Affordable foods packed with nutrients to suit every budget
The term superfood is mainly a marketing term that allows companies to sell foods at higher prices. There’s no strict definition of a superfood but it should mean a food that is rich in nutrients and doesn’t contain any nasties with harmful health effects. That’s why meat cannot ever be called superfood but blueberries, for example, can.
While it’s not necessary to spend your hard-earned money on pricey superfoods, it’s a good idea to make nutrient-packed foods your daily staples. Some of the below are called superfoods and others aren’t but they are all great for your health and won’t break your budget.
Green leafy veggies
Broccoli, kale, rocket, Brussels sprouts, cabbage or spring greens – all are packed with nutrients and on top of that, contain special compounds (glucosinolates) that help to combat cancer. Their main nutrients include iron, calcium, potassium, folate, vitamin C, E and K, antioxidants and fibre. They also contain small amounts of the vital omega-3 fats as well as protein.
While their price varies, those in season are usually affordable and cabbage is always cheap!
These tiny seeds are true nutritional powerhouses. They don’t seem to be super cheap but all you need is a tablespoon daily so one pack goes a long way!
Chia seeds are an excellent source of healthy omega-3 fats, with one tablespoon providing your recommended daily dose. Additionally, they are a good source of protein, fibre, calcium, potassium, magnesium, selenium and iron. They are also packed with powerful antioxidants which not only help protect your health but can also help reduce inflammation in the body.
To make sure you get the maximum benefit from their nutrients, it’s best to pre-soak chia seeds – 20 minutes is enough.
Good old tofu is one of the most nutritious foods around! It’s high in protein, low in fat – and what little fat it does contain is the healthy kind. It also provides health-promoting fibre and is a good source of B group vitamins, magnesium, potassium, selenium and zinc, and a great source of calcium and iron. The amount of calcium varies depending on the setting agent used but it’s usually calcium salts, which is why tofu tends to be an excellent source of this mineral. On the other hand, it’s naturally rich in iron so that doesn’t vary.
When there’s a special offer on tofu in your local shop, stock up as it freezes well.
The humble oat is an underrated grain that has a lot to offer. One cup of oats (80 grams) contains over 10 grams of protein, a good dose of B group vitamins (apart from B12), antioxidants, calcium, magnesium, selenium, iron and zinc – and plenty of fibre.
In fact, oats are an overlooked source of iron, with one cup supplying almost a half of the recommended daily dose for men and postmenopausal women, and about a fifth of the daily dose for women of reproductive age. The protein in oats is a high quality one called avenalin, found only in oats, and similar to bean proteins.
Forget expensive muesli – mix your own from jumbo rolled oats, raisins, sunflower seeds or whatever else you fancy!
I know what you’re thinking: “Berries are expensive!” Well, they are but not if you buy them frozen and have only a small handful daily – because that’s how much you need to enjoy their health benefits. Berries – blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and black/redcurrants – are chockful of antioxidants, vitamin C and are great for your digestive system.
Phenols are one type of berry antioxidants which have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects, lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, including heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and neurodegenerative diseases. On top of that, they also encourage beneficial bacteria in your gut!
Red, brown, green, black or yellow lentils are great sources of protein, healthy complex carbohydrates, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They offer an excellent nutrition package, including a good dose of all B vitamins (except B12), a small dose of vitamins C, E and K, a substantial amount of health-protective antioxidants and only tiny amounts of fat. They are rich in iron and add moderate amounts of calcium and zinc to your diet.
Lentils also contain natural phenolic compounds and carotenoids, that are responsible for their colour and are powerful antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties. Brown, black and red colours contain significantly more of these than pale-coloured lentils, such as yellow. These pigments and their health-protective properties have been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and even cancer.
Oranges may not seem that special but they are! One orange comfortably covers your daily vitamin C needs (40 milligrams). Depending on size, an orange contains 51-98 milligrams and on top of that, it also supplies a good dose of potassium – the mineral we need to maintain healthy blood pressure, balance fluids in our bodies and transmit nerve signals. They also contain fibre, antioxidants and calcium. One medium orange provides over 50 milligrams of calcium, a good amount considering the recommended daily dose is 700 milligrams.
It’s more comfortable to open a carton of orange juice than to make a mess with an actual orange but the mess is worth it. Commercial orange juice may or may not be from concentrate but it’s almost always pasteurised, which means the juice is exposed to high heat to kill off any potentially harmful microbes – but it also kills much of the goodness in the juice. Eating an orange is far superior to a glass of juice!
Don’t let fancy marketing convince you that you need expensive products – you don’t! A varied diet based on simple wholefoods is all you need. If you want, you can add ‘superfood’ powders and extracts but it is absolutely not a must and your health won’t suffer without them!