Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Affordable Nutrition

Cheap Foods That Are Good For You
Rebecca Ruiz, 03.16.10, 4:00 PM ET

Every few months, the food cognoscenti start touting a new super food for its ability to ward off disease. Hot foods in recent years include wild salmon ($15 a pound and packed with omega-3 fatty acids), antioxidant-loaded leeks ($3 a bunch), and the exotic açaí and goji berries (as much as $20 and $40 per 16 ounces, respectively). These foods are packed with nutrients but can send your grocery bill into the stratosphere.

You can get all the nutrition you need for much less money if you shop carefully. A cup of cooked navy beans has a similar amount of protein as 3 ounces of salmon, and is loaded with more magnesium, phosphorous and potassium. One large orange has almost seven times the amount of vitamin C and more fiber than a cup of raw blueberries, at a small fraction the berries' price this time of year. A $3 bunch of dark green, leafy kale is a big nutritional improvement on watery iceberg lettuce--but broccoli has just as many nutrients at half the price.

These are comparisons that Adam Drewnowski, the director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington, has focused on in recent years. To help ordinary Americans who don't have unlimited budgets, Drewnowski has created an index ranking the most affordable healthy foods, ones that are packed with essential nutrients.

Drewnowski favors basic foods that are widely available year-round. His approach is the opposite of one taken by Omnivore's Dilemma author Michael Pollan, who has championed unprocessed, locally grown foods. “These foods give you maximum nutrition per dollar,” Drewnowski says.

Many items that rank high on his list, including milk, broccoli, beans, and tomato juice, won't surprise anyone. Others are a little more curious: Eggs make the cut despite their high cholesterol content because they are cheap and packed with protein and nutrients. Potatoes (skin on) also do well. And a few items on the index are jaw-dropping. If you believe Drewnowski, hamburger is a health food. He maintains that its high levels of protein and affordable price outweigh its huge saturated fat content. Read More

Common sense continues to show that eating a balanced diet which includes items such as meat, dairy and eggs is not only healthy but also affordable. As is typical, the reporter tries to plant a seed of doubt in everyone’s head, however no one can argue that these are very nutrient dense food. Think of them like tasty vitamins.

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