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Optimal Health without Costing the Earth.

With the rise in living costs, we're all feeling extra pressure on our pockets at the moment, leading to different or difficult choices to be made on where we spend our money. It can be a time of increased stress, where the basic necessities can over-ride supporting our long-term health. However, with increasing pressure on the NHS, it's now more important than ever to focus on maintaining optimal physical and cognitive function during this challenging period, and beyond.

Optimal health can be considered as costly, due to cheaper foods often being higher in sugar and ultra-processed ingredients, gym memberships and premium nutritional supplements, which can be expensive. Here's some tips on how to continue to support and optimise your health, whilst still watching the pennies.

It starts in the shop:

What's consistent among all of the most evidence-based ways of eating is a diet that's high in fibre from vegetables and (some) fruit, and includes healthy fats and lean protein. This should therefore be the focus of your food shop, for most people.

Eat local and seasonal – seasonal and local fruit and vegetables are much cheaper. For example, British apples are much cheaper than imported mangoes, and tomatoes are priced lower in August than in December. Many supermarkets have offers on a number of vegetables at different times of the year, which encourages dietary diversity too.

Organic/Non-Organic – If you're committed to organic, then organic veg box deliveries are often a more economical choice than buying organic from a supermarket, and they also have a lower carbon footprint. If you're switching from organic to non-organic, you can use a veg wash or apple cider vinegar in water to help remove pesticides. Also, you can choose the products that are most associated with being clean/fewer pesticides (clean 15) and avoiding those with the most pesticides (dirty dozen), see However, remember fresh wholefoods are still a better option than processed foods, so look at veg washing rather than avoiding them altogether.

Chose value produce

Vegetables such as onions, carrots, mushrooms and cabbage, are low in cost but extremely high in many health-providing nutrients including quercetin, beta carotene, beta-glucans and sulforaphane. They can also be easily included in most dishes. One garlic clove, dried herbs or spices and ginger can contribute to your 5 a day (minimum) and can last quite a long time, so are a great way of giving a healthful boost to a meal (they're all great anti-inflammatory foods too).

Frozen fruit and vegetables can be a good way to avoid waste and have constant availability of products when the cupboard is getting bare. The freezing process also preserves levels of many nutrients.

Tinned vegetables, such as tomatoes, are economical, easy to use and can have an increased availability of some phytonutrients, such as lycopene. The way in which some vegetables are preserved by canning means that they may contain salt and sugar but can be a good staple to provide fibre in the diet. Read labels carefully for additives (you may have to take your magnifying glass with you!)

Some supermarkets have “ugly” or “wonky” vegetables, which might not look as beautiful, but have the same nutrient quality and are often higher in certain phytonutrients as they've undergone more stress (which increases some phytonutrients).

Cheaper cuts

If you consume meat and/or fish, there are cheaper cuts or sources available, so have a look around and be open minded. Search for recipes that utilise these ingredients, which will increase dietary diversity too. It's also a good idea to opt for meat- free days to reduce cost, but which can also improve health by limiting red