No one needs to make a pilgrimage to find some of the healthiest plants nature has to offer. These foods can be found at your local grocery store virtually year round, and they won’t break the budget either. Adding a few of these foods to your daily diet will be no problem, and is an easy way to get a wider range of nutrients.
- Ground Flax Seeds– A good source of Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber; just add a couple tablespoons to smoothies, stir-fries, salads, oatmeal, or anything you can think of. Ground flax seed acts as a binder and adds a thickness to concoctions; very good for thickening sauces. Ground flax seeds can be used as a substitute for fat or eggs in most recipes also. 3 Tbsp. of ground flax seed can replace 1 Tbsp. of fat or oil. 1 Tbsp. of ground flax seed plus 3 Tbsp. of water can replace 1 egg. Substituting ground flax seeds can save you from those extra calories. Not only is it versatile and nutritious, but it is also somewhat cheap. A 12 oz. box of Hodgson Mill’s Flax Seed can cost you around $3 and can last for practically over a year in the fridge. Note that you should not buy flax oil because the refining process takes some of the nutrients and fiber away.
- White Button Mushrooms– You don’t have to go on a hike to find these little guys in your store. They provide a good source of the antioxidant amino acid ergothioneine, B vitamins, copper, and selenium. You should always wash and cook mushrooms before consuming them. The toxin agaratine is present in raw white mushrooms but it is diminished after cooking for a few minutes.
- Spinach– I will point out that Popeye was exaggerating the benefits of spinach but he had the right idea. Green leafy vegetables like spinach are some of the most powerful protectors from cancers and heart disease. Spinach is a good source of Vitamins A,C,K and folate and can be easily added to a salad. Wilting spinach leaves with diced tomatoes in a pan is also another easy tasty option.
- Peanut Butter– Almonds, walnuts, and pistachios usually get the spotlight for being the healthiest nuts. Allow me to shed a little light on peanuts. Even though peanuts are technically a legume, they share some of the same benefits that nuts have. All nuts are a good source of protein and minerals such as magnesium, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, zinc and copper. Not only that but a handful of nuts can suppress an appetite and can help lower cholesterol, inflammation and lower the risk of heart disease. You can get these same great benefits too without paying as much by choosing natural peanut butter. Natural peanut butter made without hydrogenated oils or any extra oil is the best choice; just crushed up peanuts. A 28oz jar of Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter is a little less than $5. There will be a separated layer of peanut oil on top of the peanut butter but you just have to stir it and keep in the refrigerator to make it smooth.
- Black beans– High in protein, antioxidants, folate, and a good source of minerals. You can buy the raw beans and soak them overnight or buy them in a can. Not only do beans store well in the pantry, but they are relatively cheap as well. A 15oz. can of black beans will be less than 90 cents. Be sure to buy the brand that doesn’t add extra syrup, and sugar to its can of beans. Black beans can be added to leafy salads, stir-fry, or add to sauteed onions and garlic with some chili powder and cumin to have a filling for wrap. Always rinse canned beans before using to wash away the salt and the black syrup.
- Kale– Another green leafy vegetable packed with cancer fighting phytonutrients and a good source of Vitamins A, C, K, and manganese and calcium. Not exactly the tastiest thing you’ll ever eat. Adding kale to a salad or wrap usually hides the sour taste, or if you’re daring you can add it to a smoothie.
- Beets– Very high in antioxidants and also is another good source of folate. You can buy whole beets or get them in the can. Adding beet slices to a salad or a smoothie is an easy way to incorporate beets into a diet.
Written By: Joshua Reid, Kent State University Dietetic’s Student