As the world is battling a virus that’s highly contagious, we’re encouraged to stay home as much as possible. However, a trip to the supermarket is inevitable, especially when online grocery delivery slots are filled. Maintaining a sufficient supply of food that doesn't go bad quickly is important, but that doesn’t mean you have to resort to canned, processed food. It’s still possible—and highly important—to eat healthy in order to boost your immune system. We’ve rounded up a list of shelf-stable and highly nutritious food items that you can stock up on for your home cooked meals during a lockdown.
An ingredient widely used as a flavoring agent in Asian and Indian cooking, ginger contains Gingerol, an anti-inflammatory compound. With anti-nausea and cough suppressing properties, ginger has long been used as an alternative treatment for the flu and common cold. Studies have shown that ginger is rich in antioxidants and has been effective in speeding up the recovery of certain ailments. You can use ginger in dinner recipes like curry and stir frys. You can also make a honey lemon ginger tea if you are feeling under the weather, as it is a common concoction for treating sore throat. When stored properly in a plastic bag, ginger can stay fresh between 4 to 6 weeks.
Rich in folate, manganese, and iron, Lentils are a complex-carbohydrate that is slowly digested and has a lot of fibre, which supports a healthy gut. Packed with B vitamins and made up of 25% protein, lentils are a great alternative to meat as they contain most nutrients that are mainly present in meat. Compared to meat, lentils are a cheaper way to consume a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Lentils can be cooked in big batches for your meals throughout the week as they last in the fridge for up to 5 days. Dry lentils can have a longer shelf life of 2-3 years. You can incorporate lentils into your daily diet by making dishes like lentil soup, lentil salad and lentil burgers.
3. Manuka Honey
Packed with antioxidants, Manuka honey is an antimicrobial agent and a natural cough suppressant. It’s traditionally been used to soothe sore throats and heal wounds. Compared to regular honey, Manuka honey has a higher concentration of methylglyoxal (MG), a major antibacterial compound. Studies have shown that Manuka honey “can disperse and kill bacteria... found adhering to surfaces, including wounds, teeth, mucosal surfaces, and implanted devices". Besides mixing honey in beverages, honey can also be used to add a touch of sweetness in savory dishes like honey garlic chicken, honey balsamic roasted vegetables, or honey glazed salmon. Lastly, honey has a long shelf life of 2 years, so you don't have to worry about it going bad any time soon.
4. Sweet Potato
With its bright orange coloured flesh, sweet potato is an excellent source of beta carotene, which supports healthy vision. It’s also rich in potassium and Vitamin C, which supports the immune system and enhances iron absorption. High in fibre and antioxidants, the starch in sweet potato is quickly broken down and absorbed, increasing the gastrointestinal value and promotes gut health. Research has shown that regular consumption of sweet potato can prevent Vitamin A deficiency. This is crucial because Vitamin A is vital to maintaining a healthy immune system. You can bake, roast, mash or make a stew with sweet potatoes for a filling and healthy meal. Extend the shelf life of your sweet potatoes by storing them in the fridge, where they can stay fresh for up to 2-3 months.
Rich in Vitamin B12, selenium, vitamin D, calcium and high in anti-inflammatory long chain omega-3 EPA/DHA fats, canned sardines are an inexpensive source of nutrients mostly present in fish. Along with these vitamins and minerals, sardines also contain protein, which creates antibodies that strengthen your immune system, which is important in fighting against viral infections. A staple in the pantry of many Singaporean households, canned sardines are also highly versatile and can be used in pasta, salads, or simply served over plain rice. Properly stored canned sardines will be around long after the current pandemic is over, as they have a shelf life of 5 years.
Mushrooms contain polysaccharides called beta-glucans, which is a soluble fibre that’s been linked to improving cholesterol and boosting heart health. Rich in B vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, mushrooms also modulate the immune system by enhancing Natural Killer (NK) cell activity, which control viral infections while the immune system generates antigens-specific cells that can clear the infection. Since fresh mushrooms are highly perishable, consider stocking up on dried mushrooms, which will last over a year in your pantry. Examples include dried Chinese mushrooms, dried shiitake mushrooms or dried Korean mushrooms that can be found in packs in the supermarket. Before cooking, you should soak the dried mushrooms to soften, and use them in soups or stir frys.
How Much Food Should You Stock Up On?
Stocking up doesn’t mean clearing the shelves of these products in the supermarket, unless they happen to be the last packs you see. In times like these, leave some food on the shelves for others who might need it too, such as the elderly, who may not have the means to buy a large amount of food in one go. Create a meal plan and buy the ingredients you need that can be consumed over a week or two. This way, it’ll be easier to gauge how much food you should stock up on to reduce the frequency of your trips to the supermarket, as well as prevent food wastage. Lastly, you may end up having to opt for more expensive varieties if cheaper versions will be sold out. In that case, you should shop with whichever credit card gives you the best grocery rebates and rewards so you can save some cash.