Our bodies are awesome works of nature that are full of surprises.
For them to remain that way, we must eat properly.
There are different ideas on what eating properly means.
To be specific, include all the food nutrients in your diet. Don’t eat too much of one and less of another. Or leave out any nutrient. Otherwise, you’re likely to suffer from a deficiency disease.
A nutrient that you should consider most is proteins.
Let’s get back to Biology class for a moment: Proteins are organic molecules comprised of amino acids.
These amino acids are important for the proper functioning of your body. They exist in two forms. First are nonessential amino acids, that the body can manufacture for itself.
Second are essential amino acids, that the body can’t make, and therefore we need to include in our diets.
Our bodies require proteins to make essential molecules such as antibodies, enzymes, neurotransmitters, and hormones- in short, what you are. See those beautiful locks of hair you have? And the nails? A large part of them is made of protein.
Protein also assists in growth and repair, replaces worn-out cells and transports a variety of substances all over the body. In addition, it’s a crucial building block of blood, bones, cartilage, skin, and muscles.
Ok, class dismissed. Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, you can get your delicious dose of protein. It’s available in animals and plants.
Examples of animal protein are beef, milk, chicken, and fish. Plant proteins include lentils, beans, and peanuts.
Many protein sources are expensive. However, that shouldn’t stop you from eating them if you’re on a budget.
Luckily, there are sources of it that won’t put a strain on your bank account. Here are 10 cheapest sources of protein that you should eat as often as possible:
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Research shows that eggs are the most affordable and readily available sources of protein in many parts of the world.
Apart from protein, they also contain fat and a whole lot of other nutrients such as:
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
- Zeaxanthin and lutein
- Vitamin B-12
- Folic acid
- Vitamin B-2
You can eat it alone if you choose or include it in meals. It’s mostly used to make huevos rancheros, quiche, pancakes, and kedgeree.
There are lots of health benefits of indulging your taste buds with eggs. Here are some of them:
Eggs Promote a Healthy Brain
They contain choline that can improve brain function and is used by the body to make acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is an organic chemical that works in our brains as a neurotransmitter.
They also have cholesterol that can strengthen the structures and cells of the brain and helps form brain cell membranes.
They Aid in Weight Loss
If you’re trying to shed some pounds, eggs are the food for you. Eating them keeps you full, therefore reducing your calorie intake. It’s also ideal for you if you’re looking to stay in shape.
They Keep the Immune System Healthy
Eggs contain selenium, Vitamin A, and vitamin B-12 that are key components in maintaining a healthy immune system.
They Maintain Strong Muscles
The protein in them keeps your muscles strong and flexible while reducing the rate at which you lose them.
Most of the vitamins in it plus lutein and zeaxanthin help in lowering your chances of getting eye complications such as macular degeneration that’s a leading cause of age-related blindness.
2. Canned Tuna
Tuna is a number one choice of a snack or quick lunch or dinner for most people for a great reason. It’s as delicious and nutritious as fish, only cheaper.
Its nutritional value depends on the type you go for. There are five main types of canned tuna:
Oil Pack Tuna
It contains lots of calories even when drained. A number of omega-3 fats are lost during draining. Canola or vegetable oil is added to its can for processing. The pouches contain less added liquid when compared to the cans.
It’s tan-pink to tan in color and has a stronger flavor and texture than white tuna.
It’s the least expensive type, is made up of smaller pieces of fish, and might appear mushy or shredded. Broth or water is added to the can for processing purposes. Pouches contain less added liquid than the cans and it has lesser calories even when it’s drained.
It’s made up of large and whole fish pieces.
Albacore or White Tuna
It’s low in fat, is light pink to white, has a mild flavor and a firm texture. It’s rich in Omega-3, phosphorus, calcium, iron, iodine, vitamins B, D and A and has a low-calorie content.
As much as tuna is nutritious, there’s a slight health risk about it. It may contain high levels of methylmercury, which is a harmful environmental pollutant.
Some of the health effects of methylmercury are impaired speech and hearing, developmental delays in kids, lack of coordination, and sight problems.
It’s okay to eat it but do so in moderation.
3. Black Beans
Also known to some as turtle beans, black beans are legumes that are rich in fiber and protein. They got their whacky nickname because of their hard, shell-like look.
They contain plenty of other nutrients like folate, phosphorus, vitamin K, carbohydrates, magnesium, niacin, potassium, iron, fat, and calcium.
If you prefer canned black beans, go for those with no added sodium. And, drain and rinse them.
For dried black beans, you will sort, wash then soak them in water for approximately 8-10 hours before cooking them.
This makes cooking them easier and helps remove some of the oligosaccharides that are responsible for gastrointestinal problems. If you soak them longer, it can help to reduce phytates, which may lower mineral absorption.
Over to their health benefits:
- The phytonutrients, potassium, vitamin B6, fiber, and folate, combined with their zero-cholesterol property, promote a healthier heart. The fiber lowers blood cholesterol as well, therefore nullifying the risk of heart disease
- They reduce appetite due to their high-fiber content. This lowers your chances of suffering from obesity and increasing your chances of recovering from it if you have it already
- They contain magnesium, potassium, and calcium and are low in sodium, which allows them to keep your blood pressure in check
- Black beans are rich in selenium that detoxifies several cancer-causing compounds in your body. It also contributes largely to liver enzyme function, decreases the rate of tumor growth and prevents inflammation
- These beans also help prevent constipation since they’re packed with fiber
- Your bones will stay healthy if you eat black beans. They contain copper, calcium, zinc, and magnesium that play a huge part in maintaining and building bone strength and structure.
4. Natural Peanut Butter
Don’t mix this up with regular peanut butter. There are noticeable differences. First of all, natural peanut butter contains only two components: Salt and peanuts. This makes it a healthier alternative. There are varieties that have no salt too if you want to torture yourself.
Regular peanut butter, on the other hand, also contains sugar and hydrogenated vegetable oil so its consistency isn’t affected by temperature or time.
Secondly, natural peanut butter has to be stirred to achieve the right consistency. The oil in it separates from solids when left to sit.
As such, you must stir it before consumption. It’s also grainier than regular peanut butter. Think twice before refrigerating it. It’s harder to work it with when semi-frozen.
Ordinary peanut butter doesn’t need stirring. It maintains its state no matter the temperature. It’s a better pick if you’re looking for a tasty treat.
Natural peanut butter is packed with nutrients, each of which plays an incredible role in your body’s wellbeing. Some of them are:
- Pantothenic acid
- Monounsaturated fatty acids
It also has amazing health benefits. Eating it, for instance, reduces your chances of getting type II diabetes. It contains unsaturated fats that improve the sensitivity of insulin.
It’s an antioxidant as well thanks to the thiamin, folate, niacin, pyridoxine and pantothenic acid in it.
Natural peanut butter also lowers your levels of cholesterol. It’s a top source of compounds like phytosterols, resveratrol, flavonoids and phenolic acids that hinder the absorption of cholesterol from the diet.
These small, oily fish may look gross when they’re raw, but once you’ve turned them to dinner, you’ll realize that looks aren’t always everything.
They are known as pilchards in some places in the world. Though they are thought of as a single species, there are 21 kinds of fish that fall under the sardines group.
Commonly eaten sardines are dussumieria, Sardina, sardinella, and Sardinops that are found mainly in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
Sardines mostly come in canned form. Before canning, they’re washed, prepared by deep-frying or steam-cooking then dried. Some manufacturers pack the final product in mustard sauce or tomato, as well as olive oil or soy.
They’re mainly packed whole, though the quality types have their gills and heads discarded.
This convenient delicacy is rich in a variety of nutrients such as Vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin K, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin, choline, omega-3 fats, phosphorus, and selenium.
Sardines are good for you. They have tones of health benefits. Some of them are listed below:
Preventing Blood Clots
Blood clots in the arteries could lead to death. The omega-3 in sardines keeps the heart healthy. It reduces blood pressure and cholesterol, thereby hindering atherosclerosis and stroke.
Promoting Strong Bones
Eating sardines when they are whole allows you to get their calcium. Calcium keeps your bones strong. When combined with regular exercise, it can prevent diseases like osteoporosis.
The fats they contain play a crucial part in the cellular stage in skin cells. They keep the skin looking soft and radiant.
Milk is a popular drink and ingredient in food. It’s delicious whether you have it plain or with sugar.
Many people take it in the evening before going to bed. Others use it to make tea. Whichever way you choose to have it, strive to consume this white liquid as regularly as you can.
Some people can’t digest lactose, which is the sugar in milk after they are weaned.
Their bodies don’t produce enough lactase that’s required to digest milk properly. If you’re among them, don’t worry. Take milk substitutes such as soy and almond milk.
Milk is not only good for calves and babies but it’s good for you too. It contains vitamins and minerals like:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
By drinking milk, you maintain the healthy state of your heart. It reduces your chances of getting strokes and cardiovascular diseases. The peptides in it prevent the creation of angiotensin-converting enzymes, or ACEs, which increase blood pressure.
It also keeps your teeth in excellent shape. It protects the enamel against acidic surfaces. Taking milk frequently, therefore, reduces the risk of weak gums and decaying teeth.
Looking to keep your bones strong even in old age? A glass of milk a day is a sure way to achieve this. It contains calcium, which is crucial for growth and proper development of a strong bone structure.
It also protects the body from ailments like premenstrual syndrome, bone loss, migraine headaches, obesity, and arthritic conditions.
Edamame is a food that most people eat without knowing what it really is. They’re young soya beans that have been harvested before they have hardened or ripened.
They’re mostly sold frozen, in the pod or fresh and are green in color. Edamame can perfectly fit into any category, whether as a snack or a main course. You can prepare them by pan-frying, microwaving for a couple of minutes, boiling or steaming.
The most common way of preparing them if you’re up for the main meal is adding a pinch of salt in them and adding them to noodle dishes, stews, salads, and soups.
It contains so many nutrients. Some of the main ones are potassium, fat, calcium, vitamin K, vitamin C, folate, iron, calories, proteins, and magnesium.
Edamame helps in curing and preventing cancer, especially breast and prostate cancer. It contains genistein, an isoflavone that has antioxidant properties that hinder the growth of cancerous cells.
Also, the iron in it boosts energy levels. Little or no iron in the diet can affect how the body makes use of energy.
For women in menopause, edamame can work wonders for their bones. The soy isoflavones in these beans increase bone mineral density and decrease bone loss during this stage in life. Studies show that it can reduce other menopause-related symptoms.
One of the best ways to cure depression is chomping down edamame. Go figure! The folate in them relieves depression by hindering too much homocysteine formation in the body.
Too much homocysteine prevents blood and other nutrients from reaching the brain. It can also interfere with the production of feel-good hormones like norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine.
8. Ground Turkey
If beef isn’t your choice of food, substitute it with this delicious yet affordable protein. Add it on your tacos, meatloaf, spaghetti source, burgers, and others and the result is always the same: Amazing.
Though studies show it’s high in sodium, cholesterol and saturated fat, the upside is it comes in a fat-free version that you can enjoy.
This lean meat is also rich in other nutrients such as:
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
One of the health perks of eating it is it boosts your metabolism. Compounds in it like thiamin, niacin, and zinc increase your metabolic rate thus saving you from weight gain.
Ground turkey is also good for your heart as long as you don’t cook it in too much oil. It’s recommended that you couple the meat with exercise to experience maximum cardiovascular health.
Additionally, the meat is rich in phosphorus, which, after vitamin K, calcium and vitamin D, strengthens your teeth and bones as well.
Looking to get flawless skin without so much hassle? Just include turkey breast into your salads. The skin absorbs its nutrients and the glorious effect will show.
With meat, it’s always good to be safe before, during and after eating it. Ground turkey is no different.
To prevent suffering from food poisoning from bacteria like Salmonella, cook meatloaf or burgers made with ground turkey thoroughly to a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you wish to cook it later, refrigerate it at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder and don’t store it for more than two days.
Lastly, wash your hands, cutting boards, utensils, etc., after cooking the meat to remove bacteria.
Lentils are a member of the legume family that comes in green, red, black and brown varieties. When compared to dried beans, they are easier to prepare and are lower in cost.
Any time you’re cooking lentils, don’t soak them. Their size allows them to cook in a very short time.
This nutritious source of protein is sold in two forms: Dried and canned. The dried version is excellent for sides, soups, salads, and stews while the canned version is ideal for ready-to-eat purposes such as a side dish or quick salad.
Lentils boast a variety of nutrients. Here are some of them: Potassium, folate, iron, vitamin B6, selenium, magnesium, riboflavin, copper, zinc, and pantothenic acid.
It’s got lots of health benefits like:
It Combats Fatigue
The leading cause of fatigue is a deficiency in iron. Lentils are a rich source of non-heme iron. Non-heme means the iron source isn’t the hemoglobin in the blood. This type of iron may be less easy for the body to absorb but it’s a wonderful choice for people who don’t eat meat.
It’s Ideal for Heart Health
Lentils contain potassium, fiber, and folic acid which support heart health. Regular fiber intake reduces low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in simple terms.
It Prevents Cancer
These legumes contain selenium that decreases tumor growth rates, prevents inflammation, and enhances the response of the immune system to infection by stimulating the production of disease-killing T-cells.
Selenium also detoxifies some cancer-causing compounds in the body and plays a crucial part in liver enzyme function.
10. Pumpkin Seeds
Sometimes referred to as ‘pepitas,’ which is Spanish for ‘little seeds of squash,’ pumpkin seeds are edible seeds. They are a key ingredient in Mexican cuisine, are often eaten as a healthy snack and are commonly roasted for consumption.
You can munch them as a snack or add them to dishes for a crunchy texture and extra taste. Pepitas are rich in an array of nutrients such as:
- Vitamin K
They’re rich in antioxidants like vitamin E and carotenoids that protect your cells from harmful free radicals and reduce inflammation.
Plus, pumpkin seeds are one of the best natural sources of magnesium that is necessary for approximately 600 reactions in your body. They include: Regulating blood sugar levels, controlling blood pressure, forming and maintaining healthy bones, and reducing the risk of heart diseases.
When supplemented with seed powder or pumpkin juice, they can reduce the blood sugar levels in people who have type 2 diabetes. This could be due to its high magnesium content.
These seeds can also be a big help to men who have infertility (and those who aren’t) since they are a rich source of zinc that improves sperm quality. They can also contribute to healthy testosterone levels and overall good health.
Affordable Proteins are Just as Effective as Costly Ones
The only difference between cheap and expensive protein is the price. Don’t be fooled by the ridiculous prices in fancy stores.
Whenever you’re eating the above proteins, you’re receiving similar nutrients with those who splurge green on them.
There’s a slight difference though: You’re financially wiser. By investing in affordable sources of protein, your bank account is intact and your health is better.
Always be cautious of what you take in. Be wary of the expiry date, handle your protein sources with care, and compliment your daily protein intake with exercise. Enjoy your cost-friendly healthy eating!