7 Surprising Superfoods for Budget-Conscious Cooks

7 Surprising Superfoods for Budget-Conscious Cooks

Superfoods like goji berries and raw cacao may have a lot of health benefits, but they’re also out of reach for a lot of us who are trying to feed ourselves and our families on tight budgets. Check out these surprising superfoods that are as budget-friendly as they are healthy!

What are superfoods?

We’ve talked before about the problems with biodiversity loss in our food system. It’s a major issue from a food security standpoint but it also hasn’t done us any favors in the health department. As we’ve moved more and more toward industrial agriculture, farmers have been selecting seeds based on how well they grow.

That doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but a hardier plant isn’t always the most nutrient-dense. Foods like white onions and iceberg lettuce may be easy to grow, but nutritionally they’re not so hot. Superfoods are fruits and vegetables that either haven’t been selected down in this way or have maintained a good nutritional profile despite the biodiversity loss.

Like I mentioned above, the superfoods we hear about are often pretty pricey. When you’re feeding yourself and your family on a budget, those high end foods are just plain out of reach. But there are lots of nutrient-dense foods on the shelves that don’t get as much hype as the powerhouses they are. Here are a few of my favorite budget-friendly superfoods!

7 Surprising Budget-Friendly Superfoods

1. Turmeric

What it is: Turmeric is a dried root-based spice with a bright yellow color. Like any spice, there’s an initial investment, but a bottle of turmeric lasts you ages. Just 1/4 teaspoon of this superfood spice is all you need in most recipes, and it’s got a ton of nutritional benefits, from anti-inflammatory properties to protecting your body from free radicals.

Where to use it: Try a few dashes in bean dishes, tofu scrambles, and even in your green smoothies. Dried turmeric doesn’t have a strong flavor, but it imparts a deep yellow color to your recipes.

2. Amaranth

What it is:ย  Amaranth is an ancient grain that’s a bit smaller than quinoa and has many similar health benefits. You can usually find this superfood in bulk bins at your local natural foods store, and buying in bulk is the key to stocking amaranth in your pantry without breaking the bank.

Where to use it: Use amaranth anywhere that you’d use rice, cous cous, or quinoa. I like it mixed 1:1 with other grains. It also makes a great breakfast cereal, if you top it with a little almond milk and a handful of fresh berries.

3. Cabbage

What it is: Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable Ferment this budget-friendly superfood for the maximum health benefits!

Where to use it: Cabbage is great in slaws and salads. You can also saute it in stir fries or stuff the leaves with rice and beans to make a yummy rolled cabbage. My favorite way to make cabbage lately is to cut the head into wedges and roast them in the oven until they’re tender.

4. Watermelon

What it is: Watermelon is about to come into season, and this cooling summer fruit is the superfood that surprised me most on this list. It’s an anti-inflammatory that’s loaded with vitamins and minerals. It may even protect you from certain types of cancer!

Where to use it: Slice up your watermelon and eat it by the wedge. You can also puree chunks of watermelon to make a refreshing “juice” – no straining required.

5. Shiitake Mushrooms

What they are: Shiitake mushrooms have a firm texture and earthy flavor. They’re also a powerful healing food that support kidney health and your immune system. A little goes a long way so don’t let the per-pound price of this superfood scare you. Dole out just the small amount that you need, and you’ll most likely only spend a few dollars adding shiitakes to a recipe.

Where to use them: These are great in stir fries! Check out this recipe for a yummy shiitake and bok choy stir fry.

6. Lentils

What they are: This humble bean is a nutritional powerhouse. Lentils cook up much more quickly than dried beans, so I suggest picking up dried lentils instead of canned. They’re cheaper, and you don’t have to worry about BPA.

Where to use them: Cook them up with curry spices, add them to soups and stews, or even use them in a chili recipe. Cold lentils are great on salads, too!

7. Flax Seeds

What they are: These are another superfood that’s very inexpensive in bulk, and a little goes a long way. You only need 1-2 tablespoons of ground flax to get serious health benefits. They’re a great source of vital nutrients like omega 3 fatty acids.

Where to use them: Add some flax meal to baked goods for a nutritional, protein, and fiber boost. You can also use them as the binding ingredient in place of eggs in muffins, cookies, and cakes. Just mix 1 tablespoon flax meal in 1/4 cup of water for each egg you’re replacing. Sprinkle some onto your oatmeal or sneak a tablespoon or two into a green smoothie for even more flaxen goodness.

Image Credit: Cabbage photo via Shutterstock

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