You don't need to be rich to eat healthily

Enough with the expensive superfood fads. It's time to preach a message of 'health without wealth' -- something that's attainable by all.

Superfoods are all the rage right now, hailing from faraway places, with their exotic names and hard-to-pronounce chemical compounds that are supposed to infuse us with new life and energy. “Eat these açaí berries, some goji berries, this moringa juice, and you’ll discover the holy grail of health,” the marketers tell us. These foods are the darlings of media and marketers, who try to convince us of their special status and ‘magic bullet’ qualities.

This isn’t true. We don’t actually need to purchase fancy imported products in order to be healthy. (In fact, we probably shouldn’t, but that’s a whole other discussion.) Worse yet, focusing so narrowly on superfoods distracts from the true message that needs to be spread and understood by the masses – that true health is about eating foods that help you to avoid disease, and those foods don’t need to be special.

Two nutrition experts for The Guardian are deeply concerned by the way in which conversations about health have been “muddied by pseudoscience nutritionists and celebrity health gurus, clambering over each other to persuade you to buy their products.” With the general state of health being at such a low point in North America, this discussion should not be treated so lightly.

“It’s concerning, then, with the burden of obesity and disease falling on the poor, that health is being packaged and sold through a soft-focus lens as an aspirational product beyond many people’s means.”

It is entirely possible to eat for optimal health without spending a fortune. All you have to do is focus on eating more protective foods and fewer damaging ones, something that’s manageable by shopping at an ordinary grocery store and cooking basic meals.

Fruits & Vegetables:

shiitake mushrooms© K Martinko -- Organic shiitake mushrooms from a CSA share

“These are not good for you because of magical detoxifying properties,” write the authors of The Guardian article. They’re good for you because they lower the risk of disease, even if they’re just plain old potatoes, spinach, mushrooms, lettuce, and radishes. All of these humble veggies contain artery-relaxing nitrates that can lower blood pressure.


olive oilSmabs Sputzer/CC BY 2.0

You don’t need to pay top dollar for jars of palm, coconut, and avocado oils, many of which have used “interesting theoretical properties to make [them] more desirable” in recent years. Extra-virgin olive oil is as fancy as you need to get, since it does have protective qualities, and butter (if you’re not vegan) is a good saturated fat source. Eat oily nuts, seeds, and fish. These don’t have to be imported from far-off places; local varieties are just fine. There’s no need for expensive fresh salmon when tinned sardines get you all the omega-3s you need.


homemade pizza© K Martinko

Unrefined, fiber-rich sources like rolled oats, sweet potatoes, legumes, squash, and whole grains are good. Don’t focus on cutting out refined carbs altogether, but rather, eat less of the real thing, i.e. a small portion of white pasta with lots more vegetables, instead of a giant plate of whole-grain pasta.


pot of soaked beansGreg Myers/CC BY 2.0

The benefits of protein are relentlessly in our faces, to the point of over-exaggeration. Yes, our bodies need protein to build muscle, grow healthy skin and cartilage, and keep enzymes and hormones in order, but we don’t need to be so protein-crazy. If you eat meat, you can buy cheaper cuts that require braising or marinating to become tasty. If you don’t eat meat, buy beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and you’ll save money, too.

“Try to trade up excess meat for more protective foods whenever you can – a healthy diet will protect you from disease more than a six-pack ever will.”

Tags: Diet | Fruits & Vegetables | Health


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