A sample rip-off list comes with a couple surprises – for example, did you know that gluten-free bread may not be the bargain you expect or that cereal packages with cartoons on the front are red lights for rip-offs?
The good news is there's a nice long list of 40 items that not only give you a good bang for your buck, but a boost to your health as well, such as blueberries, cinnamon, and sweet potatoes.
When it comes to the price of food, I think it's extremely important to remember that a food cannot be judged by its sticker price alone. Whether or not you're actually getting any nutrition from it is far more important. Believe me, a diet consisting of daily $1.99 hamburgers and other fast foods, while appearing to be frugal, is far from it when you consider what these foods are doing—or not doing—to your health.
This will be a progressively increasing concern as we are virtually assured in the United States and many other countries that there will be serious inflation coming as a result of the massive devaluation of the dollar.
Processed Foods are Massive Rip-Offs
While trying to list every single food that's a complete rip-off would result in a very thick book, I firmly believe it's safe to say that virtually all processed snacks and the majority of processed, pre-packaged meals are a massive waste of money. These types of foods consist mainly of fillers and additives, and very few actual nutrients. So while Funyuns made it onto Yahoo Health's list of rip-offs, I can't think of a single chip or puffed snack that doesn't belong on that list.
The same goes for virtually all breakfast cereals, whether they have cartoons on the box or not. Most cereals are frightfully high in sugar, and any nutrients they boast are in the form of suboptimal synthetic additives, or worse.
For example, iron fortified cereals can contain actual iron filings, which is a far cry from the bioavailable iron you get from iron-rich vegetables like spinach. If you haven't seen this eye-opening demonstration of what's really in that fortified breakfast cereal, take a look now—you'll probably never buy another box of cereal again, and rightfully so.
I do agree with the contention that some organic foods are rip-offs, when their conventional counterparts are already grown using low amounts of pesticides and the food in question must be peeled anyway, such as bananas.
The Environmental Working Group is a reliable source when trying to decide on what to buy organic. According to their latest 2010 pesticide review, the following 12 foods rank as the most pesticide-free produce, even when conventionally-grown, so you can save a few bucks by opting for the conventionally-grown version of these:
Onions Avocados Watermelon Pineapple Mango Frozen sweet peas Asparagus Kiwifruit Cabbage Eggplant Cantaloupe
Frozen sweet corn was on the list above but I've removed it to avoid confusion. I do NOT recommend consuming non-organic corn and even organic corn should be consumed sparingly.
The foods you want to splurge on by buying organic are foods that have permeable or edible skins, and/or that are conventionally grown with higher amounts of pesticides. Based on the EWG's report, the top 12 foods to buy organic include:
Grapes Potatoes Kale / Collard greens Cherries Spinach Sweet bell peppers Nectarines Blueberries Apples Strawberries Peaches Celery
For the whole list of produce, ranked from best to worst in terms of pesticide load, please see the EWG's listing.
Another major organic rip-off is organic milk. Because while organic milk must come from a cow that hasn't been fed artificial growth hormones or pesticide-laden feed, they're not necessarily pastured, or grass-fed cows. And worst of all organic milk (unless RAW) is still pasteurized, which destroys vital nutrients.
So, just because it's organic, doesn't mean it's worth a much higher price.
Rip-Offs in the Meat and Fish Aisles
When it comes to meats and fish, a lot of what you find in your local grocery store is not worth their price when you consider their nutrient to contamination ratio.
Yahoo Health' rip-off list includes swordfish, which is still considered a luxury by many. But when you factor in the high amounts of mercury you get from that swordfish, it just doesn't rank so high on the wish list anymore. Why would you want to pay $20 a pound or more knowing it's so contaminated that children and pregnant women shouldn't have a single serving of it?
I would also add any and all farmed fish to the list of rip-offs.
Nature didn't intend for fish to be crammed into pens and fed soy, GM corn, antibiotics, poultry litter and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result of this practice, farmed salmon, for example, is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT.
As for meat, I advise everyone to avoid conventionally-raised beef.
Because cattle were designed to eat grass, not grains. But farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. Compared with corn-fed beef, organically-raised grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
Conventionally-raised beef is also very high in pesticides (due to eating conventionally grown grains, and perhaps even genetically modified grains). In fact, non-organic meats can have up to five times more pesticides than non-organic vegetables!
This is why I recommend always buying organic, grass-fed beef. If you have to choose between buying organic beef or organic produce—get the organic beef. It'll give you the greatest bang for your buck in terms of health benefits.
Diet as "Health Insurance"
You can't tune into the news today without hearing about rising food prices. But rest assured, by knowing what foods to spend your money on, you can still protect and optimize your health without going bankrupt in the process.
Men's Health offers a list of 40 nutrient-dense food items—and that's really the key here. By opting for foods that are rich in vital nutrients, your body can thrive. This will automatically cut down on the inevitable health care costs you'd incur by making foolish dietary choices.
Below is a list of foods rich in nutrients that can help stave off a majority of health problems—foods that really give you lots of value.
As I've discussed on numerous occasions, one of the primary risk factors of diseases of all kinds is chronic inflammation in your body. Low inflammation levels and a strong immune system typically go hand in hand, and together these two factors lay the groundwork for robust health.
Some of the foods below are both inexpensive and highly nutritious, while others do cost a bit more but can go a long way toward healing your body of chronic inflammation and boosting your immune system naturally, without resorting to either supplements or drugs.
Unpasteurized (raw) grass-fed milk -- Raw organic milk from grass-fed cows contains both beneficial fats, bacteria that boost your immune system, and a number of vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Although raw milk availability is limited in the US, depending on where you live, you can locate the source closest to you at RealMilk.com.
Whey protein -- Even if you don't have access to raw milk, you can use a high-quality whey protein derived from the milk of grass-fed cows to receive much of the same health benefits. Whey protein contains beta-glucans and immunoglobulins, which protect your immune system and support your body's natural detoxification processes.
Fermented foods -- One of the most healthful fermented foods is kefir -- an ancient cultured, enzyme-rich food full of friendly microorganisms that balance your "inner ecosystem" and strengthen immunity. Besides kefir, other good fermented foods include natto, kimchee, miso, tempeh, pickles, sauerkraut, and olives.
Raw organic eggs from pastured chickens – Raw, free-range eggs are an inexpensive and amazing source of high-quality nutrients that many people are deficient in, especially high-quality protein and fat. To find free-range pasture farms, try your local health food store, or go to http://www.eatwild.com or http://www.localharvest.org.
Grass-fed beef or organ meats -- Grass-fed beef is very high in vitamins A, B12 and E, omega-3 fats, beta carotene, zinc and the potent immune system enhancer CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid). But don't confuse "organic" with grass-fed, since many organically raised cows are still fed organic corn, which you don't want. However, most grass-fed cows are raised organically.
Coconut oil -- Besides being excellent for your thyroid and your metabolism, coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, which converts in your body to monolaurin – a compound also found in breast milk that strengthens a baby's immunity.
Its medium chain fatty acids, or triglycerides (MCT's) also impart a number of health benefits, including raising your body's metabolism and fighting off pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. Make sure you choose an organic coconut oil that is unrefined, unbleached, made without heat processing or chemicals, and does not contain GM ingredients.
Berries -- Blueberries and raspberries rate very high in antioxidant capacity compared to other fruits and vegetables. They are also lower in fructose than many other fruits.
Broccoli – Broccoli contains the highest amount of isothiocyanates, a cancer-fighting compound, of all the crunchy vegetables. Studies have shown that just 10 spears a week (5 servings) can make a difference in your health.
Chlorella –This single-cell freshwater algae acts as an efficient detoxification agent by binding to toxins (most of which promote chronic inflammation), such as mercury, and carrying them out of your system. The chlorophyll in the chlorella helps you process more oxygen, cleanses your blood and promotes the growth and repair of your tissues. (For more information, please see my interview with expert, Ginny Banks.)
Tea – As for beverages, clean pure water is a must for optimal health, but if you want another beverage, a good choice with added health benefits is high quality herbal teas.
Matcha tea is the most nutrient-rich green tea and comes in the form of a stone-ground powder, completely unfermented. The best Matcha comes from Japan and has up to 17 times the antioxidants of wild blueberries, and seven times more than dark chocolate. Tulsi is another tea loaded with antioxidants and other micronutrients that support immune function and heart health.
Krill Oil—Krill oil is the only dietary supplement that makes it to this list, and that's only because the ideal food source for these essential omega-3 fats has been destroyed by widespread pollution. The dangers of eating fish simply outweigh the benefits due to the toxic mercury levels they now contain, with very few exceptions.
Antarctic krill oil is a pure marine oil loaded with powerful antioxidants and omega-3 oils, with NO heavy metal contamination.
I hope you'll find these suggestions helpful in making the most of your food budget in these economically challenging times.