More and more lately we are getting so caught up in eating foods for what they lack instead of what they actually contain. Pick up a protein bar in the grocery store and you’ll find it’s dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, etc. Well, that’s great if you are a person who needs to avoid certain ingredients, but for the rest of us, what are we truly looking for in our food?
I think it can be helpful to take a step back and remember what the point of food is…which is to nourish us. To sustain us. To fuel the best version of ourselves. To be a source of pleasure, health, and vitality. Consider this and the list below the next time you’re at the grocery store and wondering what to buy.
- Salmon. Salmon is a versatile fish, high in heart and brain healthy omega 3 fatty acids, and can be a great source of both calcium and Vitamin D. And most people in the US are not consuming enough vitamin D or omega 3s. I know what you’re thinking, “So what? I’ve heard this all before.” But, have you heard that women who eat adequate amounts of omega 3s during their pregnancy may be more likely to deliver full term babies? Or that people with adequate Vitamin D levels may be less likely to get colon cancer and diabetes? Or that higher does of omega 3s, likes those found in fish oils, could help some reduce symptoms of depression or even improve memory? Just 10z (think 3 medium sized salmon patties) per week of certain types of salmon will provide nearly 100% of the omega 3s recommended for healthy adults to reduce the risk of heart disease. Look for canned pink, wild salmon with edible bones for the best price and nutritional value. Speak with your doctor before starting any high dose fish oil supplements.
- Collard Greens. Why? Well, they may stink like hell when you cook them, but that’s because of some of the powerful compounds collards contain. Did you know that collards and other cruciferous veggies (think cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts) have the power to help your body detox, reduce your chances of getting some cancers, and even kick start your immune system? Collard greens in particular are one of the most nutritious and powerful greens you can eat on a budget. Compared to Brussel sprouts ($0.89 cents/cup), broccoli ($0.88 cents/cup), and kale ($0.77 cents/cup), collard greens ($0.65 cents/cup) are among the most affordable and nutrient dense veggies on the market. Many adolescent females and young women, including those who are pregnant, are not getting adequate iron in their diets and may be at risk for anemia. Just one cup of cooked collard greens contains 12% of the daily value of iron for non-pregnant women and adolescents. Collards are also an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate, and a good source of magnesium. All of these are nutrients most Americans tend to lack in their diets.
- Sunflower Seeds So why do sunflower seeds make the cut? Well for starters, they’re one of the best sources of Vitamin E, another nutrient that most Americans fall short on. They also are a good source of many B-vitamins as well as trace minerals. Further more, the combination of fiber and protein makes it a filling and sustaining snacks. An affordable option compared to other seeds, nuts, and snacks, a serving of sunflower seeds can enrich your wallet and your health.
- Pineapple I can hear what you’re thinking on this one. Pineapple, it’s so sweet, it must be bad for me? Right? Right? Wrong. Eating a cup of pineapple is not the same thing as drinking a cup of soda, or having a sugary dessert or even a glass of 100% fruit juice. Fresh fruits, including pineapple, contain only natural sugars. Added sugars, which include high fructose corn syrup and sucrose (table sugar), are the ones that seem to have a negative impact on health, when consumed in excess. Also, compared to a glass of 100% juice (which contains about 30 grams of sugar), 1 cup of fresh pineapple only contains about 16 grams. Pineapple is available in the grocery store most of the year and provides an essential vitamin that many Americans fail to get enough of–Vitamin C. It is also one of the most affordable fruits in the store, averaging about $0.45 cents/cup in 2013.
- Barley Not only is barely good for you, but it’s cheap. Visit the bulk bins in your local grocery store and you may find barley for only $1.00 or less per pound. A two ounce serving of hulled barely (about 1 cup cooked) is a nutrition powerhouse. It is a good source of several B-vitamins, as well as iron, and the trace minerals zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium. But the reason barely truly shines is that it contains 10 grams of fiber per serving. A chunk of this is soluble fiber, which has been show to help bring down cholesterol levels, help control blood sugar, and make stools softer and easier to pass. Barley is usually sold as hulled (whole grain form) or pearled (more processed form). While the pearled barley will cook much faster, hulled barely will give you more of the nutrients and health-boosting fiber.
Add these foods to your grocery list today. Your body (and your wallet) will thank you!