Eating Healthy on a Budget: The Cheap Foods that are also Healthy

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Eating Healthy on a Budget: The Cheap Foods that are also Healthy

To most college students who have a tight budget, eating healthy does not sound easy. We often find ourselves with no time to cook, and end up buying food that is easy to prepare without the hefty price tag. However, healthy food does not always have to be pricy or complicated; here are some of the best solutions to this bothersome dilemma.

1. Beans

Beans are perhaps one of the healthiest foods in the world. Why? Because they have everything! Although the content varies according to species, beans are usually packed with large amounts of healthy protein. This is definitely good news for vegetarians, because although other ‘non-animal’ products such as fruits and veggies are high in various types of micronutrients, they normally lack protein. It is not only the high protein content that makes the beans unique among all the vegetable products; beans have complex carbohydrates, fat (Be ware that not all fats are bad for you: what beans have are not the notorious trans fat and saturated fat, which have long been considered the main cause of cardiovascular diseases, but the unsaturated fat, which we need to consume in certain amounts every day), vitamins and minerals (vitamin B6, iron, calcium, potassium, etc.) and most importantly, dietary fiber. While the daily recommended fiber intake level is 25 to 30 grams a day, a cup of beans normally contains about 10 to 20 grams of fiber, which is higher than most other fruits or vegetables. By merely switching a portion of meat products in your diet into beans, you are one step closer toward living healthy.

Price: around 50~60 cents per serving. (A 16-ounce bag of soybeans is being sold at $1.69 at Trader Joe’s.)

2. Bananas

If you like foods that are salty, then you might benefit from including fresh bananas in your daily diet. Bananas are high in potassium, a type of mineral which serves to lower your blood pressure by eliminating excessive amounts of sodium in your blood. Bananas are also known to have laxative effects, due to its high fiber content. It contains a specific type of soluble fiber called pectin, which stimulates bowel movement and prevents constipation. Just be aware of bananas that are not ripe enough; a special component called tannin can cause constipation instead. As bananas get riper tannin content becomes lower. In addition, refrain from eating them too much—perhaps no more than three a day—since they are relatively high in calories (90~120 kcal per a banana) compared to other fruits.

Price: 20~30 cents per serving. (Fresh Grocer sells them for $0.69/lb.)

3. Brown rice

There is a reason why Asians are skinnier (and generally healthier) than Westerners: rice has GI (glycemic index) that is about 10% lower than that of wheat, which means it raises the blood sugar level relatively slowly, making us feel full longer. Also, although wheat has higher protein content than rice, most of that protein is gluten, a substance which has the potential to cause allergic reactions in some people.

Not all rice is healthy, however. White rice, has a much higher GI than whole wheat bread. Brown rice not only has lower GI than white rice, but it also has less calories, more protein, fiber, and other micronutrients such as vitamin B, iron, phosphorus, etc. The various phytochemicals in brown rice are also known to fight cancer. Remember: when buying grains, try to avoid anything that is white, and aim for the whole grains with dark colors, such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, wild rice, etc.

Price: 10~20 cents per serving (A 2-pound bag that is on sale costs about $1.99 and contains 20 servings)

4. Water

Often times sodas are not healthy at all; their sweet flavor usually comes from artificial sweeteners (the most common one being high fructose corn syrup), and they make our bodies consume calcium very fast, which might lead to osteoporosis. Try spending your money more wisely on the type of drink that your body really needs: water. Nutritionists recommend that people drink at least 1.5 to 2 liters of water (about 8 cups) every day.

Why is drinking water important? First, water boosts our metabolism. If our bodies don’t get enough water, they cannot carry out the essential chemical reactions effectively. Second, water prevents constipation. If you are still struggling with the problem even though you are getting large amounts of fiber in your diet, think about how many cups of water you drank that day, since fibers need water in order to perform their function. Also, when you cannot resist the urge to eat something, try drinking water instead; some studies have shown that we humans tend to confuse between the feelings of hunger and thirst.

Price: FREE!

BY Minh Joo Yi

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