Huffpost Healthy Living

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Dr. Joseph Mercola Headshot

Rethinking Food Budgets -- "High Value" Nutritious Foods

Posted: Updated:

When it comes to the price of food, I think it's extremely important to remember that a food cannot be judged by its sticker price alone. Whether or not you're actually getting any nutrition from it is far more important. This will be a progressively increasing concern as we are virtually assured in the United States and many other countries that there will be serious inflation coming as a result of the massive devaluation of the dollar.

Processed Foods

I firmly believe that virtually all processed snacks and the majority of processed, pre-packaged meals are a waste of hard-earned money. I find that these types of foods consist mainly of fillers and additives, and very few actual nutrients. The same goes for virtually all breakfast cereals. Many cereals are frightfully high in sugar, and iron fortified cereals can contain actual iron filings, which is a far cry from the bioavailable iron you receive from iron-rich vegetables like spinach. If you haven't seen this eye-opening demonstration of what's really in that fortified breakfast cereal, take a look now -- I think you'll probably never buy another box of cereal again.

Organic Foods

The Environmental Working Group is a reliable source when trying to decide on what to buy organic. According to their 2011 pesticide review, the following foods rank as the most pesticide-free produce, even when conventionally-grown, so you can save a few bucks by opting for the conventionally-grown version of these:

Sweet Corn
Sweet Peas
Cantaloupe (domestic)
Sweet Potatoes

The foods you want to splurge on by buying organic are foods that have permeable or edible skins, and/or that are conventionally grown with higher amounts of pesticides. Based on the EWG's report, the top 12 foods to buy organic include:

Nectarines (imported)
Grapes (imported)
Sweet bell peppers
Blueberries (domestic)
Kale/Collard Greens

Meat and Fish

I believe that farmed fish should definitely be avoided. Nature didn't intend for fish to be crammed into pens and fed genetically modified (GM) soy, GM corn, antibiotics, poultry litter and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result of this practice, farmed salmon, for example, is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT.

As for meat, I advise everyone to avoid conventionally-raised beef.

Cattle were designed to eat grass, not grains. But many farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten them up faster for slaughter. Compared with corn-fed beef, organically-raised grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Conventionally-raised beef is also very high in pesticides (due to eating conventionally grown grains, and perhaps even genetically modified grains). In fact, non-organic meats can have up to five times more pesticides than non-organic vegetables!

This is why I recommend always buying organic, grass-fed beef. If you have to choose between buying organic beef or organic produce -- get the organic beef. It'll give you the greatest bang for your buck in terms of health benefits.

High-Value Foods

As I've discussed on numerous occasions, one of the primary risk factors of diseases of all kinds is chronic inflammation in your body. Some of the following foods are both inexpensive and highly nutritious, while others cost a bit more, but I think they can go a long way toward healing your body of chronic inflammation and boosting your immune system naturally, without resorting to either supplements or drugs.

Unpasteurized (raw) grass-fed milk -- Raw organic milk from grass-fed cows contains both beneficial fats, bacteria that boost your immune system and a number of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Whey protein -- High-quality whey protein derived from the milk of grass-fed cows to receive much of the same health benefits as raw milk. Fermented foods -- Good sources include kefir, natto, kimchee, miso, tempeh, pickles, sauerkraut and olives.

Editor's note: According to the FDA, unpasteurized milk has several severe health dangers, particularly for pregnant women, children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

Raw organic eggs from pastured chickens -- Raw, free-range eggs are an inexpensive and amazing source of high-quality nutrients that many people are deficient in, especially high-quality protein and fat. Grass-fed beef or organ meats -- Grass-fed beef is very high in vitamins A, B12 and E, omega-3 fats, beta carotene, zinc and the potent immune system enhancer CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid). Coconut oil -- Besides being excellent for your thyroid and your metabolism, coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which converts in your body to monolaurin -- a compound also found in breast milk that strengthens a baby's immunity.

Editor's note: According to the USDA, raw and undercooked eggs pose several health dangers.

Make sure you choose an organic coconut oil that is unrefined, unbleached, made without heat processing or chemicals, and does not contain GM ingredients.

Editor's note: As of yet, the health benefits of organic coconut oil, if any, are still unclear.

Berries -- Blueberries and raspberries rate very high in antioxidant capacity compared to other fruits and vegetables. They are also lower in fructose than many other fruits.

Broccoli -- Studies have shown that just 10 spears a week (five servings) can make a difference in your health.

Chlorella -- This single-cell freshwater algae acts as an efficient detoxification agent by binding to toxins (most of which promote chronic inflammation), such as mercury, and carrying them out of your system.

Tea -- As for beverages, clean pure water is a must for optimal health, but if you want another beverage, a good choice is high quality herbal teas.

Matcha tea is the most nutrient-rich green tea and comes in the form of a stone-ground powder, completely unfermented. The best Matcha comes from Japan and has up to 17 times the antioxidants of wild blueberries, and seven times more than dark chocolate. Tulsi is another tea loaded with antioxidants .

Krill Oil--Krill oil is the only dietary supplement that makes it to this list. An ideal food source for obtaining essential omega-3 fats is to eat fish. However, the dangers of eating most types of fish simply outweigh the benefits due to widespread pollution and toxic mercury levels. Antarctic krill oil is a pure marine oil loaded with powerful antioxidants and omega-3 oils, with no heavy metal contamination.

I hope you'll find these suggestions helpful in making the most of your food budget in these economically challenging times.

From Our Partners