Ed note: February is American Heart Month. With that in mind, we wanted to focus on ways you can be good to your heart while also being kind to your budget.
Cost is often the main excuse for choosing unhealthy foods. The exorbitant costs of healthy foods can sometimes make it out of range for those trying to stick to a budget. But with a little planning, it is possible to eat healthfully on a budget. In turn, you can help combat chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease (that are strongly linked to diet), and can avoid healthcare costs down the line. Not sure which foods are both healthy for your heart and your wallet? Let’s take a closer look.
Plant-based proteins like legumes are good for your heart. Legumes, which include garbanzo beans, black beans, lentils, adzuki beans, kidney beans and white beans, lower your cholesterol because they digest slowly in your system. The least expensive way to enjoy beans is buying the dried variety and cooking them yourself.
Whole grains keep the bran, germ and endosperm of the grain intact, unlike refined grains. They include whole wheat flour, rolled oats, bulgur, brown rice, barley, buckwheat and farro. They’re also a good source of dietary fiber, which reduces your cholesterol. Add in whole grains by enjoying oatmeal for breakfast, choosing whole wheat flour instead of white flour and adding brown rice as a side to your next meal.
Tofu is another great source of plant-based protein. Not to mention how versatile this whole form of soy can be because it takes on the flavor of your favorite recipe. Replacing dairy and red meat with whole soy sources, like tofu, can lower your cholesterol and your intake of saturated fats, plus tofu is inexpensive. Choose silken tofu to add to smoothies and baking recipes or firm and extra firm tofu to be browned, baked or steamed.
Berries can be expensive, especially when they’re not in season. But frozen berries are available year round at a much-reduced rate. Add them to smoothies, oatmeal or muffins. Berries, especially blueberries, contain heart-healthy nutrients and antioxidants like beta carotene, anthocyanin, vitamin C, folate and fiber.
Sweet potatoes are inexpensive, hearty and they last a long time before going bad. Americans waste a lot of money on food because 40% of it ends up going to waste. That’s why part of grocery budgeting is buying foods that won’t get wasted. Sweet potatoes are versatile and can be baked, steamed, stir-fried or added to all your favorite recipes. They also contain heart-healthy nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamins A and C and fiber.
Leafy greens are essential to a heart-healthy diet. Buy heartier varieties, like collards and kale, which tend to last longer in the refrigerator. Leafy greens like kale are rich in lutein, a nutrient that reduces atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in the arteries, which can lead to a heart attack.
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