A leading dietitian names his eight favorite inexpensive superfoods

Food prices in the US have recently soared, increasing at the fastest rate since 1990.

Problem: You may find yourself choosing less expensive — but less nutritious — foods.

Solution: With smart food choices, you can eat well without breaking the bank or sacrificing taste.

Eight extremely nutritious yet economical foods…


Rich in fiber, vitamin E and healthful mono­unsaturated fats, almonds are widely known to help fight heart disease. Few people are aware, however, that almonds contain more bone-building calcium than any other nut.

Recommended portion size: One ounce (about 23 nuts) daily.

Typical cost per portion: 32 cents to 53 cents.*


Beans are an excellent source of fiber, protein and B vitamins — and they are rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants called anthocyanins.

Recommended portion size: One-half cup (cooked or canned) daily.

Typical cost per portion: 35 cents.

How to choose: All beans are similar in nutritional value, but the varieties with darker colors — such as black, red, kidney and adzuki beans — contain more disease-fighting antioxidants. Dried and canned beans have similar nutritional value. To reduce the sodium content of canned beans by about 40%, rinse them in water for 40 seconds before cooking.


Chard is a dark green, leafy vegetable that is very low in calories but high in fiber. It is an excellent source of the antioxidants vitamin A and vitamin C… vitamin K, which promotes blood health… vitamin D and magnesium, which are necessary for bone health… and potassium, which helps minimize the negative effects of excessive sodium. Chard also contains the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which help prevent eye disease.

Recommended portion size: One cup raw… or one-half cup cooked, daily.

Typical cost per portion: 50 cents.

How to choose: Swiss chard, red chard and rainbow chard offer similar levels of nutrients.


Eggs are a good source of protein, providing all the essential amino acids. They also contain vitamin D for bone health… vitamin B-12, which helps maintain energy… choline, which improves brain function… and eye-protecting lutein and zeaxanthin.

These important nutrients are found in egg yolks, which contain cholesterol. However, there is not a strong correlation between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol levels, so it’s safe for most people to eat eggs daily. Helpful: To limit saturated fat intake, cook eggs in a nonstick pan coated with vegetable spray and make scrambled eggs with nonfat milk.

Recommended portion size: One or two eggs daily. If you have heart disease, check with your doctor or a registered dietitian before eating this number of eggs.

Typical cost per portion: 15 cents per egg.

How to choose: Brown or white — free-range or not — all eggs provide similar levels of nutrients.


Mushrooms, such as white button or cremini, are a good source of vitamin D, as well as the mineral selenium and the phytochemical ergothionine, both of which have cancer-fighting properties. With their meatlike texture, mushrooms are an inexpensive supplement to beef — for example, you can use mushrooms to replace some of the beef in hamburgers or meatloaf.

Recommended portion size: One-half cup (about 1.5 ounces)… or four to five small mushrooms daily.

Typical cost per portion: 25 cents to 50 cents.

How to choose: All edible mushrooms have nearly the same nutritional profile.


Oats can significantly reduce cholesterol — people who eat one-and-a-half cups daily for one month can lower total cholesterol by up to 14 points. In addition, oats contain healthy amounts of vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, selenium, zinc and iron.

Recommended portion size: Up to three-quarters cup dry (one-and-a-half cups cooked) daily.

Typical cost per portion: 35 cents.

How to choose: There is no health benefit to eating steel-cut oats over whole oats.


Of all vegetables, potatoes are among the richest sources of potassium, which is important for controlling blood pressure and reducing risk for stroke and dementia. Potatoes are highly “satiating” — meaning they effectively reduce hunger.

Important: The nutritional value of a potato is almost equally divided between the flesh and the skin, so eat the skin whenever possible.

Recommended portion size: One medium potato (about eight ounces) daily.

Typical cost per portion: 40 cents.

How to choose: Potatoes with purple or red skins and sweet potatoes have more antioxidants.


The antioxidant compounds in prunes help prevent hardening of the arteries — perhaps by protecting the lining of the blood vessels from plaque formation. Prunes also may help lower LDL cholesterol. The laxative effect provided by prunes is due not only to their high fiber content, but also to a natural compound in the fruit called sorbitol.

Recommended portion size: Five or six prunes daily.

Typical cost per portion: 30 cents to 40 cents.

How to choose: Consume the dried fruit, not the juice, which contains more concentrated sugars and less fiber per serving.

*Typical cost per portion is based on national food price estimates. Prices may vary.