If you’re looking to amp up the flavor and health benefits of your dishes, consider the ingredients that you use. High-quality ingredients can be a bit more expensive; however, they can make a big impact on your food. By their nature, high-quality ingredients are typically also natural, since ingredients with synthetic chemicals, fillers, and additives often fall into the low-quality, mass-market bucket.

Natural, high-quality ingredients are oftentimes worth the splurge. They can be stretched across a number of meals, and you’ll notice the difference in taste, not to mention the health benefits. The following are a few ingredients worth paying a little extra for.

Himalayan Crystal Salt
Did you know that table salt is heavily processed? Table salt actually starts out as a relatively healthy ingredient. Nutrients and minerals are stripped away during processing. This not only affects the health value but also removes flavor. Once the healthy elements are removed, additives are dropped in, including bleaching and anti-caking agents.

Natural, unrefined crystal salt, as well as sea salt, is just the opposite of table salt. Not only is it unrefined, but also nothing is added. These types of salts contain essential minerals that help provide your body with a natural balance of sodium and chloride. They also contain healthy minerals.

What makes Himalayan crystal salt so good? It’s considered one of the healthiest options and it has exceptional flavor. Although unrefined sea salt also has its health benefits, some people are cautious about salt coming from our waters. Water pollution across the globe has raised some concerns. Himalayan crystal salt, however, is mined, and therefore the pollution factor does not come into play.

High-Quality Olive Oil
If you’re a bit of a foodie – or, better yet, a full-blown foodie – you probably know that extra virgin olive oil is the highest-quality olive oil you can buy. The main reason is that it’s unrefined. This means the oil has not been treated with chemicals or altered by temperature like other types of processed oils are, the flavor profiles of which are diminished during processing.

Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of news recently about how extra virgin olive oil is being manipulated with different grades of oil and sold as extra virgin. Some reports have indicated that up to 70 percent of extra virgin olive oil is not 100 percent pure extra virgin. Despite that fact, we still have access to some very high-quality oils. Good olive oil contains monounsaturated fats, which may contribute to reducing bad cholesterol and lowering the risk of heart disease.

High-Quality Meats
For most families, meats like chicken, pork, and beef are a staple dinner ingredient. Today’s industrial meats are riddled with issues. The animals are fed unhealthy diets and pumped with steroids, growth hormones, and/or antibiotics. The meat is then heavily processed, resulting in a lower-quality product. High-quality meats come from animals with no added antibiotics, hormones, or steroids. The animals are typically fed natural, quality feed, and they’re allowed to roam and graze in natural, open environments. Examples of high-quality meats would be Berkshire pork and Angus beef. These breeds are not only raised and fed well, but also they are chosen specifically for their delicious flavor.

Berkshire pork comes from a special breed of hog that is known for its appealing tenderness, flavor, and texture. Angus beef is renowned for exceptional marbling that leads to tenderness and flavor. Next time you’re at the supermarket buying meat, consider jumping over to your local butcher shop to make a special purchase. You and your family will notice the difference.

Quality Cheese
Quality cheese starts with high-quality, natural ingredients. Mass manufacturers of cheese use commodity milk often purchased from large industrial outfits. Quality cheesemakers start with better milk that comes from smaller farms. These smaller farms, like Arethusa Farm in Litchfield, CT, are producing milk in smaller batches while using cleaner methods. This might mean the milk is produced using a less efficient breed of cow that is not given antibiotics or hormones. The milk may also have a higher fat content.

Other factors that come into play when producing really good cheese include the aging and production process. Cheese develops flavor and texture during aging. It’s more costly to age because it ties up large amounts of cash for the manufacturer. In addition, many high-quality operations allow their cows to roam in open pastures and use a slower, more meticulous production processes. All these factors contribute to the higher costs, but the end result is a cheese that can’t be matched.