When it comes to nutrition, superfoods are where it’s at. These exotic, nutrient-packed edibles often come from far away places, have names that roll elegantly off the tongue (“Yes, I’ll take that normal strawberry-banana smoothie with a dash of spirulina…”), and price tags that will quickly leave you nourished and broke.
So do we need to spend that twenty dollars on a handful of organic goji berries? Or break the bank for a bitter mouthful of cacao beans? Not necessarily. Though they’ve been around for ages (even our grandparents ate these alongside their baked beans and Wonder bread sandwiches), if these foods were introduced to the North American market today, they would scale the heights of organic food blogs and grocery stores everywhere as the trendiest new “superfoods.”
In 180 grams of spinach, you can be sure to find a whopping 990% of your daily intake of vitamin K, a vitamin that increases the health of your bones and helps to stop cuts from bleeding. It also has over 100% of your vitamin A daily dose, which is good for your eyesight (you may remember your grandparents nagging you to eat carrots, also high in vitamin A), and immune system. Moreover, it contains 35% of your daily iron intake and 25% of your calcium—nutrients crucial for everyone, but especially for those who don't eat meat or consume dairy.
Spinach’s magical properties include anti-cancer carotenoids, anti-inflammatory properties and, of course, those much-desired antioxidants. When choosing spinach it is important (always) to buy organic, choose leaves that are darker in color, and check the bottom of the box, if it happens to be clear, to make sure you’re getting fresh spinach every time. Dark creases or edges in the leaves and excess liquid may indicate that the spinach is already past its prime, leaving you with a bunch of very unpleasant-tasting leaves.
Creative ways to eat spinach include adding it to your smoothies, warm spinach salad with goat cheese and a heated rosemary balsamic vinaigrette, or Japanese spinach gomae with a sesame miso sauce (you can find some delicious raw recipes for this sauce online).
Not always the cheapest, blueberries at least cost less than half the price of the same amount of goji berries. These small, dark berries are one of the top-ranking fruits of all time in terms of antioxidants, especially when grown organically. They are known to fight free radicals in the body, improve skin, strengthen memory, and, above all, taste delicious.
High in vitamin K, vitamin C and fiber, loved by kids and adults alike, these should be a staple of every kitchen, or garden, if you’re lucky enough to live in a blueberry-friendly climate.
Easy ways to incorporate blueberries into your diets include adding them to your oatmeal or cereal, putting them in your spinach salad, or freezing them and adding them to smoothies. Freezing the berries has been proven to not damage any of their nutritional properties, so freeze away!
A quarter of the price of cacao beans, especially when bought in bulk, almonds are protein-rich, extremely versatile, and known improve skin-quality due to the high volume of biotin each little nut packs. With 50% of your recommended daily biotin intake in just a quarter cup of almonds, you can be sure consuming these delicious, vanilla-flavored nuts will increase the quality of your nails, hair and metabolism.
Cheapest when found in bulk stores, make sure you choose fresh almonds. Almonds that have been packaged for too long or have been sitting for a while can sometimes acquire a rubbery texture and unpleasant flavor. Ask your grocer the last time they filled their almond bin or if you could try a sample, if you’re concerned. There are many ways to add almonds to your diet.
One of the most fun ways is to make your own almond butter! Put a handful of almonds in your food processor (preferably a strong one) and spread the creamy results on your toast or add it to your raw vegan truffle recipe. Eat almonds as a snack on your way to work, or spice them and serve them as appetizers at parties. Homemade spiced almonds also make great gifts.
Since when did we think it necessary to replace the aesthetically immaculate, common orange with daily glasses of over-processed, sweetened orange juice? Despite the messy work of peeling and separating an orange (which one could pass off as aromatherapy), eating just one medium-sized orange a day provides you with 100% of your vitamin C intake, a vitamin now highly marketed in expensive chewable tablets, highly-processed juices, and even candy.
These fruits are easy to find, affordable, and especially effective during cold season. Don’t spend the extra cash on juice or supplements. Your body’s vitamin C limit is 100% a day and any extra goes to waste. Just remember: an orange a day is enough to keep a cold at bay! Creative ways to consume these fruits includes as a citrus salad with savory additions like olives, dipped in dark chocolate, or glazed with almonds.
One final affordable superfood is the tree-shaped, zen-like vegetable infamously known to young children as broccoli or “yucky trees”. The taste of raw broccoli, often earthy, is unappealing to most and eating too much of it can leave the consumer with, I’ll admit, unpleasant aftereffects.
This vegetable is best eaten accompanied either with dips, steamed or cooked, or finely chopped into salads (or, for the brave among you, raw with a double dose of Beano or other digestive enzymes). Little do people know, broccoli is a secret storehouse of detoxifying agents, vitamin D, and can reduce the effects of common allergens. On top of that, it is an excellent source of chromium which helps control blood sugar, and folate which fights irritability, forgetfulness and depression. A good excuse to sneak some into your partner’s diet!
If you’re wondering how you can incorporate more of this magical vegetable into your diet, try the following: steaming broccoli (which can incidentally increase its power to lower cholesterol), using it as a pizza topping with red onions, or trying it out as a hot broccoli dip, comparable to spinach and artichoke dip. Your guests (or perhaps more importantly your kids) will never taste the difference! As you can see, there are many healthy and affordable options at your fingertips in your neighborhood grocery store. Keep in mind the nutritional benefits as well as the flavor are greatly increased by buying organic. So get out there, and rekindle the fire with some of your old food staples and your body –and your wallet—will thank you in more ways than one!