By: Dr. John Bagnulo, Director of Nutrition

More often than not, the news surrounding our current food supply is sobering. Many of us are left asking, "What the hell is there left to eat that is safe?" It can be a good question when we take a look at the research around glyphosates, pesticides, heavy metals, and a variety of other environmental toxins that are regularly showing up in food. While some of us try to avoid too much sugar and excessive amounts of carbohydrates, others avoid meat and animal protein because of how much of it is inhumanely raised and their concerns around the health-effects of eating it. The Food World has been crazy for a while so these aren’t exactly new developments.

In an effort to provide a very basic blueprint of what foods many of us can eat and foods that can provide us with the bulk of nutrients we need (as well as a diversity of fiber, healthy fats and a good amount of protein), this list can hopefully offer some families a good starting point. No, it will not be ideal for everyone. There will be families who will not eat sardines, people who don’t eat any grain (even though buckwheat is a little different), and certainly individuals who just do not like grapefruits! This list however is made up of foods that have regularly been tested to show very low levels of chemical contamination, are very nutrient dense, and are generally more affordable than many of their cousins. They are, in essence, a who’s who of the best foods when we think health and economics. Check them out, listed below, in no particular order of preference.

  • Avocados: sliced or mashed and paired with anything you can think of!
  • Leeks: eat them raw as medallions with goat cheese or simmer in a lentil stew.
  • Asparagus: serve steamed and combined with eggs and cauliflower in an omelet.
  • Sweet Potatoes: steam or boil them, then cool and top with mashed avocado.
  • Grapefruits: peel and eat these like an orange. These fruits are low in fructose and high in fermentable fiber.
  • Cauliflower: serve steamed and then mashed as a high fiber, high choline rice or mashed potato replacement.
  • Buckwheat: it is gluten-free, low in anti-nutrients, and rich in antioxidants. It’s also a great source of resistant starch. Buckwheat makes a very hearty breakfast porridge especially if you can poach an egg in it while simmering. Salt it lightly and watch it as it cooks very fast. Caution: do not buy roasted varieties as they contain acrylamide.
  • Sardines: these are best if packed in water with no additives. Add fresh squeezed lemon juice and olive oil to these and combine with sliced carrots, daikon radish, and chopped romaine.
  • Organic Eggs (must be organic): Delicious when soft boiled, poached, or added to simmering lentils with herbs and vegetables. At an average US price of 40 cents per organic egg, you really can’t beat the nutrition offered by these superstars.
  • Lentils: These legumes cook faster and cost less than similar protein-rich plant foods. They are extremely versatile and, after cooked, can be made into everything from a vegetarian meatloaf to a cold-served lentil and red onion salad (with salt, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar). Note that darker varieties are a bit more nutritious than the lighter types.

Dr. John Bagnulo is the Director of Nutrition at Functional Formularies and leads nutrition research and development initiatives. Learn more about Dr. Bagnulo here.