Where to Find Ingredients
I used to think that so many suggested healthy ingredients sounded obscure. My favorite bloggers and health-nuts mentioned ingredients that I refused to believe could be found on our planet. Was a mung bean an animal? Kombucha, a form of tae-kwon-do?
For someone who doesn't cook with a lot of the mentioned ingredients in whole-life, paleo or vegan recipes, reading through a recipe can be both intimidating and frustrating! However, so many of the ingredients found in these recipes are used as alternatives because they are better for our gut, brain and body. I'm here to tell you that so many of the ingredients that might sound obscure are just found in a different aisle at the grocery store, or are available at your local, all-natural grocery store; and at the most extreme case, online! I've learned that almost every single ingredient that used to sound offbeat to me can be found within a few miles of my home.
What you can find at your local, down-the-street grocery store:
Whether it's HyVee, Safeway, Hen House or Aldi, there is usually a 'specialty' aisle that hosts grain and gluten-free flours, alternative nut butters, non-dairy milks and ice creams, organic protein bars, and other dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free ingredients. For example, you will find almond flour and coconut sugar at these stores, but you might not find arrowroot flour and hemp milk. Coconut oil will be found in the aisle that shelves oils and shortenings. Some wild-caught fish options will be available, as will organic, grass-fed meats. Additionally, Kombucha and organic, pressed juices are sometimes found at these stores by the fruits and vegetables, but the selection will not be the same as Whole Foods or Sprouts.
What you can find at your local farmer's market:
Ideally, the farmer's market is your go-to for all fresh produce and grass-fed meats, herbs, plants and spices. In my opinion, this is the closest to organic-food-purchasing that you can get. The farmer's market also has the prettiest flowers and best-vibing people (necessary to mention).
What you can find at your natural grocery store (i.e. Whole Foods, Co-Op or Sprouts):
All things that you can find at your local, down-the-street grocery store will most likely be available here. What separates a natural grocery store from your local one is the number of gluten and grain-free, dairy-free and soy-free options and organic products available. Additionally, more wild-caught fish will be available, along with other organic meat options and local specialty products. THIS IS YOUR GO-TO SPOT for all specialty, organic, all-natural vitamins and supplements, bath and body products, protein powders, protein bars, flours, sugars and herbs. Also, the Kombucha selection is out of this world at these stores and so are the pressed juices and teas.
Note: when looking for specialty grain-free 'bread' products, you will find them in the frozen aisle.
Worst case scenario, when you can't find an ingredient to save your life, purchase it online! Amazon has a majority of the products that you might not find in stores, and other online organic wholesalers have them too.
If you do not know the nearest organic grocery store to you, look that up as well! At the least, there is a small-shop co-op near you that will have ingredients that you won't find at Aldi or Hen House.
As you start to cook with different ingredients, and as you start experimenting with more unique recipes, you'll find that cooking is better this way! It's fun to incorporate new ingredients, and it's also the best feeling when you find a food alternative that makes your body feel better than the most common ingredient (i.e. almond flour vs. all-purpose flour). Don't be afraid to play around with new recipes, and definitely don't be afraid to ask questions or research things online.
I believe the best way to cook and eat is in a way that makes you feel good and also caters towards your physical and hormonal health. So pay attention to that for yourself and always always always follow your body's response to ingredients or substitutes. The best way to grow in knowing yourself and your body is to try new things and see how you react to them.