There is a myth going around that healthy food is more expensive than less healthy food. But is it true? Well, according to several studies conducted on this matter, it really depends on how you measure the price. If we take into consideration the price per calorie, as food price was measured back in the 1800s, then healthy food is more expensive for sure and sugar is considered less expensive than beans even if they have the same price, because sugar provides more calories than beans for the same price. But that is absurd! Food is so much more than calories and nowadays everybody knows that. According to a study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture in 2012, if you measure food in cost per serving or cost per pound, you will see that fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy are actually cheaper than meat and protein foods in general, as well as other foods high in saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium. Therefore, a hundred calories of cheese or candy will have a much smaller portion than a hundred calories of strawberries or broccoli.
When it comes to nutrient density and the value you truly get from your food, another study shows that meat is 3 times more expensive than vegetables and vegetables are 16 times more nutrient dense than meat. Sure, you might argue that a healthy diet also includes nuts, oils, and superfoods that are quite expensive, but the truth is you don’t need a large quantity of nuts and oils to get the nutrients you need and you can make large improvements in your diet without increasing spending. Here are some tips:
1. Eat food rich in antioxidants. All fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants, but there are some that can really make the most of your dollars. In 2007, the US Department of Agriculture conducted a study that ranked foods by antioxidants per dollar spent. The ultimate winner was purple cabbage with over 47,000 antioxidants/dollar, followed closely by cinnamon on the second place (with around 40,000 antioxidants/dollar) and cloves on the third place (with over 28,000 antioxidants/dollar). The next were acai berries, artichokes, cranberries, goji berries – each with over 10,000 antioxidants/dollar, followed by apples with nearly 10,000 antioxidants/dollar, and pecans with more than 8,000 antioxidants/dollar. How about that? The foods that are most powerful in antioxidants are actually really affordable – and tasty. You can use purple cabbage in countless dishes like salads, juices, stir fries, and soups, and don’t even get me started on cinnamon and cloves. The possibilities are endless.
2. Modify traditional mixed dishes to incorporate more beans/legumes and less meat. Recent studies show that meat and animal products in general are really not that healthy and develop mucus and acidity in the body, so a plant-based diet is more advisable. Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t eat meat and dairy at all, but reducing them to the minimum might be a good idea. Increase your protein intake by consuming more beans, chickpeas, and quinoa.
3. Make use of your spices. Herbs and spices have some of the greatest antioxidant activities known. For instance, clove, ginger, rosemary, and turmeric have an amazing effect on reducing inflammation in the body. So stock up on those spices and sprinkle them freely in your food. You could even grow some of your own herbs, like basil, parsley, rosemary, oregano, mint, etc. They will be very convenient to use, your house will smell great, and they look lovely.
4. Shop fresh produce from the Farmers market or local shops. They are usually fresher and cheaper than in supermarkets, so you’ll get extra nutrients for less cash.
5. Buy frozen vegetables. Frozen vegetables hold their nutrients really well, so you can stock up on them, or chop up the fresh vegetables yourself when they are in full season and store them in the freezer.
6. Keep it simple. A lot of recipes out there sound so very tempting, but they are often very complicated to make and require a lot of ingredients that are more or less expensive. If you’re on a budget, try to keep things simple and only combine 3 or 4 ingredients in a recipe, trying to value the nutrients you will get from the food.
7. Cook in large batches. Sometimes you won’t feel like cooking because you’re too tired, so it might be a good idea to have maybe half a day to prep some food in large batches that you can then store in the fridge or freezer to use it later in the week.
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