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There’s so much excitement surrounding shiny, new, expensive, superfoods, that one may be forgiven for thinking that cheap vegan superfoods don’t exist.
Unfortunately, it seems that if something is cheap and easily available, it doesn’t get media attention.
It’s sad, is what it is.
I could have listed a hundred really because there aren’t many fruits and vegetables that aren’t good for you, but if I promise you a list of cheap vegan superfoods and all you get is a massive long list of veggies then I have not done my job.
Even iceberg lettuce, which for years was believed to be little more than water and thin green paper, in fact, contains some pretty nutritious…nutrients.
I compiled my list considering two factors: nutritiousness and ease of use
Nutritiousness – it’s a real word, promise. It means how nutritious something is.
Ease of use – sure, quinoa’s healthy, but you have to rinse it and cook it. The cooking is fine but the rinsing is a ball ache, because it gets all caught in the sieve. Quinoa didn’t make this list because it’s cheap and hard to use.
As you can see, the ‘ease of use’ parameter is set very low indeed.
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Too lazy to read about cheap vegan superfoods?
Here’s a table I made using Google, Numbers, Canva, and tears.
It shows all the basic nutritional info of the foods. I hope you find it useful BUT please bear in mind that it’s easy to eat 100g of broccoli but don’t go thinking that you can down a whole pot of cacao to get your iron in. Your tastebuds will never recover.
I know it’s not going to win best designed table of the year or anything but I DID MY BEST.
1 – Broccoli
It’s medium easy to use (although if you have it chopped up small into coleslaw it means you can forgo the cooking).
The reason it got the top spot?
It’s the first one I thought of
It’s sooooo good for you.
It’s both an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory, is packed with all the cool vitamins (C and K), it has folate…it’s just a true superhero.
In order to reap the full benefits of broccoli, chop it 40 mins before you cook it. I can’t remember why, but I’m sure there was a reason that stuck in my brain.
2 – Chickpeas
Yeah, they’re super good for you (high in cancer-fighting saponins and B vitamins, low calorie, magnesium BUT they’re easy to sneak meals.
Obviously hummus. We all love hummus.
I can’t do a list on cheap vegan superfoods without mentioning hummus, though it had to be included with chickpeas because they’re cheaper.
BUT you can also put chickpeas in smoothies. They don’t taste of anything, don’t turn it murky browny/green (fuck you, spinach) and they ramp up the protein so you don’t have to put in protein powder.
Vegan protein powder is not cheap. And if it is cheap, it’ll taste rank.
I’m sorry. I don’t make the rules.
3 – Lentils
High in fibre, low in fat, lower your cholesterol, complex carbs so they keep you fuller for longer AND they usually come in a tin with a ring pull (brown lentils) OR you can just pour them, dry, straight into your curry or chilli or whatever.
You could probably whack any leftover lentils in a smoothie. I’ve not tried it, but they don’t really taste of much, do they?
4 – Plant milk
Where do vegans get their calcium?
A 100ml portion of most commercial plant milks are fortified with 15% of your RDA of calcium. My smoothies usually contain about 400ml of milk (yes, I’m greedy). If I then have a plant milk hot chocolate or something, my calcium quota is filled.
Bear in mind that not all plant milks are created equally when it comes to nutritional content – rather than going into detail here (we’re 500 words down already), check out this post if you’re confused by the plethora of plant milks out there.
5 – Herbs/spices
I could do a whole post on the nutritional content of all the different herbs and spices, dried versus fresh versus frozen, but that’s something I’ll do when I have more time on my hands.
For today’s purposes, all we need to know is:
- All herbs and spices, whether fresh or dried, are PACKED with antioxidants
- There are very few meals that you can spice or herb up in some way. Cinnamon on your oats, ginger in your smoothie, parsley in your sandwich, coriander in your soup etc etc etc.
- Whether they’re a cheap vegan superfood. Er, yes, they are.
6 – Frozen berries
I could probably write a whole post on why I prefer frozen blueberries over fresh ones but today I’ll just stick to the basics:
- They’re a billion times cheaper
- They last a billion times longer
- You don’t get the odd weirdly squishy one
So that’s why I buy frozen blueberries. The reason I buy frozen raspberries is that if I buy fresh ones the punnet will be empty before I’ve even got home from the shops.
I shan’t go into why blueberries are superfoods. They just are. They’re low in all the bad stuff and high in all the good stuff. They’re full of antioxidants, can aid your memory, and can APPARENTLY slow the onset of Parkinson’s. Overachievers or what?
7 – Spinach
Like blueberries, spinach is quite the media darling at the moment and rightly so. Not only is it suuuper cheap (a £1.50 bag will last me over a week, though note that its effectiveness diminishes with age – whose doesn’t?) but it’s extremely good for you. it’s packed full of vitamins and minerals and is especially good for digestion and your skin.
It is a source of calcium and iron, but not a great one, because it also contains compounds that inhibit absorption of those minerals, called oxalates. In order to maximise absorption, eat with foods rich in vitamin C, but mainly don’t assume that you’ll get all of your calcium and iron by eating shedloads of spinach.
8 – Potatoes
Few things bum me out quite as much as the health and wellness community’s disdain of potatoes.
But they are my personal favourite food, as well as being a cheap vegan superfood.
Oh, they fucking LOVE sweet potatoes with their beta carotene and vitamin C, but they HATE their starchy, dirty, butter-covered relative.
White potatoes are pretty fucking good for you, and half the price.
They have a decent amount of protein and fibre, and loads of manganese, vitamin B6, potassium and vitamin C.
They are also the MVP at dinnertime. Sure, baked and mashed sweet potatoes have their place, but they ARE not a decent replace for proper potatoes.
THIS IS THE HILL I DIE ON.
9 – Brown rice
I know it’s boring and takes a thousand years to cook, but it’s CHEAP. And really good for you.
Why? Oh, the usual – high in fibre and protein, low in fat, and high in antioxidants.
As far as I’m aware, it’s not something you’d put in smoothies or sandwiches (probably why I don’t eat it a lot), but as a side for curry or chilli or fake risotto (if you like risotto but hate stirring, I have a recipe for a pseudo-risotto I make using microwaveable brown rice – it’s in this post on easy vegan dinners)
10 – Sunflower seeds
I’m pretty sure that all seeds are extremely good for you, but the thing about sunflowers is that they’re cheap.
Chia and flax seeds can be expensive(I get them in bulk from Amazon – (this is an affiliate link) click here* for chia seeds, and (as is this) here* for ground flax seeds), an even if you can get them cheaply in bulk, there’s still that large initial outlay.
And what if you never use them?
11 – Cacao
Cacao is very good for you – it contains 20 times more antioxidants than blueberries, and lots of other cancer-fighting, heart strengthening compounds.
It’s a bit more expensive than regular cocoa, but you only need a teeny tiny amount, because Christ, it’s bitter.
I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s really good in smoothies – blend it with some frozen bananas and raspberries, plant milk, peanut butter, and maple syrup and you have yourself a delicious smoothie.
12 – Mushrooms
Mushrooms are a little extreme in terms of edibility, don’t you think?
They’re either super good for you, full of fibre and B vitamins and antioxidants, or they kill you by shutting down your internal organs.
This depends on the type, btw. You’re not playing Russian Roulette every time you get extra mushrooms on your pizza.
Have you noticed how many things have antioxidants in them? It’s amazing that free radicals haven’t been irradicated completely.
13 – Oats
Oats are great because you can make sweet snacks with them and pretend they’re healthy. I like overnight oats in winter because smoothies are too cold. And if you warm up a smoothie it’s not a smoothie anymore, it’s soup.
Oats are full of fibre, low in fat and keep SOME PEOPLE full for a really long time. I say SOME PEOPLE because oats do not fill me up for very long.
14 – Bananas
They come in their own, compostable, case for god’s sake.
And not like oranges which yes, come in a case, but won’t let you open that case without making every inch of your exposed skin sticky.
Sure, they’re full of sugar, but what fruit isn’t?!
Frozen bananas turn into ice cream when blended.
They’re high in potassium and antioxidants and may help fight cancer and heart disease.
They can even make plant milk out of them now.
I mean, what more can you ask for?
15 – Peanut butter
Cheap, high in protein, delicious, sweet, savoury, breakfast, lunch, tea, snack.
I feel like almond butter has stolen peanut butter’s thunder a little bit, but for those of us on the breadline, it’s peanut butter all the way.
It’s a healthy fat, boosts energy, and contains vitamin E.
Well done, peanut butter, queen of the cheap vegan superfoods.
Final notes on cheap vegan superfoods
I would just like to say that just because there are loads of cheap vegan superfoods easily available at your local supermarket, doesn’t mean you can’t live on potato smiles and Quorn fish fingers.
In fact, I’m pretty sure frozen peas are a cheap vegan superfood. Microwave a cup of those and you’re healthy.
I just like to provide everyone with options. If you want to be one of those vegans that eats fifteen bananas and calls that lunch, go for it.
If anyone needs a little reference guide, I’ve created (ON MY OWN) a table compiling all fifteen superfoods and their basic nutrition info.