Four Inexpensive Superfoods to Boost Your Energy, Health and Wellbeing Without Breaking Your Budget

Have you ever wandered into a health food store like I did the other day, looked at the latest hyped-up ‘superfoods’ and just about fainted when you saw the price?
Here’s a secret, the purveyors of those over-priced foods don’t want you to know: Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive!
Here are 4 foods that will boost your energy and immune system, vitality and wellbeing, assist weight loss and won’t break your budget:
1. Liver
Liver is one of the most nutritious and under-appreciated foods – an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin B12, a great source of iron and and a good source of selenium, zinc and other B vitamins – and yet it is extremely cheap because there is so little demand for it!
Many New Zealanders have low levels of selenium as our soils are deficient in this mineral. Selenium is one of the most important antioxidants and a diet containing adequate selenium may reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Fish, shellfish and Brazil nuts are also good sources of selenium.
Many women are low in iron prior to menopause, which can contribute to low energy and increased susceptibility to infections. Iron deficiency may cause heavy periods, which further deplete iron – a vicious cycle. Liver is one of the best sources of iron, typically containing around 2-3 times as much as muscle meat. Iron from animal sources is absorbed about 10 times as efficiently as iron from plants.
Vitamin B12 is particularly important for the elderly, who typically absorb this vitamin poorly and are often deficient as a result. It is likely that many cases of senile dementia result from vitamin B12 deficiency and could be prevented by regular liver consumption.
Liver is a great source of all the B vitamins except thiamine (vitamin B1). Vitamins B2 and B3 are essential for energy production and more than one of my clients has reported a dramatic immediate energy boost after eating liver. Liver is one of the best sources of vitamin B6, which is required to make most neurotransmitters, so liver may help to stabilize mood and reduce stress levels.
Vitamin A and zinc are important for many different functions, particularly for the skin, eyes and immune system. Liver is extremely high in vitamin A – so much so that it should be eaten in moderation, to avoid overdose. Excess vitamin A may exacerbate vitamin D deficiency in the elderly, causing brittle bones. Excess vitamin A may also increase the risk of birth defects in pregnancy (as does insufficient vitamin A), therefore pregnant women should not consume more than 50g of liver per week and other people should not consume more than 3kg per year.
If you’re one of those people who just ‘doesn’t like liver’, try liver p?�t?� – most supermarkets sell it and it’s almost as nutritious as fresh liver.
2. Fish
Oily fish such as salmon and sardines are the only foods high in beneficial long-chain omega 3 essential fatty acids and vitamin D, important for mood, bones, brain and immune system health. 30-50{85749dbeb316c0c24e3d1d8256d88d9743ccf0cc93f2eb8c87e0d763618d2741} of New Zealanders are thought to have sub-optimal levels of vitamin D, which may increase the risk of cancer and heart disease. We can also make vitamin D in our skin from sunlight in summer. Low vitamin D levels in winter are thought to be one of the reasons why people catch more colds and flu at this time of year. To maintain adequate vitamin D levels in winter, eat at least 600 grams of oily fish such as salmon per week. Yes, fresh salmon is expensive (but delicious!) but canned Alaska pink salmon is cheap and just as nutritious.
Fish is also a good source of selenium and iodine, which many New Zealanders are deficient in. Iodine is required for thyroid hormone, which is essential for energy, healthy weight, memory and mood. Low thyroid hormone may cause fatigue, constipation, dry skin, muscle aches, tenderness, stiffness and weakness, heavy periods and depression.
3. Kale
Do you have a vegetable garden at home? I highly recommend it. Nothing beats the taste of home grown tomatoes, especially my favourite – Cherokee Purple – so sweet and delicious that several people have told me that my Cherokee Purple tomatoes are the best tomatoes they’ve ever tasted.
If you do have a garden, one crop you must grow in winter is kale, the original form of cabbage. Kale prefers cooler weather so is best sown in late summer or early autumn.
Kale is high in calcium, vitamin C (when eaten raw or steamed for no more than 5 minutes), vitamin K and folic acid.
Calcium is essential for strong bones and regulating blood pressure. Inadequate calcium intake may cause osteoporosis and/or hypertension, especially in pregnancy.
Vitamin C is required to synthesize collagen, the main structural protein in the body, required for healthy blood vessels, skin, bones, joints, and muscles. Vitamin C is also needed to burn fat.
Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and strong bones and is particularly important for children and pregnant women as low vitamin K levels may produce a narrow face and crowded teeth.
Unfortunately kale is not particularly fashionable so if you don’t have your own vegetable garden, you’ll find it hard to buy. In this case, broccoli is a good second choice.
4. Nuts and seeds
Along with kale, nuts and seeds are one of the best sources of magnesium. Pumpkin, flax, sunflower and sesame seeds, almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts are all high in magnesium.
Magnesium is essential for more than three hundred functions in the body, particularly energy production and nerve conduction. Magnesium relaxes body and mind, and assists sleep.
Brazil nuts are by far the richest source of selenium. Two Brazil nuts a day supply your entire selenium requirement. Regular consumption of more than 15 Brazil nuts a week may result in selenium overdose.
Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc and sunflower, sesame and flax seeds are high in thiamine (vitamin B1), essential for energy production.
Sunflower seeds are high in omega 6 and flax seeds and walnuts are high in omega 3, the two essential fatty acids, which help to regulate mood, skin and gut health, immunity and inflammation.
Regular consumption of the above foods is one of the best things you can do for your health. Many people notice dramatic improvements in energy and mood within just a few days of eating them. Healthy eating is cheap and easy – start eating more of these foods today!