Heart-healthy vegetables provide vital nutrients and minerals for the human body and may even reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases; eating the recommended daily serving of vegetables is really that important. Still, many people are not consuming their daily allowance.
One concern which has been highlighted over and over again is that many people believe that vegetables are expensive and if, or when, money is tight, it’s the vegetables that get tossed by the wayside first.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture finds the trend so concerning that they published a report called How Much Do Fruits and Vegetables Cost to try and understand why Americans aren’t eating the recommended amount of vegetables (which is 2 1/2 cups and 3 cups per day; over the age of 50 should reduce by half a cup).
But that is simply not true; vegetables aren’t as expensive as we believe, and the USDA has the research to back it up.
According to the USDA, an adult on a 2,000-calorie diet could satisfy USDA recommendations for vegetable and fruit consumption for only $2 to $2.50 per day (or approximately 50 cents per edible cup).
So, evidently, eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank. Start by implementing habits before you even approach the grocery store.
Here are a few ways to make your money go further:
- Make a list and be prepared: before you even hit the stores, plan your meals for at least the next week. What will be for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks? Choose heart-healthy meals that include vegetables (see list below), aren’t too complicated (that you really will cook), add a lot of flavor and nutrients, and then write a list of ingredients. Now that you have a plan of action: stick to it!
- Don’t shop when hungry: you’ve probably heard this before but this piece of advice is so good that it needs to be repeated. Along with the point above, be prepared. When you are hungry it will be a lot easier to grab something that it quick, cheap and easy to eat on the go, and unless that’s an organic apple, we’re willing to bet it’s a bag of chips, cookies, or candy; none of which are healthy or good for your heart. Don’t do it!
- Buy frozen: healthy doesn’t have to mean fresh. Frozen vegetables keep in their nutrients, last longer, and are usually well priced.
- Buy in season: seasonal vegetables are not only less expensive, they have more nutrients. Fruits and vegetables that aren’t in season have either been stored for a long time and are less nutrient-dense than their in-season counterparts, or have been imported, which can increase the price significantly.
- Buy in bulk: Buying in bulk is usually less expensive; bulk stores often offer better specials, and when you find a good price on a heart-healthy item you can stock up. Just be sure to cook and freeze your new purchase before it goes bad.
- What’s in your cookware: Healthy eating may start at the grocery store, but it ends with your cookware. Healthy cooking includes your pots and pans; many nonstick coatings, while convenient, degrade at high heat, releasing toxic fumes.
When you start planning your weekly meals, you will want to use the best, heart-healthy ingredients you can, without damaging your budget. Budget-friendly vegetables might be less expensive but they also need to pack a punch in nutrients, vitamins and minerals, be satisfying, and let’s not forget, be tasty!
7 Heart Healthy Vegetables List (+ a bonus)
Vegetables cost less than you think and go a long way to keeping your heart healthy: here are a few that aren’t just heart-helpers, they are also wallet-friendly.
- Cauliflower is a good source of choline, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus, and biotin, and a good source of vitamin B1, B2, and B3, potassium, magnesium, protein. Like other cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower significantly improves blood pressure and kidney function.
- Sweet potato contains vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, which may help prevent cancer (and it protects your skin from sun damage). Sweet potatoes are also a good source of potassium and vitamin C. This versatile vegetable, packed with natural sweetness, isn’t just for dinner, it’s great for breakfast, too (sweet potato pancakes, anyone?).
- Beetroot is chocked full of antioxidants that may aid in preventing cancer and other diseases. Beetroot also boasts high levels of folate, fiber, and numerous vitamins and minerals.
- Broccoli is high in vitamin C and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Garlic contains phytochemicals that boost immunity and protect the heart against diseases. Plus they add great flavor to your meals!
- Onions are a rich source of phytochemicals which may reduce cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease.
- Potatoes are high in potassium and may help your body maintain healthy blood pressure.
- Tomatoes: No heart-friendly list would be complete without tomatoes so we’ve added a bonus! Depending on where you shop, tomatoes can be expensive, but they are so effective in preventing heart disease, this is one vegetable you want on your plate, so shop around. Another great thing about tomatoes is that when you find a great deal, buy in bulk, cook up into puree or sauce and freeze for later. Just remember, the acidic nature of tomatoes can react with your pots so always be sure to use healthy pots and pans.
Eating healthy can prevent a myriad of health problems in the future, so take time to pay attention to your health; your future self will thank you.