Superfood is a term that is bandied around a lot when discussing our health, so it’s no wonder a lot of us are buying into the notion that we need to pay extra for what we believe to be better quality nutrition. But there are actually other equally nutritious foods available for pennies.
Registered dietitian Helen West – one half of the Rooted Project, a duo on a mission to cut through the untruths and nonsense in the world of nutrition – explains: “There’s nothing inherently wrong with any foods labelled superfoods. If you like them, can afford them and want to eat them, then go ahead and eat them! However, there’s also no reason you have to eat superfoods to make your diet healthy.”
She says that the name superfoods is actually just a marketing term that suggests particular foods are more nutritious than others and that they can magically transform our diet and make us healthy, “when in fact the most important thing when it comes to our diet and our health is what our diet looks like as a whole”.
She adds: “A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, so, if you dislike or can’t afford this year’s top superfood, it’s totally possible to eat other equally nutritious foods which will add nutrients and variety to your diet, without the price tag.”
Here are some superfood swaps, suggested by West, that you can make if you’re on a budget that are just as healthy for you as their snooty equivalent.
1. Broccoli for kale
Choosing other brassica (plants in the mustard family) vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts or even cabbage can be a cheaper way to get your greens.
2. Rapeseed oil for coconut oil
There’s no oil quite like coconut oil, which contains a high amount of the saturated fat lauric acid. However, we really want to be getting most of the fat in our diets from heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Rapeseed oil is much cheaper than coconut oil and contains a lot more of these heart-healthy fats.
3. Brown rice or lentils for quinoa
You could swap quinoa for other high-fibre whole grains or if you’re wanting a protein and fibre boost from your meal, use lentils, which contain more fibre and protein per 100 grams than quinoa.
4. Blackberries for goji berries
Goji berries are a dried fruit usually promoted for their high antioxidant content. However, blackberries are cheaper (free if you forage for them!), high in vitamin C and contain less sugar than dried goji berries.
5. Flax seeds for chia seeds
Both these seeds contain high amounts of the omega 3 fatty acid AHA (alpha-linolenic acid), which your body converts to the useful forms EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). However, flax seeds contain a comparative amount of omega 3 for a lower price.
6. Black tea for green tea
Both teas have been linked with similar health benefits, but black tea is much cheaper and doesn’t hold the same health halo green tea does.
7. Any other seasonal or frozen berries for blueberries
Blueberries are high in antioxidants. However, despite their elevated health status and price tag, their health effects and nutrient content are comparable to other berries.
8. Spinach for spirulina
A tablespoon of spirulina doesn’t count towards your five a day. A salad containing 80 grams of spinach, on the other hand, provides one portion of veg. Spirulina is sometimes promoted as a good source of B12 for vegetarians and vegans, but it doesn’t contain a significant amount of the active form of B12 that humans can use.