Eating healthfully doesn’t always mean higher prices at the grocery store.
In fact, some of the most nutritious foods can be found for pennies at local markets.
“Super foods,” as they’re sometimes called, is the catch phrase used for nutrient-dense foods that sometimes have disease-fighting properties, such as antioxidants, said Jonathan Allen, coordinator of the interdepartmental nutrition program at N.C. State University’s Department of Food Bio-processing & Nutrition Sciences.
And while these super foods aren’t the only foods you should eat as part of a well-balanced diet, their prices make them a bargain — especially when you consider the costs of health care.
We picked a few of the cheaper and more highly touted super foods available locally to show why making healthy food choices won’t always mean going broke.
So, forget the long wait at the drive- through, and use that time to shop for a few of these inexpensive, disease-fighting foods.
Health-boosting properties: If the broccoli bandwagon came and went in your house, it’s probably time to chase it down. Broccoli is low in calories — a cup of it chopped and raw is only 31 calories — but it’s also a good source of fiber and many important vitamins that help your body function well.
Cost: Recent prices at a local Food Lion started at $1.69 a pound for fresh crowns.
Health-boosting properties: A single cooked sprout is almost without calories but full of vitamins and minerals your body needs. If you’re wary of the taste or unsure how to cook them, try drizzling them with a little olive oil and salt and baking them.
Cost: A 1-pound bag at Harris Teeter costs $3.49.
Health-boosting properties: Eggs can pack a lot of muscle-building protein and decent amounts of B12, phosphorous and riboflavin into a small package. They’re also great for metabolizing fats, carbs and proteins. “Eggs are very healthy,” Allen said. “They’re one of the most complete proteins we have.”
Cost: Prices run around $1.83 for a dozen, depending on brand and store.
Health-boosting properties: All beans are not created equal. But most of them — with the exception of jelly beans — are loaded with insoluble fiber, which can help lower cholesterol, and soluble fiber that can fill you up, according to health experts. Many types of beans also are packed with disease-fighting antioxidants.
Cost: Beans are easy to find and come in a variety of types and brands. Dried beans can start at $1.29 a pound or less.
Health-boosting properties: A single cup of kiwi fruit has 5 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein and a little more than 100 calories. But it’s also a great source of vitamin C, which helps grow and repair tissues, and vitamin K, which is good for helping your blood clot and preventing hardening of the arteries.
Cost: A local Food Lion recently sold kiwis at two for 88 cents.
Health-boosting properties: Instead of reaching for that cupcake, try reaching for an orange instead. Oranges are just as sweet and delectable, but they’ve got lots of nutrients that cupcakes don’t have: vitamin C, fiber and folate.
Cost: A recent price check at Food Lion had California Navel oranges at 35 cents each.
Health-boosting properties: A cup of raw spinach is only about 7 calories. Plus, it’s a good source of fiber and energy-boosting disease-fighting elements, such as niacin and zinc, protein, vitamins A, C, E and K — not to mention B6, folate, calcium and iron.
Cost: Prices start at around $2.88 for a 9-ounce bag of salad spinach.
Health-boosting properties: A large baked sweet potato is low in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol, but it’s also packed with vitamins and anti-inflammatory elements that can actually help heal the body and prevent certain diseases. Vitamins A, C and B6 are represented well in the sweet potato, as well as potassium and manganese. Best of all, a sweet potato is filling, which can keep food cravings and binges at bay. Not too shabby for a side dish with only about 160 calories when baked.
Cost: Prices start around 79 cents a pound.
Health-boosting properties: Some studies have shown that green tea has the potential to fight cancer and heart disease. And while those studies may not be completely conclusive, it is true that green tea is packed with antioxidants that fight off disease. That’s pretty cheap medicine.
Cost: A box of about 20 tea bags starts around $2.29, depending on brand and store.
OTHER SUPER FOODS
These foods aren’t always cheap, but consider giving them a try if you’re on a quest for better health.
Health-boosting properties: This catch is packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, which is great for the heart and can help lower cholesterol. It’s also naturally low in calories.
Cost: Wild salmon can be pricey at times. But when it comes to maintaining and actually improving your health, it’s a bargain. We found a single serving — about 4 ounces — of wild salmon at Food Lion for $3.99.
Health-boosting properties: Blueberries are low in calories and high in antioxidants. They’re a good source of fiber, as well.
Cost: At certain times of the year, blueberries can be had for a steal, especially in this region. But prices can fluctuate wildly when demand is high and supply is low. We recently found a 6-ounce carton at Harris Teeter for $3.50.
Health-boosting properties: Pronounced keen-wa, this tiny grain is full of protein and fiber.
Cost: A recent Harris Teeter price was $5.99 for a four-serving container.
Staff writer Jennifer Calhoun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3595.
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