Ultimate pantry essentials for the healthiest version of you in 2019

By Tracy Duhs, Ph.D., IMD | Photos by Shel Powers & Becca Batista

Socrates gifted us a nugget of wisdom to live by when he said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Our microbiome is comprised of an army of microbes living in our digestive tract. Although the human microbiome is largely unexplored, recent studies have begun to reveal some exciting clues into the human microbiome and how it affects our epigenetic codes. Could it be possible that we have the ability to rewrite our health story?


We depend on an abundance of good microbes to help us digest food, absorb nutrients and maintain a healthy immune system. If our microbiome heavily influences all of these crucial components to health and our microbiome is cultivated by the food we eat, then a well-balanced diet may be an essential component to living our best life. The best way to start eating healthy is to stock your pantry with foods that promote a healthy microbiome.

Healthy fats

Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil is a pantry staple for healthy brain cognition and a healthy HDL. Make sure the olive oil is cold-pressed, organic and stored in a jar that blocks all light. Light, heat and oxygen oxidize this delicate oil, converting it into an oxidizing free radical if not processed or stored correctly. Try Ralli’s olive oil. The olives are pressed over ice, which is a critical distinction in terms
of maintaining the oils’ nutritive and healing potential. Visit IcePressed.com to order.

The ancient Ayurvedic texts have described cultured Ghee as a sacred and healing food. Ghee is made by gently simmering organic and cultured butter to remove casein and lactose. Use Ghee in place of butter—it’s delicious as well as nutritious. Quality organic, grass-fed Ghee can be found at pureIdianfoods.com.


Grass-fed bison soup bones are rich in proline and help with cellular regeneration in the gut lining. This amino acid is also responsible for supporting collagen production, which is essential for joint health and glowing skin. Bone broth base makes soup preparation at the end of a long day easy and almost effortless. You can order soup bones from an entirely grass-fed and free-range ranch in Montana by visiting glaciergrown.com.

Sprouted and fermented protein powder by The Beauty Chef is a super-food supplement, prebiotic, probiotic and metabolism booster all rolled into one delicious chocolate shake. This yummy chocolate shake is perfect after a workout or to satisfy a late-night craving. Find it at graceandparker.com.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are packed with nutrients, but because they can be difficult to digest, they should be eaten in limited quantities. Stock your pantry with brazil nuts, macadamias, almonds, chia seeds and flaxseeds.  As soon as you get them home, soak for six hours in mineral-rich water, drain and rinse. This process helps remove some of the phytic acids which are an anti-nutrient that inhibits absorption and can also contribute to food sensitivities. After soaking and rinsing, place in a food dehydrator or oven below 118 degrees for six to eight hours and let dehydrate.

Fruits & Vegetables

Incorporating fruits into your daily diet can help boost your energy and they are a great substitute for processed sugar. Fruits are also packed with vitamin C, which is said to be essential for collagen production post-menopause. Fruits are also highly enzymatic when eaten raw. Make sure to purchase a variety of colorful fruits; eating the rainbow is beneficial for a healthy microbiome.

Green, organic vegetables should be at least 65% of your dinner plate. Choose organic produce when possible. Conventionally farmed produce is grown in mineral- and nutrient-deficient soil. Starchy vegetables should be eaten in moderation, but not forgotten. Try winter veggies like broccoli Romanesco, cucumber, Mexican sour gherkin, watermelon radish, heirloom carrot, dinosaur kale, shiso, napa cabbage and daikon radish.


Grains, like nuts and seeds, are protected by phytic acid and must be sprouted for ultimate nutrient absorption as well as to limit food sensitivities. The same process used to rinse and dehydrate nuts and grains applies to grains, as well.

Millett can be sprouted and ground and turned into flour. Ferment for a few days to cultivate a sourdough starter. The active starter and sprouted flour can be used to make homemade bread, cinnamon rolls and waffles. Visit TracyDuhs.com for directions on how to make this microbiome promoting starter.


Herbs & Spices

Herbs and spices can increase metabolism, kill pathogens, support the immune system, add antioxidants and add flavor. Choose a wide variety of dried and fresh herbs, like fresh vanilla bean, lemongrass, basil, parsley, cilantro, fennel, cinnamon, lavender, imperial star, ashitaba, turmeric, ginger and wild ramp.

The herbs from Dr. Cowan’s Garden are harvested at peak flavor and quality and are dehydrated on low heat, around 120 degrees. Low-heat dehydration retains most of the vitamin and mineral content of the herbs. The greens are steamed before drying to release anti-nutrients and maximize flavor and digestibility. To find these items, visit DrCowansGarden.com.

Fermented foods

When it comes to foods that help build a healthy microbiome, fermented foods can be a star player if you choose them wisely. Not all fermented foods are cultivated with the same process, however, so ensure fermented veggies contain living probiotics.

Fermented foods containing live cultures of probiotics will be in the refrigerator section. Enjoy pickled vegetables like kimchi and sauerkraut with all cooked meals. This practice will help improve digestion as well as inoculate your gut with good microbes.


Adaptogens are my fun foods. Add superfood adaptogens to morning smoothies to help assist your body in adapting to environmental and emotional stressors. Try raw cacao powder, matcha green tea, royal jelly, blue butterfly flower, ashwagandha, reishi, chaga or Schisandra berry.

Remember, food plays a vital role in helping us build and maintain a robust microbiome, so make sure your pantry is well-stocked with microbiome promoting items.

You can find more tips on how to live your most vibrant life at TracyDuhs.com.