With diet-related diseases such as diabetes, stroke, cancer and heart disease claiming over half a million American lives each year, the importance of healthy eating is indisputable. Yet in many cases, the most nutritious foods are also the most expensive -- making it tempting to fill your shopping cart with less-healthful fare for the sake of saving money. Fortunately, eating well doesn't have to dent your wallet: A variety of high-nutrient foods are available for a price most budgets can afford.
A traditional breakfast item, oats offer more than a quick answer to morning hunger. They're also a rich source of manganese, selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B1 and magnesium, delivering only 147 calories and negligible fat per cup of cooked grain, according to World's Healthiest Foods. In addition to providing vitamins and minerals, oats contain a form of soluble fiber called beta-glucan. As the American Dietetic Association explains, the fiber in oats helps lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar, decreasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Often available in bulk bins or low-priced canisters, oats provide health perks for minimal cost.
Not only are bananas one of the most popular fruits in America, they're also one of the cheapest. Widely available year round, bananas provide a high dose of potassium, fiber and vitamin C, along with a small amount of iron, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Packed with carbohydrates, bananas are particularly useful for refueling after exercise or serving as an energizing snack. Although the most common banana variety is the curved, yellow Cavendish, other nutritious varieties include plantains, red bananas and finger bananas.
Frequently cheaper than their just-picked counterparts, frozen vegetables are a nutritious alternative when fresh vegetables are unavailable or unaffordable. Arthritis Today notes that farmers often pick vegetables during their peak of ripeness before freezing them, preserving their high vitamin and mineral content and bringing maximum nutrition to your plate. Not all frozen vegetable brands are created equal, however. Look for varieties without added salt, sugar or preservatives, and avoid bags that feel like solid blocks of ice -- which indicates they've already been thawed and refrozen.
Available year-round for a low price per pound, sweet potatoes are a flavorful root vegetable packed with nutrition. Owing their orange color to high levels of vitamin A, these tubers also contain moderate amounts of vitamin C and fiber and a small dose of calcium and iron. With only 100 calories per medium-sized potato, sweet potatoes offer an array of nutrition with zero fat and cholesterol, making them heart-healthy as well as budget-friendly.
- World's Healthiest Foods: Oats
- American Dietetic Association: Health Benefits of Oats
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fruit of the Month: Banana
- Arthritis Today: In Cold Weather, Pick Frozen Vegetables
- Fruits and Veggies More Matters: Sweet Potato
About this Author
For five years, Denise Minger has worked as a copywriter, editor and college instructor, publishing articles in various online publications. Passionate about health, she has researched and written extensively in the fields of fitness and nutrition, and offers health consultations for individuals with special dietary goals. She holds a bachelor's degree from Northern Arizona University, where she graduated summa cum laude in 2008.