In our quest to become the best version of ourselves, we often look to promising products to get us one step closer to our goals. Superfoods, by their very name, conjure up the image of nutritional miracles delivered via wholesome means. But as we all know, superfoods can come with super-high price tags. So for those of us who don’t exactly have a disposable income, here are ten run-of-the-mill food items that have fallen by the wayside, but are just as good as their supercharged counterparts.
1. Baby spinach
Beloved by salad enthusiasts everywhere, baby spinach is one of the best leafy greens on the market that can be found in almost every grocery store. They are a rich source of iron and magnesium, also providing copious amounts of vitamin A, K, and folate. Folate, another B vitamin, is highly beneficial to expecting mothers because it can help protect against congenital malformations.
While there has been much hype about the probiotic benefits of kefir and Greek yoghurt, such products can come at a premium cost, especially in Asian countries. Miso soup paste is a relatively inexpensive product that is widely available, providing the same gastrointestinal benefits as fermented dairy products.
Everyone and their mother has probably heard of the wonders of kale, but for the budget-conscious, the common broccoli is just as sensible a choice when it comes to shopping for vegetable powerhouses. This cruciferous plant is well-known for being one of the most nutrient-dense food around, supplying minerals like potassium, folate, phosphorus, leutin and vitamins A, C, E and K. It's also famed for its ability to support oestrogen detoxification and prevent prostate and breast cancer. The best way to preserve these health benefits is to either steam or lightly sauté your broccoli.
Salmon currently holds the spot for the world's favourite cold-water fish. But its fame comes at a price, particularly for the consumer. So for those of you who are skint, trout may be your next best option. Possessing similar levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fat, it's also significantly lower in mercury levels.
Buckwheat is a personal favourite of mine when it comes to carbohydrates. Considering that I don't particularly enjoy the taste of quinoa, buckwheat was the next logical choice for me regarding gluten-free options. That and buckwheat is also much cheaper compared to quinoa. Despite it's name, buckwheat isn't exactly a wheat, instead bearing more similarities to seeds. It is rich in magnesium, zinc, iron and selenium, and remains an extremely bioavailable (>90%) source of protein, supplying a high concentration of all essential amino acids.
Mushrooms are pretty healthy as a whole, but none is more revered than the shiitake mushroom. Research has espoused the numerous health benefits of shiitake mushrooms, from lowering unhealthy triglyceride levels to preventing arthritis. Most of these benefits extend to white button mushrooms as well, so you'll have two to choose from when deciding on your next fungi purchase.
Nuts are one of the oldest snack foods on the planet; hunter-gatherers used to bring them along whenever they were expected to be away for long periods of time. Almonds, brazil and macadamia nuts are some of the first few choices that pop into people's heads when they think of healthy nuts. As beneficial as they are, they can cost quite a bit. The cashew is an equally effective nut when it comes to getting your daily dose of monounsaturated fat and fibre. It's also a fair bit cheaper, too. Just remember to get them either as a raw food or lightly baked.
8. Sunflower seeds
I know of people that despise chia seeds, in spite of their nutritional benefits, simply because of the look and texture they take on after having been exposed to moisture; slimy and bloated, not unlike tadpole eggs. To them, I usually recommend sunflower seeds as an alternative instead. They offer richer amounts of monounsaturated fat compared to their snooty cousin, and have a slight edge over them in protein content, too.
The press have been raving about the “healthy” aspects of agave nectar, namely it's low glycaemic index (GI) and it's natural origin. However, it should be noted that agave nectar comprises high amounts of fructose (even more than high-fructose corn syrup), which is responsible for its low GI readout. Instead of this fructose time-bomb, use honey instead. While it may not be as sweet, it's definitely less harmful, typically featuring an even ratio of fructose and glucose. It even hosts several medicinal and anti-bacterial properties.
10. Macadamia oil
Avocado oil is definitely the bomb, both in the cooking and fiscal sense of the word. However, the strong aroma of avocado oil can be a turn-off for some. If you prefer a cooking oil that’s a little gentler on the senses, consider going with macadamia oil instead. Macadamia oil has a very high monounsaturated fat content with virtually no polyunsaturated fat. It has a pleasant nutty taste which lends itself well to meats and a high smoke point, making it ideal for high-temperature cooking.
Don't let the prices of so-called superfoods put you off living a healthy lifestyle. Making sound nutritional choices doesn't mean you have to spend a boatload of money at every turn. Instead, be smart with your money and know that there are more economical solutions available. You probably won't even have to travel far to get to them.
- Shaw, G. M., Schaffer, D., Velie, E. M., Morland, K. & Harris, J. A. (1995), “Periconceptional vitamin use, dietary folate, and the occurrence of neural tube defects”, Epidemiology, 6(3), 219-226
- Bowden, J. (2007), “The 150 World's Healthiest Foods on Earth”, Fair Winds Press
- Chandra, L., Alexander, H., Traoré, D., Lucas, E. A., Clarke, S. L., Smith,B. J., Lightfoot, S. A. & Kuvibidila, S. (2011), “White button and shiitake mushrooms reduce the incidence and severity of collagen-induced arthritis in dilute brown non-agouti mice”, Journal of Nutrition, 141(1), 131-136
- Handayani, D., Chen, J., Meyer, B. J. & Huang, X. F. (2011), “Dietary Shiitake Mushroom (Lentinus edodes) Prevents Fat Deposition and Lowers Triglyceride in Rats Fed a High-Fat Diet”, Journal of Obesity. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3199106/
- Bogdanov, S., Jurendic, T., Sieber, R. & Gallmann, P. (2008), “Honey for nutrition and health: a review”, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 27(6), 677-689
- Mandal, M. D. & Mandal, S. (2011), “Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity”, Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 1(2), 154-160