When adopting an organic plant-based diet, people fear the expense. But nutrient-rich, disease-preventing, obesity-fighting plant foods will save you money on medical bills in the long run (and make you feel better right away).
Certainly, organic produce is more expensive than the standard type because it's in short supply, more labor intensive, and produced in much smaller volume.
Besides produce, other nutrient-rich plant foods can come at daunting costs. Superfood spirulina sounds like a great idea, until you realize it costs $20 for a small bottle. Maca, raw cacao, hemp protein, and raw vegan convenience foods like kale chips come with price tags that might make any newbie want to run to the nearest McDonald's.
But don't do that! You don't need all that fancy stuff.. Here are ten highly nutritious plant-based foods that come at crazy low prices.
7. Organic bok choy: $1.29/pound
Also known as "Chinese cabbage," bok choy is one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet (it rates 825 out of 1,000 points on the ANDI scale). Its mild taste and aqueous stalk remind me of crunchy - and nutrient-poor - iceberg lettuce, which is why I find its incredible nutrient portfolio so surprising. It's extremely high in vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, and contains B vitamins 1, 5, and 6. It's rich in minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron. And it's loaded with antioxidants that neutralize the free radicals that cause cancer. Oh, and it's full of fiber as well. All this for 13 calories per 100 grams.
So what do you do with it? I love to juice it because it's an inexpensive way to add a super nutrient-rich and inexpensive base to green juices, but I've also shredded it up and made it into a tasty base for salads. Yes, it's good raw!
You can also steam it to lend an authentic Asian flavor to any meal.
6. Organic millet: $1.69/pound
Everyone knows that brown rice is a relatively cheap way to add a whole grain to your dinner plate. But millet is a delicious alternative to throw into the rotation. Having grown up with parrots in the house, I was first introduced to millet as a main component of bird food. That may not be a great selling point, but this is: the grain contains niacin, phosphorous, manganese and magnesium, which means it provides nutrients to help your body repair tissues, reduce risk of heart attack, fuel brain and nerve function, and, like all whole grains, reduce type-2 diabetes risk.
Millet boils in about 20 minutes, and you can toast the dry kernels first to enhance the flavor. You can stir it up a bunch and add more water to achieve a creamy grits-like consistency, or you can use less water and avoid stirring for a drier, fluffier texture.
5. Lentils: $2 to $6/pound
Buy lentils dry for the maximum bang for your buck. As an added benefit of buying these little legumes in the bag or from bulk bins, you give yourself the option to sprout them in water and eat them as a living food (which increases their nutrient value). Lentils are not only high in fiber, but contain high amounts of folate, manganese, magnesium, copper, iron, phosphorous, potassium, and B1. Plus, they taste meaty and hearty, and supply you with energy while regulating your blood sugar, which makes them good for everyone from diabetics to athletes. Try petite black beluga lentils, named for their resemblance to the caviar, yellow lentils (particularly popular in Indian cuisine) or French green lentils, which are firmer than most varieties.
4. Organic carrots: $5.99 for 5 pounds
Organic carrots are almost always cheap and they're one of the most nutritious foods around. The combination of their affordability, nutrient density, and sweet flavor makes them a great staple for everything from juicing to stews to salads. Just 100 grams supplies more than three times your daily value for vitamin A, which is an essential nutrient for eye and skin health and the reproductive and the immune systems.
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3. Organic turmeric: $4/jar
This spice has been used in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine for thousands of years as a natural remedy for a variety of illnesses. Modern studies show the superfood can boost immune function, fight inflammation, and even help combat certain cancers. It's loaded with antioxidants that neutralize cell-damaging free radicals. Basically, it's silly not to add turmeric into your diet. It's also silly to buy it in capsule form - you could end up paying $20 or more per bottle. But you can get the same stuff in a spice jar for a fifth of that price. Add it to your food, or do like I do - stir a half teaspoon into a glass of water and drink it as a daily health elixir.
2. KIND bars: $1.79 each
When healthy eaters want a tasty snack on the go, it can be easy to long for the days of blissfully ignorant Snickers bar noshing, etc. Luckily there is a substitute that's available even at gas stations these days. KIND bars are made with truly natural ingredients that include almonds, macadamia nuts, cranberries, puffed rice, coconut, chicory fiber, and the like. They're also fortified with vitamins A, C, E, and others. They weigh in at about 190 calories, 110 of which come from fat, so it's a good idea to limit consumption to no more than one per day. Also keep in mind that these snacks contain honey, so vegans who exclude bee products will choose not to indulge.
1. Uncle Sam cereal: $3 per 10 oz. box
Many cereals on the market are loaded with sugars, white flour, artificial colors, and other junk. But Uncle Sam's keeps it real, while keeping it real cheap. Its only ingredients are whole wheat kernels, whole flax seed, barley malt, and nutrients niacin, vitamin B2 and B1. The flax makes it a great source of heart-healthy ALA omega-3s. It also packs a whopping 7 grams of protein per three-quarter cup serving. You don't have to go to the health food store to bring this kindly uncle home for breakfast; the US Mills cereal is available at most conventional supermarkets.