickpeas are the hero of the delicious dip hummus. I also love to mix chickpeas into salads and baked in casseroles. They are available from the canned vegetable section of supermarkets and in health food stores.
Apart from its amazing flavour, cinnamon has demonstrated in many studies to regulate blood sugar levels (therefore stabilising energy levels and mood). It is also anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and boasts a multitude of healing properties. Add to tea to give a Chai flavour, sprinkle it on fruit salad or mix it into natural yoghurt for a delicious flavour boost. I always have it in its ground and whole form (quills or bark). It is available from the spice section of supermarkets, in health food stores or online.
Desiccated, shredded and flaked coconut are all types of dried coconut (just different shapes), although I do find desiccated coconut slightly drier than shredded and flaked. It is useful in baking or simply toasted on top of breakfasts, yoghurt or even in Asian inspired salads and meals. See coconut milk below for information about its nutritional value. It is available from the baking section of supermarkets, in health food stores or online.
Coconut flour is made from the meat of mature, brown coconuts and is a gluten-free, high protein and high fibre flour. It is a grain-free alternative to other flours though it does take a bit of getting used to in baking. It is only used in small quantities mainly due to its ability to absorb moisture. It is available from the health section of some supermarkets, in health food stores or online
Coconut milk and cream is the liquid that comes from blending the meat of a coconut with water (just less water for the cream). The principal medium-chain fatty acids in coconut are lauric and capric acid. Lauric acid is also found in breast milk. Both are very nourishing, antimicrobial (so great for your immune system), anti-inflammatory and healing to the digestive system. They are best used as a base for curries, as a dairy substitute, or just to drink. Having a slightly sweet flavour, they are also wonderful for desserts. They are available from the Asian section of supermarkets, in health food stores and online.
Unlike many ‘vegetable oils,’ coconut oil is not extracted using dangerous chemicals and extreme heat (which yields damaging trans-fats). This in itself makes it a safer choice in oils. The most beneficial grade of coconut oil is raw, unrefined or virgin oil which I like to use for raw baking and heating to moderate temperatures (up to 175℃). If taste is a problem or you’d like to use it to deep fry or bake at higher temperatures, then choose refined coconut oil. Refined expeller-pressed oils have their scent and flavour removed through a deodorising process. Always check that any refined oils are not hydrogenated (the hydrogenation process creates trans-fats) and hexane free. They are available from health food stores, many major supermarkets in the health food isle or online. For more about coconut oil you can read this post here.
Coconut sugar is made by drying the nectar of the coconut flower. It has a low glycaemic index and has a good nutrition profile due to minimal processing. It is very high however in fructose. It has a taste similar to brown sugar. As with any sweetener, use in moderation only. It is available from the health section of some supermarkets, in health food stores or online.
Coconut water is the liquid found inside young, green coconuts. It has an impressive electrolyte (mineral) profile to rival any sports rehydration formula. It is delicious chilled, over ice or blended into a smoothie. Always avoid flavoured varieties and try different brands as I find they differ in taste between brands. It is available from the drinks section of some supermarkets and in health food stores. It’s also making an appearance in soft drink and juice fridges in shops and cafes. For more on the health benefits of coconut water, click here.
Dijon is a mild mustard and useful condiment in your pantry. It is a lovely accompaniment to steak, chicken and also works well in salad dressings and some sauces. It is available from the condiment section of supermarkets.
Dulse is dried red sea vegetable ground into small flakes. It is a protein rich powerhouse of nutrition, especially the minerals iodine and iron. I put a small amount (½ to 1 tsp) into casseroles, soups and baked items whenever I think of it. Many of my recipes include dulse as an optional ingredient, mostly to further enhance the nutrition derived from the recipe. Try it, a little goes a long way and its taste is disguised. It is available from the health section of some supermarkets, in health food stores or online.
An important ingredient in Asian inspired curries, sauces and dressings, fish sauce is the liquid extracted from the fermentation process of fish with sea salt. It donates the salt balance in many Asian dishes. It is available from the Asian section of supermarkets or at Asian grocers.
Flax seed is a rich plant source of essential fatty acids, fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It is most digestible when ground and forms part of the well-known blend ‘LSA’ (linseed, sunflower seed and almonds). It can be used in baked goods, thrown in a smoothie or added to your breakfast. It is best kept airtight, in the fridge to preserve its freshness. It is available from the health section of some supermarkets, in health food stores or online.
Ghee is clarified butter and a great choice of fat to heat or cook with at high temperatures. It has many medicinal qualities and is a source of many essential fats and fat soluble vitamins. It is available from health food stores.
Goji berries, like most berries, contain powerful antioxidants and phytonutrients. They can be added to breakfast or snack mixes. They are available from the health section of some supermarkets, in health food stores or online.
Is a slightly spicy condiment that goes well with steak and fish dishes. It is available from the condiment section of supermarkets.
Is an ancient relative of the modern wheat grain. It is a low gluten, high protein grain and is much more nutritious and easier to digest than regular wheat flour. In fact, many people who are wheat intolerant can tolerate Kamut. It produces baked goods (bread), with a very similar taste and texture to the regular wheat bread. Kamut bread is available from the health section of some supermarkets and in health food stores. I love the ‘Ancient Grains’ brand for kids sandwiches. Sol breads here in Queensland also bake beautiful rustic sourdough loaves. Your local artesian baker may do the same.
Lentils are a great source of fibre, vitamins, minerals and a vegetarian source of protein (though they need to be completed with a grain, nut or seed). Brown lentils are best rinsed and soaked prior to cooking. Soak in water and a tablespoon of natural yoghurt to produce easily digestible legumes. Soaked lentils can then be cooked by simmering for 15 minutes or until tender but not sloppy. Un-soaked lentils should be rinsed and cooked for 30-45 minutes. Otherwise, they are available canned (drain and rinse well before use). Brown lentils are best in casseroles or soups. They are available from the canned vegetable and dried beans section of supermarkets and in health food stores.
Puy or French lentils are my first choice for use in salads as they hold their form better than other lentils. Puy lentils do not have to be soaked, though as with any legume, it is always preferable to do so, even for a few hours (with a teaspoon of yoghurt). At the very least, rinse them well. Cover with water and bring them to the boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes. I cook them in the basket of my Thermomix like you would rice (water in the bowl, 20 minutes, speed 4, Varoma temperature). They are available from health food stores or online.
Red lentils do not have to be soaked and are my favourite lentil for soups and making dhal. They are available from the dried legume section of supermarkets, in health food stores or online.
See flax seeds
LSA is a mix of ground linseed, sunflower seeds and almonds. It’s a great source of fibre, good fats and protein. It can be used in baking, blend into smoothies or simply sprinkled on top of just about anything. Keep airtight and refrigerated. It is available from the health section of some supermarkets, in health food stores or online.
Macadamia oil is a mild, buttery, slightly sweet oil that I love to bake (at moderate temperatures with) or use in dressings. It is available from the oil section of some supermarkets and in health food stores.
Nori is a dried seaweed rolled into sheets (raw) and roasted (aka sushi paper). Like dulse, it is a powerhouse of essential nutrients and a wonderful dietary inclusion. Use it to make sushi or simply shred it in a salad or soup. It is available from the Asian foods section of some supermarkets, in health food stores or Asian grocers.
Nut milk is a nutritious, lactose-free alternative to cows milk. They have a pleasant, slightly sweet flavour. Almond, Brazil and Hazelnut are some commonly available nut milk. You can make fresh nut-based milk very easily. Just take about one cup of your favourite nuts and four cups of fresh water and blend them in a high powered blender. Strain this through a nut milk bag or muslin sieve. You can use the left over pulp to bake with (instead of nut meals or flours). Nut milk is also commercially available in most supermarkets (soya milk section) or health food shops.
Oats are a tasty, versatile whole cereal grain. They have become well renowned for their cardio-protective effects. They are a nourishing source of many vitamins and minerals and phytonutrients. In herbal medicine, they are restorative and calming to the nervous system. I include them in breakfast creations and many baked treats. Un-stabilised (raw) oats are the best choice if they are available to you. They are available from the cereal or health section of the supermarket, in health food stores or online.
This flavoursome oil is a must in any pantry. Choosing only an extra virgin olive oil is imperative, not only for its nutrition but also its flavour.The anti-inflammatory, cardio-protective, cognitive and anti-cancer benefits pertain to the extra virgin, cold pressed olive oils. ‘Pure, light or just olive oils’ have undergone chemical refinement. Extra virgin olive oil is available from the oil section of the supermarket (along with the impostors so choose carefully) and in health food stores.
Pumpkin seeds or pepitas are a very rich source of the mineral zinc. As many adults and children are zinc deficient, I try to include these little zinc bombs in as many recipes as I can. Zinc is an essential mineral with a long list of health benefits. In a nutshell, zinc is vital for fertility, healing, growth, development and immune function. Pepitas are currently being researched in the prevention and treatment of prostate disease in men. They are delicious toasted for a fast, simple snack. Soaking them for 1-4 hours further improves their nutrient availability. They are available from the nut or health section of supermarkets, in health food stores or online.. I have written about the amazing health benefits of pumpkin seeds, here.
Quinoa is a gluten-free, high quality complete protein seed. Whilst used very much like a grain, it’s not a grain as many may think. It is a great source of iron and contains many other life-sustaining nutrients (I have seen it’s nutrient composition described as ‘unusually striking!’). It is very easy to prepare and its uses extremely versatile.Aways rinse it very well in a fine sieve prior to cooking to remove the bitter saponins. Use one part Quinoa to two parts water and simmer, covered until the liquid is absorbed and it looks opaque with a little white tail (this is the germ splitting from the seed). It can replace rice in any dish, add to soups, have it for breakfast… your imagination is the limit. Quinoa flour can also replace wheat flour (usually mixed with rice flour). Quinoa flakes can replace rolled oats for gluten-free porridge and baking. It is available from the health section of some supermarkets in health food stores or online. I have written about the amazing health benefits of quinoa, here.
Rapadura is made from drying raw sugar cane juice into a brown crystalline form. It is much more nourishing than regular sugar containing the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals found in the raw juice (these have been stripped from processed sugar). It is still, however, a sugar, high in fructose and should be used only in moderation. It is available in health food stores, some supermarkets or online.
High in fibre, protein and containing many vitamins and minerals, red kidney beans are another nourishing legume. They need to be soaked overnight and cooked well (simmered for 2 – 3 hours), so as to not cause tummy upsets. Cooking times may vary depending on the age of the bean. Always cook ample amounts and freeze in portions (topped with water). Alternatively, use canned red kidney beans, always strained and rinsed well. They are available from the canned vegetable section of supermarkets and in health food stores.
Made by fermenting red wine, this vinegar is a valuable acid when making salad dressings and casseroles. It is an important pantry staple. It is available from the vinegar section of supermarkets and in health food stores.
Rice flour is made by finely milling rice (either brown or white). It is a good substitution for wheat flour in recipes that are gluten-free. Try to choose a brown rice flour. It is available from the health or gluten free section of some supermarkets, in health food stores or online.
Rice wine vinegar is the acid of choice in Asian-inspired cooking. It is made by fermenting rice or rice wine. It is available from the vinegar or Asian section of supermarkets, in health food stores or Asian grocers.
These tiny delicious seeds are packed with essential fatty acids, protein, phytonutrients and many essential vitamins and minerals. They are very versatile and add flavour and nourishment to many sweet and savoury dishes. Ground into a paste they form tahini. Soaking them for 2-8 hours further improves their nutrient availability. They are available from the nut section of supermarkets, in health food stores or online.
Like Kamut, spelt is and ancient relative of the wheat grain. but has significantly higher B vitamins than wheat flour.It does contain gluten, however, it is generally more tolerated than wheat. It also produces baked goods (bread), with a very similar taste and texture to the regular wheat bread. White spelt is obviously more refined and less nutritious than wholemeal, and either can be used as a direct replacement for white or wholemeal flour respectively. It is available from the flour section of some supermarkets, in health food stores or online.
Stevia is derived from the super sweet leaves of a small leafy shrub. I have one growing at home though it has barely changed in size since I bought it as my kids chomp on the leaves at any given opportunity. The liquid and granules derived from processing stevia form a zero calorie, fructose free sweetener. The liquid is many times sweeter than sugar and the granules (stevia mixed with erythritol) has a similar sweetness to regular sugar. If substituting cane sugar in recipes substitute 1 cup of sugar for 1 cup of granulated stevia or 1 teaspoon of liquid, 1 tablespoon of sugar or granules equals 6-9 drops of liquid and for 1 teaspoon of sugar just a couple of drops of stevia liquid will do the trick. It is available in its granulated form from the sugar section of supermarkets and in both liquid and granules from health food stores.
Growing from the centre of the beautiful sunflower, sunflower seeds are a wonderful source of vitamin E, many minerals, essential fats and protein. Raw or toasted, they have a mild nutty flavour and can be eaten as a snack, baked into bread and treats or sprinkled on top of a casserole, bake or salad. Soaking them for 1 hour further improves their nutrient availability. They are available from the nut section of supermarkets, in health food stores or online.
Ground sesame seed paste, available from the health section of the supermarket, in health food stores or online. It is a great source of protein, essentially fatty acids and very high in calcium.
Like Soy sauce, tamari is a sauce made from fermented soy beans. Tamari, however, has no wheat added and is, therefore, gluten-free. It also tends to be less salty than soy sauce. Use where you would use soy sauce. It is available from the health section of some supermarkets, in health food stores, or online. For a soy-free alternative try coconut aminos.
Also called sugo or passata, tomato puree is as the name suggests – pureed tomatoes. I often prefer to use these varieties as they are packaged in glass rather than a BPA lined can. It is available from the pasta / sauce isle of your supermarket.
See tomato puree.
See tomato puree.
Vanilla beans or pods are the most natural and raw form of delicious vanilla. To use, cut the pod open length ways and scrape out the fleshy seeds. Don’t discard the woody outer pod. Instead use it to flavour stewed fruit or custards. Vanilla powder (pure) is ground raw vanilla beans. It is expensive and sometimes difficult to source (try a health food shop or gourmet or organic grocer). Though expensive, a little goes a very long way. I use Loving Earth brand or in bulk from Santos (see whole foods delivered in your state).
Vanilla bean paste is vanilla extracted in sugar and a thickener. Vanilla bean extract is an alcohol extraction of vanilla. Always buy pure vanilla extracts (not vanilla flavoured extract). These are both available in the baking isle of supermarkets.
A gluten free binding agent, useful in gluten-free baking. Available in health food stores.