4 Low-Cal, Low-Cost Nutrients to Eat This Summer

black beans Want a surprisingly simple way to optimize your health and cut your grocery bill at the same time?  Here are four summertime foods that promise the top nutritional value per penny and deliver high quality nutrition in every bite. Add them to your next shopping list or look for them on your next trip to the farmers’ market this week.

Beans and Potatoes When it comes to comparing the cost of fruits and vegetables, beans and potatoes come out on top. A recent study comparing nearly 100 fruits and vegetables found that beans and potatoes deliver the most nutrients per penny of the bunch. Beans and potatoes also boast impressive amounts of two nutrients the vast majority of Americans are falling critically short of – potassium and fiber.

Try smoky black beans in a soft grilled taco, a zesty homemade hummus made with chickpeas, garlic and fresh squeezed lemon or serve a side of black-eyed pea salad at your next party. Be sure to choose whole potatoes for the whole health (and cost) benefits, rather than highly processed potato products like French fries, mashed potatoes or chips. One medium potato is just 110 calories, delivers an excellent dose of vitamin C and packs more potassium than a banana.

Watermelon The farmers’ market is the perfect place to find these ultra-hydrating, ultra-economical fruits at a bargain right now. Many supermarket chains also offer locally grown summer melons, so look there as well. One of the top fruits when it comes to the antioxidant lycopene, watermelon racks up even more nutrition points because it’s an excellent source of vitamins A and C. Two cups of watermelon is also a good source of potassium, a key nutrient when it comes to healthy blood pressure. As the name implies, watermelon is rich in water (about 92%), which is why they feel so heavy when you pick one up. It’s this high water content that makes it a fantastic summer food to nourish, refresh and hydrate at the same time. All this while helping you fit into that summer swimsuit, since one cup of diced watermelon has just 46 calories. Savor it as a refreshing snack, in a salad or for dessert.

Mushrooms This one may surprise you, but mushrooms make a super affordable option when compared to meat. The meat-like texture makes them juicy and satisfying when marinated and tossed on a grill. They deliver that umami flavor of meat while slashing calories, saturated fats and sodium when starring as a burger. When swapped for meat as a main course, they will also help you stretch your food dollar, since most mushroom varieties cost considerably less than meat. And whether viewed through a Western medicine, integrative medicine or functional medicine lens, mushrooms are considered one of the world’s healthiest foods and are rich in a variety of nutrients, including B vitamins, the antioxidant selenium and Vitamin D.