Here’s my list of the top five ingredients that everyone needs to use more. Packed with flavor and nutrients, these five should be your go-to for any meal!

1. Lemon

Photo by Alia Wilhelms

Lemon is one of my favorite ingredients to cook with. It’s fresh, tangy and good for you too! Lemons are super low in calories, but high in Vitamin C (a super important antioxidant) and fiber. The best part? They’re super versatile. Use them with chicken, fish, veggies or grains — lemon juice can literally go with anything. And don’t forget about the zest — lemon peel is packed with flavor.

2. Soy Sauce 

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Soy sauce has a very distinct flavor and, like lemons, has a tanginess that’s hard to replicate with other ingredients. Most of us tend to limit soy sauce to sushi-dipping, but a dash can go a long way in just about any dish. The only down-side to soy sauce is that it’s high in sodium — definitely pick up the bottle that’s labeled “low sodium.” It tastes the same as regular soy sauce and is ten times better for you. Soy sauce pairs well with worcestershire sauce, which could easily be number six on this list.

3. Dijon Mustard 

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Dijon mustard is a special type of mustard traditionally made from brown seeds and white wine. It adds a depth of flavor to any dish it is used in and can be paired with just about anything. One of my favorite ways to use dijon is in salad dressing — just mix olive oil, vinegar, a bit of dijon, salt and pepper — it’s that easy!

4. Quinoa 

Photo by Julia Maguire

Quinoa has been growing in popularity in the past year, but it still has a long way to go. Quinoa is often mistaken as a grain, but it’s actually a seed. It’s packed with nutrients, and is especially high in protein. My favorite thing about quinoa is how incredibly easy it is to make and how many different ways there are to use it. My go to is to toss it with veggies and drizzle it with a light dressing for a delicious quinoa salad.

5. Spices and Herbs

Photo by Hannah Lin

I realize this is a broad category, but it’s only because I think as a group they are largely underappreciated. Spices and fresh herbs are the best way to add flavor to any dish without adding abnormal amounts of calories. Spices like cumin, turmeric and paprika are packed with flavor, while herbs such as rosemary, basil or thyme add a spring of freshness to any dish. No matter what you’re craving, there is a spice or herb to satisfy it — and used together they can create really complex, delectable flavor palettes that are good for you too!