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It is hard to eat well on a budget. I know. I remember surviving for years off instant noodles and chips while at medical school… then wondering why my skin was bad and I couldn’t shake a cold for months on end. The benefits of a healthy diet include positive effects on mood, cognitive functioning, weight, sexual function, sleep, energy levels, immune function, digestive system, prevention of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, and skin, hair and eye health.
So if you think you could improve what you are eating, and see if it helps how you feel as well, here are a few basic tips, aimed at the student budget:
Oats: Cheaper than chips, oats contain more dietary fibre per gram than any other grain. This fibre helps to reduce your levels of harmful cholesterol, as well as reducing blood pressure, and lowering your risk of developing bowel cancer. Oats are often lauded as the “perfect brekkie”, partly for their health benefits but also because they leave you feeling full for longer… so you are less likely to need an unhealthy snack by the middle of the morning. If you are not a porridge fan, try making your own muesli or stirring them through yoghurt.
Green veges: Fresh vegetables and fruit can be expensive, but choosing what is in season is much more affordable. In winter, this includes green veges, like kale, spinach and bok choy. All these veges are full of vitamins, iron and antioxidants, so will help fight off those winter colds. They are really versatile to eat, and can be grown in a bucket! The less you cook them, the more health benefits you receive, so try chopping them in a salad, or steaming them for dinner.
Eggs: An incredibly rich source of protein, eggs contain all eight essential amino acids, required for growth and repair of body tissues. They also contain choline, crucial for the functioning of our brain, heart and nervous system.
Fish: All fish have health benefits, but oily fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel especially so. They contain high levels of omega-3 oils, which reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer and dementia, as well as improving brain function and memory. Fish is also a fantastic source of lean protein. If fresh fish is unaffordable,
canned options are cheap and healthy.
Nuts: Eating raw or toasted nuts as part of a healthy diet can have positive heart benefits. They can help lower LDL, the dangerous cholesterol in our blood, and provide similar omega-3 oils to fish. It doesn’t matter too much which nut you choose, although walnuts, almonds, pecans and hazelnuts appear to have the highest levels of these healthy oils. Add them to your breakfast, baking or stir-fries for an extra nutritional punch.