Our grocery stores are so awash in cheap, unhealthy food that nutritious eating has almost started to seem like a luxury pursuit. Eating a healthy, whole food diet can feel like something for those who have money to spend on organic vegetables and free-range meat, but tough for a family on a budget. But eating healthily does not have to be expensive. Happily, there are plenty of nourishing, delicious foods that cost next to nothing. Here are ten super-healthy ingredients that won’t break the bank.
The humble cabbage is a thrifty cook's dream. A five pound head will generally set you back three dollars. In spite of it's low cost, it packs a nutritional punch, though. It's low in calories, but loaded with vitamins and minerals like Vitamins K and C, iron, calcium, and potassium.
Often used as a mere garnish, parsley is actually a nutritional dynamo, packed with antioxidants, and vitamins C and A. It's also an ingredient in traditional medicine, with proponents who claim it's useful in treating everything from gastrointestinal issues to menstrual problems. While those claims are hard to verify, at less than a dollar a bunch, it might be worth trying.
Protein is often the most expensive element of a meal, but beans are one of the rare exceptions. You can usually buy a one pound bag for a dollar (or less), which is much less than you'd pay for an equivalent amount of meat, but with much less fat and none of the cholesterol. In addition to protein, beans are also high in folate, iron, fiber, and other nutrients.
Even the most expensive organic free-range eggs come in at less than fifty cents an egg. And for that price, you get an exceptional source of protein that is high in B vitamins and anti-oxidants. They're also incredibly flexible and can be worked into almost any dish.
Rice provides so much energy at such low cost, it's the world's most widely eaten staple. Brown rice, which has not had the bran and germ removed is higher in minerals like magnesium and zinc than white rice and is also has a lower glycemic index, making it the healthier option.
Sweets have become too large a part of the American diet in part because they've grown so cheap. But if you want a low-cost treat, you don't have to go for something unhealthy. Bananas, which are high in potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C, make a wonderful treat at less than a quarter each.
We've all been told since childhood that carrots are good for eyesight, which turns out to be not exactly true. Nonetheless, they are excellent for you as they are high in vitamin A, thiamin, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, and a host of other nutrients.
High in vitamins C and B6 and minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous, the rutabaga is a nourishing vegetable with a unique taste that are excellent, boiled, roasted, or mashed. They keep wonderfully making them excellent for buying in bulk.
Like many fish, sardines are high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, but unlike many larger fish, they are low in mercury and PCBs. That makes them a wonderful choice, especially for women who are pregnant or nursing. Even better, canned sardines which can be eaten as is, cooked, added to a sauce, or almost anything else you can think of, are one of the most affordable fishes on the market.
Being a hardy tuber that stores well makes sweet potatoes a lot cheaper than many other vegetables. And that's great news, because they are also loaded with potassium, Vitamin A, and fiber.