20 Inexpensive Foods That Are Heart Healthy

Fred Decker
20 Inexpensive Foods That Are Heart Healthy

Many Americans believe eating healthy foods costs more than eating foods that don’t have the same health benefits, according to a study done by researchers at three prominent universities. But that just isn’t true, the study showed.

Instead, a number of foods offer health benefits, especially for your heart. And some cost just cents per serving. From broccoli to beans, avocados to almonds, you have choices when it comes to saving money and boosting your health. Click through for healthy cheap eats to add to your grocery list.

Oats

Price: $3.28 for a 42-ounce canister

The American Heart Association recommends including whole grains in your diet for heart health, and oats are among the best choices. Oats are almost always sold whole — the bran and germ aren’t milled away — so anytime you see oats on the label, you’re likely getting whole grains.

Among whole grains, oats are especially heart-friendly. They’re rich in soluble fiber, which is known to reduce your “bad” — or LDL — cholesterol and your overall risk of coronary heart disease. There’s also a growing body of evidence that a variety of natural compounds found in oats, called phytochemicals, have wide-ranging health benefits.

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How to Eat Them

You can incorporate oats into your diet in plenty of ways aside from making oatmeal. Two suggestions to get you started: Toss quick oats into the blender the next time you make a smoothie, or chop them finely in your food processor and use them as a healthy “breading” for chicken or fish.

Walnuts

Price: $7.34 per pound for halves and pieces

If you think of walnuts as something you pick out of your mother’s brownies, think again. Medical research has shown over the years that they’re one of the best foods for maintaining cardiovascular health.

Regular consumption of walnuts can help improve a number of cardiovascular risk factors, including your cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Walnuts are also packed with antioxidants, which might help reduce inflammation throughout your body.

How to Eat Them

Toasted walnut halves or pieces make a tasty and nutritious garnish for salads, and they’re also excellent in grain-based cold salads or hot pilafs. If these options don’t appeal to you, treat walnuts as a healthy snack and eat a few whenever you want “a little something” between meals. Or if you want to indulge in something sweet, add them to this apple pie recipe.

Broccoli

Price: $1.84 per pound

Broccoli’s bright green florets are a familiar sight at supermarkets and restaurants. Aside from being versatile and inexpensive, broccoli is another great food for your heart. But if you buy too much of it, remember to freeze the leftovers — if not, you could end up wasting money.

Like its cabbage-family kin, broccoli is high in a number of biologically potent sulfur compounds. One of those, sulforaphane, provides protection against atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Broccoli is also high in folate and other B vitamins, which can help reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

How to Eat It

Enjoy the delicate florets raw in salads and dip trays, or steamed, roasted or stir-fried as part of a larger meal. Don’t overlook the stems: Once the woody skin is peeled away and they’re sliced or shredded, broccoli stems add moisture and crunch to salads and cooked dishes.

Beans

Price: $1.48 cents per 15.5-ounce can; 82 cents per pound of dry beans

Beans are another worthy addition to the list of superfoods for your heart. Along with their cousins — dried peas and lentils — they boast a range of health benefits.

Like oats, beans are high in soluble fiber and play a similar role in keeping your cholesterol in order. They’re also high in B vitamins, which aid in cardiovascular health. In addition, beans are a great vegetable-based protein, which means you can use them to reduce your reliance on meat, which contains saturated fat.

How to Eat Them

Dry beans are the best starting point — they have no added salt or preservatives — but they do require some time and forethought. Canned beans are convenient, which makes it likelier you’ll include them in your meal, but they can have added salt. Draining and rinsing them first will minimize your sodium intake, though.

Barley

Price: $1.91 per pound

Oats are a standard in the healthy grains department, but barley — that common soup ingredient — is actually higher in fiber than oats. Like oats, it’s rich in a type of soluble fiber called beta-glucan, which has the ability to protect against health-threatening high cholesterol and blood pressure.

Most grains contain the majority of their fiber in their outer layers — called bran — which is usually milled off in processing. Even pearled barley — the most processed form — is rich in beta-glucans.

How to Eat It

Barley is commonly found in soups and stews, but you can use it many other ways. Consider making it the base for a mixed-grain salad, for example. Or use it in place of rice to make a delicious and healthy meal with spring vegetables.

Salmon

Price: $10.98 for 2 pounds, frozen

The American Heart Association recommends eating more fish as one of its heart-healthy food tips. This is because fish provides high-quality protein but — like beans — comes without meat’s saturated fat. Better yet, rich-tasting fish, such as salmon, is high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids are known to help prevent coronary artery disease, and eating fish rich in omega-3s is the best way to include them in your diet — the evidence for fish oils and other sources isn’t as strong. As one of the best sources of omega-3s, salmon should show up regularly on your table.

How to Eat It

Both farmed Atlantic and wild-caught Pacific salmon are delicious, nutritious and widely available. The rich pink flesh lends itself to a range of healthy cooking methods, from poaching to steaming and grilling. If you want to put a healthy spin on your next cookout, try this salmon burger recipe.

Brussels Sprouts

Price: $2.99 per pound

Brussels sprouts are part of the traditional holiday meal in many homes, but they often aren’t greeted with the same enthusiasm as the turkey or the pecan pie. Like other members of the cabbage family, they’re rich in pungent sulfur compounds, which sometimes can give the sprouts a bitter flavor. That’s a shame, because Brussels sprouts are one of the best vegetable sources of soluble fiber, which has beneficial effects on cholesterol and blood pressure.

How to Eat Them

If you’d like to eat them more often but aren’t crazy about the taste, try roasting them for your next dinner party. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness in the little green globes, which might just make some converts out of those sprout-averse members of your household.

Flaxseed

Price: $3.83 per pound

“Oily” fish are the champions of omega-3 fatty acid content, but they’re not the only useful source for those heart-healthy fats. Flaxseed is another good option and might be easier to fit into your diet than fish.

For one thing, as a plant-based source of omega-3s, flaxseed is a more suitable option for vegetarians and vegans. If you have someone in the house who’s allergic to seafood, flaxseed makes a good alternative.

How to Eat It

Sprinkle flaxseed meal over your bowl of hot or cold breakfast cereal, spoon it into the blender when you make a smoothie or add it to your bread and other baked goods. It’s also a strong source of soluble fiber, so you’ll be doubling down on heart health. Other oily seeds, such as chia and hemp, might provide comparable benefits.

Avocados

Price: $1.49 each

Plenty of fruits are treated as vegetables, such as tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, but avocados are one of the very few fruits that are high in fat. That fat is considered a heart-healthy, “good” fat because it’s unsaturated — but that might just be the tip of the iceberg.

A study published in 2015 by the American Heart Association showed that an avocado a day — whether added to a low-fat diet, a moderate-fat diet or a cholesterol-lowering diet — had the effect of lowering LDL cholesterol across the board.

How to Eat Them

You’re not doing yourself any favors if you eat avocados only in the form of guacamole — like these expensive guacamole dishes — and add high-sodium tortilla chips and a dollop of fatty sour cream. Instead, slice them onto a salad or serve them as a garnish with poached or grilled fish and poultry.

Oranges and Other High-Fiber Fruit

Price: $1.49 per pound for navel oranges

Fruit is an easy food to like, so it’s comforting to know that it’s good for your heart as well as healthy in a general sense. Some fruits are especially high in soluble fiber — the kind that lowers bad cholesterol and blood pressure — which will give you the same kind of health benefits you’d get from oats or beans.

Oranges are especially high in soluble fiber, and they don’t require any special preparation aside from peeling. Apricots, apples and pears also are good sources of fiber, though you should eat them with their skins on to get the full effect.

How to Eat Them

Aside from eating them out of hand, you can add orange segments or slices of other fruits in salads and even savory dishes to increase their nutritional value. Grilled fruit is especially tasty as a garnish on low-fat grilled meats or poultry. You can even grill fruit to make a tasty dessert.

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Canned Seafood

Price: $1.65 for a 3.75-ounce can of sardines; $4.71 per 14.75-ounce can of Alaskan pink salmon

Serving fish more often is a good idea in theory, but in practice, many major fisheries are seasonal. That means the price of fish — and its heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids — is frequently subject to budget-busting swings.

One way to compensate for this and keep fish in your diet is to turn to the canned-goods section of your supermarket. Canned sardines, herring, tuna, mackerel, oysters and mussels are all good sources of omega-3s, and they’re very convenient. Not only are their prices stable, but you won’t have to worry about freshness and perishability the way you would with fresh fish.

How to Eat It

Don’t limit yourself to mashing them up with mayonnaise for sandwiches. They’re all great to use on salads as a protein booster. They’re also good with grilled tomatoes on whole-grain toast or your favorite healthy flatbread.

Almonds

Price: $5.94 for 14 ounces of whole almonds

If walnuts aren’t your thing, you can turn to almonds as an alternative superfood for your heart. They provide comparable health benefits, and you might find their sweet flavor more appealing than the relatively astringent walnuts.

In general, nuts pack a range of potentially heart-healthy nutrients, with their unsaturated fats and their high levels of fiber and antioxidants. And almonds stand out for their potential health benefits. If you want to buy almonds in bulk and save money, head to Costco — they’re one of the best deals you can find at the retailer.

How to Eat Them

Incorporating almonds into your diet couldn’t be easier. They’re appealing as a snack all on their own, and sliced or slivered almonds work beautifully in stir-fries. They’re also an excellent garnish for salads, and they lend fiber and nutrition to your baked goods.

Asparagus

Price: $2.99 per pound

Eating asparagus regularly isn’t just a culinary pleasure; it’s downright heart-healthy. Asparagus is an excellent source of folate, a B vitamin that might protect against heart disease. Folate supplements are available, but might not be as effective as foods — including asparagus — that are naturally high in the nutrient.

How to Eat It

Asparagus is typically steamed, but you can grill, roast or stir-fry it with equally good results. Although it’s available all year, it’s one of the foods that will likely be cheaper in the spring.

Berries

Price: $3.99 per 6 ounces of fresh blueberries; $9.96 for 48 ounces of frozen blueberries

If the bright colors and flavors of berries make them one of your favorite foods, we have good news for you: They’re also superfoods for your heart. A growing body of research indicates that berries have a significant impact on heart health. Not only are they high in fiber, like other fruits, but they also owe their colors and flavors to a range of compounds called polyphenols, which might impact the risk of heart attacks.

How to Eat Them

Blueberries, blackberries and strawberries are all readily available, either fresh or frozen, when you want to be creative. Take advantage of their color, flavor and juiciness by dropping handfuls of berries into your morning cereal or smoothie, or using them as a garnish on salads or low-fat desserts. With minimal cooking, they also make high-impact sauces for fish, poultry and other lean proteins.

Eggs

Price: $1.50 per dozen large

Hold the carbs at breakfast. Toast, waffles, pancakes and cereal aren’t ideal for losing belly fat, as they actually cause a sharp rise in blood sugar, which triggers the body to produce the hormone insulin. Insulin lowers blood sugar levels, but simultaneously activates fat storage and prevents the body from using fat as energy.

Instead, switch to an egg breakfast for weight loss, said Rebecca Lee, a registered nurse and founder of the natural health resource, RemediesForMe. A medium egg contains virtually no carbohydrates, 6.4 grams of high-quality protein and 13 essential vitamins and minerals. Two medium eggs boiled or poached contain just 132 calories, making them a nutrition-packed natural breakfast choice for weight loss, Lee said.

How to Eat Them

There are many ways you can incorporate eggs into your diet. From adding them to pizza to making a better mashed potato dish, check out these egg recipes to spice up your meal.

Quinoa

Price: $3.68 per 16-ounce bag

Quinoa is one of the best fat-burning foods, and it can be incorporated into any meal of the day. According to Zoe Martin, a dietitian at Discount Supplements, the grain-like seeds of quinoa are a must in any weight-loss routine with its protein and starchy carbs.

“Quinoa is especially good for fat loss because it provides nutritional balance. Nutritional imbalances are one of the main reasons for fat storage. If your body doesn’t know when its next carbohydrate intake is coming, it’ll automatically store fat for a rainy day,” she said.

Quinoa, a protein-dense, fat-burning food, will give your body a chance to digest, absorb and actually use the carbohydrates you consume. The grain also is loaded with fiber, helping you to feel fuller.

How to Eat It

Quinoa salads are all the rage. If you want a uniquely delicious meal, consider adding this pomegranate orange quinoa salad to the menu.

Greek Yogurt

Price: $1 per 5.3-ounce cup

Yogurt can be good for your body, particularly Greek yogurt, with its high protein content. Greek yogurt typically has more than double the amount of protein as regular yogurt.

Why is protein important? It can help trim fat. “Protein takes longer to digest than fats or carbohydrates and [the] process of digesting protein burns more calories,” Lee said.

One 5.3-ounce container of low-fat Greek yogurt often contains 13 grams or more of protein. Plain Greek yogurt is generally best, as flavored ones tend to have more sugar. You’ll want to choose low-fat options if you’re looking to cut calories in your diet.

How to Eat It

You can eat it plain. Or, add berries and granola to give it a little more sweetness and crunch.

Grapefruit

Price: $1.37 per pound

Adding grapefruit to your diet also could trigger weight loss, according to a 2014 study. Researchers took a look at grapefruit juice and its interaction with mice and found that the compound naringin — a flavonoid found in the fruit — is the reason for grapefruit’s blood sugar-lowering effects. Why exactly it works to decrease weight is still unknown, according to University of California researchers.

How to Eat It

Turn fat burning up a notch and include this ruby-red fruit in your morning breakfast routine. You can eat it by itself. Or, replace your orange juice with freshly squeezed grapefruit juice.

Tuna

Price: 78 cents for 5-ounce can

Tuna can be kind to your wallet and your waistline. Canned light tuna is a great source of docosahexaenoic acid, a type of omega-3 fat that works to fight fat.

How to Eat It

Get creative with your tuna. Make an avocado tuna salad, mix it with rigatoni and top with sun-dried tomatoes, or even make a tuna melt. But instead of putting that tuna melt on bread, stuff a tomato, a green pepper or zucchini.

Peanut Butter

Price: $2.52 per 16 ounces

There might be 16 grams of fat in every two tablespoons, but peanut butter is a food that burns fat. The monounsaturated fat content can ward off cravings for junk food. Peanuts are full of protein and fiber, which make you feel satiated — preventing you from overeating. Natural or organic options often have lower sugar and sodium, making them the healthiest choice.

How to Eat It

Of course, you can make a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or, simply eat it on toast, crackers or celery.

Next: 15 of the Tastiest Foods to Pair With Peanut Butter for Under $5

Pricing is accurate as of Dec. 22, 2017, and is subject to change. Pricing was primarily sourced from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Walmart. Lia Sestric contributed to the reporting for this article.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: 20 Inexpensive Foods That Are Heart Healthy