Supermarket Saves (And Splurges)

Some health foods are well worth their heftier price tags. But budget-friendly items may be just as good for you—or even better

November 20, 2012
orange juice
Save: Orange Juice

Frozen: $2.55, 12 oz can / Premium: $6.79, 64 oz jug

Canned OJ from frozen concentrate may not have the appeal of a premium jug, but according to the journal Nutrition Research, it may be healthier. Made with the whole fruit (including the peel), it contains more hesperidin, a potent antioxidant found at highest levels in the rind. A daily glass may even help lower LDL cholesterol.

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tuna fish
Splurge: Tuna

Albacore: $1.69, 5 oz can / Boutique cannery albacore: $3.49, 5 oz can

There's a boatload of reasons to reel in canned tuna from boutique brands such as Wild Planet and Sustainable Seas. You'll end up with five times more omega-3 fats, because the tuna is cooked in the can rather than earlier in the process, so less is lost. Plus, boutique brands generally catch small fish that contain less mercury. They even pack their swimmers in BPA-free cans. (Search: What is BPA?)

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Splurge: Ketchup

Conventional: $1.79, 14 oz / Organic: $2.69, 15 oz

A squirt of ketchup on your burger may help reduce your risk of colon cancer, thanks to a healthy dose of lycopene. The Agricultural Research Service found that organic ketchup, made with tomatoes grown in high-quality organic soil, contains up to 60% more of the antioxidant. (Related: Should ketchup count as a vegetable on school lunch menus?)

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Splurge: Salt

Regular: $1.19, 26 oz / Fleur de sel: $8.99, 7 oz

"A pinch of a coarse gourmet salt contains less sodium than fine table salt," says Diane Henderiks, RD. And because it dissolves quickly, lending a hit of more complex flavor than regular salt, you'll use a lot less. Henderiks suggests sprinkling it on dishes such as soups, pasta, and roasted veggies as a finishing touch. (Related: 8 Secretly Salty Foods)

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chicken thigh
Save: Chicken

Boneless, skinless thighs: $2.99 Per lb / Boneless, skinless breasts: $3.29 Per lb

Save money and boost flavor by going over to the dark side. Chicken thighs contain about 1 more g of fat per serving than breasts but twice as much iron and nearly three times more immune-enhancing zinc. "And juicier dark meat doesn't dry out during cooking," Henderiks says. (Processors often inject breasts with salt to counteract drying.)

Save: Strawberries

Frozen: $2.98 Per lb / Fresh: $3.33 Per lb

You can't beat the flavor of strawberries from a farmers' market. But out of season, your best nutritional bet is frozen berries. They're harvested at peak ripeness and flash-frozen to lock in nutrients. By contrast, fresh fruits in supermarkets can lose nutrients during shipping. Frozen berries also have a longer shelf life.

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Splurge: Eggs

Regular: $2.45 a dozen / Omega-3 enriched: $3.05 a dozen

The old saw "you are what you eat" is as true for chickens as it is for people. By altering hens' diets to include omega-rich foods such as flaxseed, farmers obtain eggs containing up to three times more omega-3 fatty acids. But read labels to make sure the omega bump comes from a fatty acid called DHA, as opposed to ALA, which is not as powerful for heart and brain health.

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Splurge: Milk

Cow's milk: $1.49, 32 oz / Goat's milk: $4.59, 32 oz

Rich and tangy, goat's milk offers more nutrients and flavor. Spanish researchers found that it provides more omega-3s, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and cancer-fighting CLA (conjugated linoleic acid).

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