Top 10 Cheap Yet Healthy Foods to Eat When You’re Broke

Just like there are two sides of a coin, we all go through both good and bad times. Financial stability is not something that you can be sure of, as circumstances can leave you trying to stretch every penny or worse, filing bankruptcy.

No matter how bad your financial condition, it is important to eat healthy as “health is wealth”. When you are healthy from within, you are better able to fight off any situation and reestablish yourself to a secure financial position.

On the other hand, if you end up with health problems during a period of financial difficulty, you are simply adding more to your list of worries. Medical costs are high and dealing with it will break you down more.

So, when you are broke, it becomes even more important to take care of your health. Eating healthy and getting regular physical exercise will help a lot. Exercise will not cost anything, and the cost of eating healthy can be minimal if you plan wisely.

There are many affordable, healthy foods that offer great benefits for your body.

Here are the top 10 cheap yet healthy foods to eat when you’re broke.

1. Bananas

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Cost: About 59 cents per fruit.

When you are broke, bananas are one fruit that you can consume daily.

This inexpensive fruit is one of the best sources of potassium, an electrolyte that helps maintain a proper water balance in the body as well as regulating blood pressure. This mineral is also needed for muscle strength, nerve functioning, better digestion and proper kidney functioning.

A 2014 study published in the journal Stroke reports that potassium intake is associated with a lower risk of strokes, including ischemic strokes, as well as all-cause mortality in older women, particularly those who are not hypertensive.

Along with potassium, bananas are also a good source of antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E.

Bananas are good for those who do regular exercise. A 2012 study published in PLOS ONE highlights the benefits of bananas as greater than that of sports drinks.

Previously, a 2005 study published in the International Journal of Cancer reported that regular intake of bananas aids in cutting the risk of kidney cancer.

You can eat bananas as a whole fruit or blend bananas with yogurt or milk to make a healthy and filling smoothie. You can also eat oatmeal with banana slices for a tasty breakfast.

2. Greek Yogurt

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Cost: $1.25 to $2 per small tub.

Greek yogurt is another cheap food that can fit any budget. It contains several nutrients that support good health.

It is packed with much higher protein than regular yogurt and is also a good source of calcium and vitamin D.

Another benefit is that it contains good bacteria that support digestive health.

A 2015 study published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition reports that yogurt intake improves gut health. It even reduces chronic inflammation by enhancing innate and adaptive immune responses, intestinal barrier function and lipid profiles, and by regulating appetite.

It is even good for brain health. In a 2013 study published in Gastroenterology, researchers reported that women who consumed probiotic yogurt displayed a higher degree of cognitive responsiveness in their brains as compared to those who consumed non-fermented yogurt or no yogurt at all.

Not just gut and brain health, yogurt even reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes. A 2014 study published in BMC Medicine reports that higher intake of yogurt is associated with a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes, whereas other dairy foods and total dairy consumption are not appreciably associated with incidence of Type 2 diabetes.

You can eat Greek yogurt topped with some fruit as a healthy breakfast or use it to make a filling smoothie. You can even use it to make marinades, dressings and dips, and you can use it in place of heavy cream, mayonnaise or sour cream in various recipes.

3. Oats

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Cost: $2.69 to $4.29 for a canister or bag.

Oats are cereal grains that can provide plenty of nutrients without making much of a hole in your pocket.

Being high in fiber and protein but low in fat, eating oats daily is a sure and safe way to lower cholesterol. A 2008 report by researchers at the University of Kentucky shows the connection between eating oatmeal and a lower cholesterol level. It even reduces the risk of high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and weight gain.

Plus, the beta-glucan compounds in it slow the rate at which carbohydrates are absorbed by the body. This is why it helps people feel full for a longer time. A 2013 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition reports that oatmeal improves appetite control and increases satiety. The effects may be attributed to the viscosity and hydration properties of its beta-glucan content.

Oats are also a good source of thiamin, magnesium, phosphorous and manganese.

Eating whole grains like oats is associated with up to 15 percent lower mortality, particularly cardiovascular disease-related mortality, according to a 2015 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Bring new life to your breakfast table during your difficult days by eating a healthy bowl of oatmeal. You can soak oats in milk or some fruit juice overnight for a quick breakfast fix in the morning.

4. Eggs

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Cost: $2 to $5 per dozen, depending on what types of eggs you prefer.

Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat, even if your budget is tight.

They are one of the few foods that contain all nine essential amino acids and are also rich in iron, phosphorous, selenium and vitamins A, B12, B2 and B5.

A 2000 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition says that eggs are the changing face of functional foods as they are an excellent dietary source of many essential and non-essential components that may promote optimal health.

Eggs are particularly rich in choline. A 2009 study published in Nutrition Reviews reports that choline is an essential nutrient and plays a key role in metabolism, from cell structure to neurotransmitter synthesis. In fact, choline deficiency is now thought to have an impact on diseases such as liver disease, atherosclerosis and, possibly, neurological disorders.

According to the American Optometric Association, eggs are a good source of two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, that reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, including AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) and cataracts.

Hard-boiled eggs or an omelet make a great breakfast food. You can even incorporate eggs into your dinner meals in the form of scrambled eggs with some crunchy vegetables.

5. Spinach

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Cost: About $2 for a prepackaged bag.

This dark green leafy vegetable is another cost-effective food that you can buy by spending just a little money.

Spinach is loaded with nutrients like calcium and potassium, and is high in vitamins including vitamins A and K. While vitamin A is needed for healthy skin and hair, vitamin K ensures strong bones. Plus, the high fiber and water content in spinach is good for your digestive system.

Other nutrients in it are iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, copper and nitrates. Being low in calories, spinach is simply excellent for people seeking to lose weight.

A 2011 study published in Cell Metabolism reports that spinach supports muscle health. The nitrates in it make the mitochondria of cells function more efficiently, which is important for muscle health.

The nitric oxide in it opens up the blood vessels to lower blood pressure. Additionally, the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin in spinach may help remove free radicals from the body and protect your vision from age-related problems.

A glass of spinach juice with a little lemon juice is a great start to your day. You can also add spinach to salads or add some into your morning smoothie for added benefits. It can also be cooked lightly and eaten as a side dish.

6. Canned Tuna

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Cost: $2 to $5 for a can.

Those who love seafood and are going through budget difficulties can enjoy canned tuna from time to time. Canned tuna is inexpensive as well as tasty and healthy, too.

Canned tuna is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, the healthy unsaturated fats that play a key role in improving blood vessel functioning, lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Omega-3 fatty acids also support a healthy brain and promote proper growth and development.

One of the B vitamins found in canned tuna is niacin, which prevents bad cholesterol from being stored as plaque inside artery walls. A 2008 study by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology reports that niacin helps maintain adequate high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels in the blood and thus lowers the risk of heart disease.

It is also a good source of lean protein, which is needed for cell growth, a healthy immune system and for maintaining muscle tissue.

Tuna also contains calcium, iron, selenium, magnesium and potassium.

For a quick, easy lunch, simply add canned tuna fish to a salad and dress it with a little olive oil and lemon juice. Another option is to mix tuna with hummus or Greek yogurt for a healthy tuna salad.

Note: Due to its mercury content, pregnant women should limit their consumption of tuna to no more than 6 ounces per week.

7. Sweet Potatoes

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Cost: About $1.29 per pound.

Sweet potatoes are an excellent choice for a low-cost side dish for lunch or dinner.

Sweet potatoes contain a good amount of your daily recommended value of vitamins A and C. They are also rich in calcium, potassium and iron.

Furthermore, the antioxidants in them help ward off cancer and protect against the effects of aging. Being high in carotenoids like beta-carotene, which is the precursor to vitamin A in your body, sweet potatoes also are good for your vision and protect your skin from sun damage.

A 2011 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food reports that purple sweet potato extract has antilipogenic, anti-inflammatory and lipolytic effects on adipocytes and has free-radical scavenging and reducing activity.

A later 2014 study published in the same journal considers sweet potato as a valuable medicinal food due to its high nutritional value. It is also a valuable medicinal plant having anti-cancer, antidiabetic and anti-inflammatory activities.

Enjoy sautéed, baked, steamed or fried sweet potatoes for a filling and tasty lunch or dinner side dish. You can even add sweet potatoes to your soups or salads.

8. Apples

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Cost: About $0.75 per small apple.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, especially when you are broke.

Apples are extremely rich in important antioxidants, flavonoids and dietary fiber. Being low in sugar and high in soluble fiber, apples help fill you up quickly and stabilize blood sugar levels.

Eating 1 to 2 apples a day is linked to a decreased risk of cancer, diabetes and even asthma.

A 2004 study published in Nutrition Journal reports that apples may help prevent chronic disease. The strong antioxidant activity of apples may help prevent lipid and DNA oxidation. It can also decrease cancer risk and lower your cholesterol level.

Another study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2000 suggests that the flavonoids in apples may protect against certain forms of lung cancer.

Apart from fiber, apples also contain many other important nutrients including vitamin C (a powerful natural antioxidant), B-complex vitamins (riboflavin, thiamin and vitamin B6), phytonutrients, calcium, potassium and phosphorus. They are also low in calories and contain no fat or cholesterol.

As most of the nutrients are present just under the skin, it is a good idea to eat organic apples with their skins.

Apples can be eaten as a whole fruit for a healthy mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. They are also great in juices and smoothies, and they’re delicious sliced into salads.

9. Beans

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Cost: $2 to $2.50 per 15-ounce can.

Just ½ cup of beans provides as much protein as an ounce of meat, without the saturated fat. Plus, they are much cheaper than meat.

Beans are also packed with fiber as well as iron, magnesium, potassium and folate. The fiber in them helps you feel full longer, so you don’t need to eat as much throughout the day.

Another good aspect of beans is that they contain little to no fat and are cholesterol-free. This means this plant-based protein actually helps lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels instead of potentially causing them to increase like many other food sources of protein.

A 2014 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that beans are excellent sources of protein and a number of micronutrients, which may account for some of their proposed health benefits. The study emphasizes making efforts to encourage more bean consumption.

Depending upon your cooking skill and convenience level, you can opt for dried beans as well as canned beans. While canned beans can be added to salads, dried beans can be boiled and used to make burgers, soups and stews.

10. Brown Rice

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Cost: About $1.59 per pound.

Another whole grain that can suit your low budget is brown rice as it can be used as a component of meals to help prepare fulfilling dish.

The high fiber content in brown rice is good for digestive health and helps keep you feeling full longer.

A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition highlights the blood glucose-lowering effects of brown rice in normal and diabetic subjects. The effect was partly due to the higher amounts of phytic acid, polyphenols, dietary fiber and oil in brown compared to milled rice.

Another 2010 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that eating two or more servings of brown rice per week was associated with a lower risk of diabetes.

Brown rice also contains manganese that helps synthesize body fats and keep your weight under control.

A 2012 study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology,and Biochemistry reports that germinated brown rice suppresses weight gain, lipid accumulation in the liver and epididymal adipocytes, and improves serum lipid profiles. This makes germinated brown rice a potential agent against obesity.

These unrefined whole grains are also known to reduce the buildup of arterial plaque and reduce the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol. Plus, the selenium in it reduces the risk for developing common illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease and arthritis.Cook brown rice and serve it as an easy side dish for well-balanced meals.

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