Today I want to talk about how to top your favourite dishes (or any dish really) with healthy toppers that can add to your nutritional quota.
Not only does adding toppings supercharge the flavour of your meals, but it can also increase the health benefits. I think you’ll find once you start topping, there’s no stopping!
So, do you need to top every salad with toppings?
Well, no, but let’s think of a typical Wednesday night. You’ve just come home to an empty fridge, and, I mean, who goes grocery shopping on a Wednesday? You settle on making something simple enough for dinner, like my Bunker Baked Beans on Toast or Delicious Pantry Pasta, and you’re looking for a side salad. You find a few lettuce leaves, a limp looking carrot and a tomato that needs to be used today otherwise it’ll be in the compost bin tomorrow. Cue: tasty toppers.
Sprinkling tasty toppers can take your side salad, dinner or porridge from meh to a-meh-zing in a flash.
You look after the bottom, and these will look after your top. It’s time to stock up your pantry with delicious and belly-friendly toppers.
These additions will take your lunch-bowl from satisfactory to satisfying and they are ingredients that you may already have in your pantry!
First up, Apple Cider Vinegar: is it really worth all the hype? Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which aids in digestion, and has an anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and alkalizing impact. It’s been used as a remedy for digestion in traditional medicine for centuries. Apple Cider Vinegar, or ACV, as the cool kids on the block call it, will give your soup a kick up the flavour profile, for that just-off-the-stovetop feeling. ACV makes a sneaky appearance in my Pumpkin, Mushroom and Sage Brown Rice Risotto here.
Next up, Celtic Sea Salt: a lot of people are salty about salt because, in excessive amounts, it can increase your blood pressure. Does this mean you should cut it out altogether? Absolutely not. A pinch of Celtic sea salt is rich in minerals, helps maintain healthy blood pressure and is essential for nerve and muscle function. You can bring in a mini pot of sea salt to enhance the flavour of your favourite soup or salad. Many sea salt brands come in portable tins and containers.
Chia seeds: Ah, chia seeds. Chia puddings made the rounds a few years back, and I’m sad that they’re slowly being forgotten about; just because it’s not as trendy anymore, it doesn’t mean they’re not as good for you. I stand with chia seeds. Where was I? Oh yes, chia seeds! They offer an excellent source of essential fats, and they do wonders for our digestion. Uniquely, they’re a complete vegan protein, which means they contain all of the amino acids. Sprinkle them onto breakfast cereals, salads and soups, or use them in muffins as an egg replacer.
Cinnamon is a wonder-spice that was traditionally used as a carminative for gastrointestinal complaints. Cinnamon can help promote insulin release and enhance insulin sensitivity, as well as reduce inflammation in the body, helping to regulate blood sugars and solve sugar cravings. This rich and warming spice goes all over my sweet meals, but can also be used to balance the richness of savoury meat meals.
Are you ready to be bold? Cracked pepper! Grind bold flavours onto your lunch bowl and wave goodbye to tasteless paper pepper packets for good. I love adding cracked pepper to almost every meal to add a little bit of pungency and texture. Pepper also contains a constituent called piperine, which has traditionally been used for centuries as a digestive aid. Let’s push it with pepper; Ooh, baby, baby!
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, you know there’s nothing a little oil can’t fix. Extra virgin olive oil is one of my favourite oils to cook with, boosting the anti-inflammatory properties of anything you’re eating. Filled with gut-healing fats and benefits for the immune system, extra virgin olive oil is something I consume on the daily. New research shows extra olive virgin oil keeps healthy properties when used for cooking, contrary to popular belief. I also drizzle EVOO on salads, on top of soups, and to help cook my Tray Baked Salmon with Pumpkin and Avocado Mash here.
Dulse flakes, there’s nothing dull about them. I like to think of dulse flakes as sprinkles of fibre-rich goodness and iodine; essential for healthy thyroid function and a healthy nervous system. I shake shake shake this mellow sea vegetable over mashes or soups for an extra layer of seasoning on any and all savoury dishes.
Fulvic Humic Concentrate: humic and fulvic acids are natural organic plant substances that do wonders for your metabolism. Fulvic Humic Concentrate supports the integrity of the gut lining by strengthening tight junctions while replenishing the gut microbiota. It’s rich in minerals, containing over seventy trace minerals. These flavourless liquid drops can help if you’re suffering from bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, gas or leaky gut. I top my water daily with up to 6 drops, and I’ve certainly noticed the difference.
Hemp Seeds: Hemp seeds are an easy salad, pumpkin soup or porridge topper, full of alpha-linoleic acid and insoluble dietary fibre which is a saviour for our digestive system.
Gee, I love ghee. Ghee is clarified butter that allows our bodies to absorb fat-soluble nutrients, such as vitamin A, D, E and K. Ghee is also full of plenty of vitamins itself, including vitamin K2, which is essential for the health of our bones and teeth. Ghee is terrific for our gut and cardiovascular health too. Ghee is my go-to when it comes to cooking Indian food, like my Eggplant Bharta and Indian Dosas.
In my eyes, pumpkin can almost do no wrong (oh, except for pumpkin spice lattes, they’re a little wrong), especially its seeds. Pumpkin seeds, known as pepitas, are rich in zinc, which is vital for our nervous system, and are linked to a reduction of stress and anxiety. Zinc is also a key player when it comes to our immune health, so perfect for sniffle season. I sprinkle pumpkin seeds on pretty much, well, everything, but they do a play a central role in my Homemade Berry Crumble.
Tahini is made from sesame seeds that have been soaked and crushed, and tahini is one of my favourite cupboard essentials. My garlic tahini drizzle is a show-stopping, drool-worthy addition to any salad. Feast on the recipe here. Tahini is so wonderful because it contains a high amount of calcium, as well as omega-3 and 6, which can all be hard to find on a dairy-free diet. Spread tahini on crackers or use it on every salad you ever make. Seriously, I won’t judge.
Golden Gut Blend: Do you believe in magic? I have a sprinkle of gold magic that grants my body wishes! My Golden Gut Blend, full of diatomaceous earth, organic turmeric, ginger, cinnamon and black pepper, provides powerful medicinal properties that can help reduce bloating and improve digestion. I sprinkle it on my eggs and avo, put a whole heap of it in my nice cream and add it to my porridge or I make these delicious Golden Gut Granola Clusters. Who says magic doesn’t exist?
Wheat-free tamari: A gluten and wheat-free alternative to soy sauce, wheat-free tamari is a naturally fermented flavour-enhance for all of your favourite soups and mashes. If you watched MasterChef this year, you’d remember the obsession with the umami flavour profile; tamari is just that. It’s a little less salty than regular soy sauce but can be used in Asian and non-Asian cooking to add a full, savoury flavour to your dishes.
Nutritional Yeast Flakes: a sprinkling of cheesy-flavoured yeast flakes will move you one step closer to creating the lunch bowl of your dreams. These bright mustard-yellow flakes make a fantastic natural flavour enhancer. Loaded with B vitamins (a little less than 1 tablespoon supplies the adult recommended daily intake of vitamin B12), amino acids and minerals, they can be used in cooking, as a condiment or warm beverage. Because the yeast is no longer living, it does not feed yeast overgrowth in the gut, making it gut-friendly. They can be purchased from health food stores or online. They’re particularly fabulous when cooking for the dairy-free, so give them a go in my Vegan Lentil Moussaka here or my Cheese Kale Chips here for a snacky snack.
Love Your Gut Powder: If you’re looking for the ultimate gut-loving topping, you can’t go past my OG - Love Your Gut Powder. It’s no exaggeration to say that Love Your Gut Powder changed my life, and it’s a gift I feel honoured to share with you all. It gently cleanses the gut, boosts energy, is rich in many a mineral, including silica and helps digestive complaints; anything from flatulence to bloating to parasites. Whatever you need, Love Your Gut is your go-to. I love sprinkling it on my juices and smoothies, and dusting some onto my meals like this Sweet Potato, Broccoli and Ham Soup.
What can top that? 😉