Healthy and Affordable Foods
By Thiyashi Koththigoda
Eating healthy on a budget may not seem like an easy feat. So-called superfoods with amazing nutrition profiles like quinoa and goji berries are not too wallet-friendly. But you don’t have to break the bank to get all your daily nutrients. More day-to-day and affordable food products can pack a healthful punch. Here are some inexpensive but super nutritious foods you should stock up on.
The humble ‘parippu’ curry actually offers up more than expected. Dhal is high in both fibre and protein, making it good for heart health. It’s also chock full of antioxidants that protect cells in your body from inflammation. These antioxidants have also been proven to reduce the risk of diabetes and cancer. Dhal is also a great source of folate, which is a type of B vitamin. Folate helps produce red blood cells and also encourages communication between nerve cells.
Oats can be bought in bulk and is versatile enough to be paired with different types of fruit and dairy for a filling meal. Since it’s abundant in soluble fibre, oats can slow down digestion and keep you fuller for longer. In addition to the fibre, oats are full of other vitamins and minerals that can potentially reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart diseases. Even a 5 to 10-gram increase of oat consumption a day has been shown to lower blood pressure by 5%. Quick cook oats are just as good as the pricier steel-cut variety, although it’s wiser to steer clear of ones with added sugar.
We all know that salmon is a bona fide source of good fats but its price may not be the most practical. Luckily, canned fish like mackerel and tuna is just as great if you want your daily dose of omega 3 fatty acids. Omegas are beneficial for brain health and are great for reducing inflammation. These heart-healthy fats have also been linked to reducing chronic diseases. Most canned fish will also have trace mineral called selenium. Selenium is known to boost immunity and prevent cancer. If the fish bones are left in, it also becomes a great source of vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorous, all of which are great for bone health.
Even if it’s a staple in most kitchens, we rarely recognise the abundance of nutrients in eggs. Eggs are a potent source of protein, with the egg whites on one medium egg containing over 4 to 6 grams of it. The yolk is high in vitamin D and is chock full of vitamins like lutein and zeaxanthin. Both these vitamins are amazing for eye health and have been shown to lower the risk of vision degeneration over time. Eggs are also one of the few dietary sources of another nutrient called choline, which is beneficial for brain health.
Much like oats, carrots can be featured in many dishes from salads to curries. A carrot’s signature orange colour comes from its high level of beta carotene which contributes to better eyesight. Beta carotene also helps bone development and improves immune functions in the body. Carrots also have an overall high number of antioxidants, which are known to reduce the risk of cancer. The vegetable is also jam-packed with fibre, Vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and manganese.
Cabbage may have a boring reputation but its nutrient profile can’t be ignored. They’re a good source of fibre, B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin K while also containing detoxifying sulphur compounds. Cabbage is a type of cruciferous vegetable that has high glucosinolate content, which is an antioxidant that protects against cancer. The red variety of cabbage is also full of anthocyanins, another beneficial antioxidant.
Perfectly portioned and portable, bananas are the ultimate budget-friendly health snack. They’re rich in potassium, which is important for healthy heart function.
The high levels of fibre are also beneficial for the digestive system. The banana’s nutrient profile also boasts a myriad of other nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese. Another important nutrient is tryptophan, an amino acid that’s important to regulate levels of serotonin, which ultimately helps mood regulation.
This starchy vegetable is already a plentiful source of carbohydrates, which is needed for energy throughout the day. Additionally, one medium potato with the skin can provide up to 30% of your daily requirement of vitamin C, fibre, vitamin B6 and potassium. They also contain a type of resistant starch, which can help stabilize blood levels. For some variety, sweet potatoes can also be a great addition. A medium sweet potato can account for over 400% of the average daily vitamin A needs due to its high beta carotene content. Sweet potatoes also have fewer calories and carbs along with more fibre.
Sri Lankans are no strangers to rice. Many of us eat white rice but switching to brown rice can be a cheap and healthy thing to do. Similar to white rice, brown rice also contains carbs. However, it has an extra nutritional value because of its significant amount of B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorous, and manganese. This combination of nutrients has been shown to reduce the risk of both type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
From plain set yoghurt to stirred yogurt with fruit, this is an affordable food that can be adjusted to anyone’s taste. Just a serving of yogurt contains a whopping 13 grams of protein along with many B vitamins. One particular B vitamin called riboflavin is beneficial in preventing heart disease. A serving of yogurt can also provide 45% of your daily requirement of calcium. Over 5% of the phosphorous and 15% of zinc needed can also be covered by eating a serving of yogurt. The high levels of phosphorus and zinc are beneficial since these are minerals that are required for biological processes like regulating blood pressure and maintaining bone health. Yogurt also contains probiotics, which are healthy bacteria that contribute to gut health.
Being healthy doesn’t need to be a financial burden. It’s just a matter of identifying and strategically adjusting the basic foods that you already can afford. It’s easiest to turn to nutritious and affordable foods like these to help kickstart a healthy lifestyle.