HuffPost’s Healthy Living column published an article on Dec. 8, 2013 titled 8 Ridiculously Cheap Superfoods Less Than $1 Per Serving. In the article, they provided an incremental cost of $1.50 per day to eat healthy compared to eating other foods. This may be true if the alternatives used for comparison are fast foods and soft drinks. Eating a high protein, low carbohydrate diet will probably cost you more than an extra $1.50 per day.
The super foods listed in the article are readily available, and they can be cooked in such a way that they are very palatable. Here is the list, with some clarifications on how they may not be that “super” after all.
1) Dried beans are suggested as the first super food. When used in combination with a whole grain such as quinoa or brown rice, the combination provides a complete nutritional protein food. The cheapest place to buy pinto beans in Columbus is Dollar General, where you can get four pounds for about $3.00, which is cheaper than the Mexican groceries. 80% of soybeans in the US are GMO. No information is available for other beans at this time with regard to GMO content.
2) Potatoes are the next suggested super food. They have complex carbohydrates, vitamins B and C and fiber. They are also high in potassium. Maximum nutrition is gained by eating the skins. Unfortunately, the skins contain the highest concentration of any pesticides used to kill potato bugs. Buying organic potatoes is recommended, and ups the cost to “not cheap”.
3) Eggs are a good source of protein. The article says 6 grams per egg, but that has to depend upon the size of the egg. Chickens are not all fed healthy grains so the eggs are not all equal in nutrition. Free range grain fed eggs are relatively expensive, but still less than the cost of meat protein, and they have minimal saturated fat.
4) Bananas are listed as the next super food. This is interesting because bananas routinely end up on a list of foods to avoid. Bananas have high vitamin C content, as well as potassium. They are very high in carbohydrates, which is an issue if you are diabetic or overweight. Organic bananas are preferable to avoid pesticides, and of course, they cost more.
5) Oats is the next food on the list. Oats are rich in thiamin, magnesium phosphorous and manganese. The soluble fiber in oats helps to reduce the cholesterol in the blood. No matter how processed, oats have 1 gram of soluble fiber per 45 gram serving. Quaker Oats makes a high fiber version that has 7 additional grams of soluble fiber, and they make high fiber oatmeal for Meijer, Kroger, etc. Oatmeal is very high on carbohydrates. 45 grams of high fiber oatmeal has 160 calories and 34 grams of carbohydrates, of which 7 grams is sugar and 10 grams is fiber. The 8 grams of soluble fiber is the real deal for lowering cholesterol.
6) Brown rice is recommended as another super food. The husks on the rice contain the major nutrition, which includes some important B vitamins. One half cup of brown rice has 3 grams of fiber. The Nutrient Balance Indicator for cooked long grain brown rice is 33 out of a possible maximum of 100. Brown rice is much better than white rice, but both are high in carbohydrates and need to be considered for those that are diabetic or pre-diabetic.
7) Canned tuna is also recommended as a cheap super food. Tuna is high in protein, iron and omega-3 fatty acids that are healthy for heart and brain functions. Mercury is an issue with canned tuna. The canned tuna should be purchased packed in water, not oil, to keep the calories down. There is now a warning for pregnant women and children to limit the number of meals of tuna per week. Sardines are an alternative to tuna, with the cooked bones as a good source of calcium and the skin contains omega-3 fatty oils.
8) Cabbage is the last item on the cheap super food list. Cabbage, if cooked properly, has high vitamin C, fiber and potassium. It is recommended that it be eaten raw or lightly steamed to maintain the vitamin C content. Minimize salt and butter to maintain the healthy nutrient balance. There is some evidence that the chemical compounds in cabbage and those in the same plant family such as broccoli and bok choy inhibit cancer growth.
This covers the list of “cheap super foods” mentioned in the Huffington Post article. The final conclusion is that these foods are healthier than, but probably not as super as, the article implies. There is no doubt that substituting food that you cook yourself is going to be cheaper and healthier than food that originates in a box, bag or convenient carryout container.