Think eating healthy foods costs more than loading up on junk? You're not alone. Fifty-three percent of Americans say "it's too expensive to eat a healthy balanced diet," according to a new survey conducted by Prevention and supplement manufacturer Centrum.
The truth is, many of the most nutritious foods in the supermarket are also the least expensive: Think simple whole foods, not processed stuff that requires a lot of junk. "There are plenty of healthy foods that are nutrient-rich and are only pennies per serving," says Manuel Villacorta, RD, author of the Whole Body Reboot. "You can feed you entire family for $5—less than the cost of a fast-food meal."
Here are Villacorta's 10 best-buy staples. To help control weight and stay healthy, always have plenty of them on hand:
Bananas, 47 cents/lb*
This filling fruit is packed with potassium, which lowers blood pressure and helps the body dispose of sodium, which we all get too much of.
Canola oil, 75 cents/lb
While olive oil gets most of the press, canola oil is comparably healthy but much less expensive. It has the least saturated fat and more omega-3s than most common cooking oils, including olive. It's also a good source of vitamin E.
Carrots, 66 cents/lb
Apart from vision-strengthening vitamin A and beta-carotene, carrots also contain antioxidants that have been linked to improved skin color and a reduced risk of many cancers.
Canned tomatoes, $1/14.5-oz can
Often cheaper than fresh, canned tomatoes offer the same nutritional benefits, but actually contain more lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that suppresses carcinogens, slows cancer cell growth, and reduces cell damage.
This superfood is loaded with fiber and antioxidants, including a flavonoid called kaempferol, which helps reduce disease-encouraging inflammation and oxidative stress.
Dry or canned, beans are rich in protein, iron, fiber, magnesium, and potassium, and can be all you need for a fast, cheap meal—no animal meat necessary. Studies prove beans help lower blood pressure, fight bad cholesterol, and prevent heart disease.
Sweet potatoes, $1.90/lb
These super spuds are loaded with beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant shown to ward off some chronic diseases. They're also high in vitamins A and C, and are easy to make the base of any meal, including breakfast (hello sweet potato burritos!).
Frozen vegetables, $2/lb
Much less expensive then fresh, a bag of frozen veggies can last for weeks and has all the nutrients of just-picked. In fact, some frozen vegetables boast more nutrients than produce that has sat on store shelves because they're flash-frozen immediately upon harvest.
Contrary to popular belief, eggs do not raise bad LDL cholesterol and have been shown even to increase levels of good HDL cholesterol. Pick up a dozen, add some frozen veggies, and voilà: breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
Flaxseed, $3 per lb.
A great source of digestion-supporting fiber, ground flaxseed also contains fatty acids linked to healthier blood sugar responses. Add to yogurt, smoothies, oatmeal, salads, casseroles, and soup to make these meals more nutritious for just pennies.
*Prices from U.S. Department of Agriculture or U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics national data
Author: Markham Heid