These easy-to-find, affordable foods can help you up your antioxidant intake.

Welcome to Thrifty. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Jessica Ball keeps it real on how to grocery shop on a budget, make healthy meals for one or two, and make Earth-friendly choices without overhauling your entire life.

Antioxidants are compounds in your foods that can prevent oxidative damage to your cells and help you live a happier, healthier life. Case in point, research has found that antioxidant-rich foods may help prevent cognitive decline and dementia. There are many different types of antioxidants and, therefore, many different ways to get them in your diet. While it might seem like upping your intake will be expensive, it doesn't have to be—and these foods are proof. Read on for six of the best budget-friendly antioxidant-rich foods to add to your grocery list. 

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili
Credit: Photographer/Antonis Achilleos, Prop Stylist/Kay Clarke, Food Stylist/Emily Nabors Hall

1. Peanut Butter 

There are a lot of reasons why peanut butter is so great. Beyond its delicious flavor, it's super affordable. A 16-ounce container of Jif costs just $3.29—that's only $0.24 per 2-tablespoon serving! Plus, it's shelf-stable, versatile and lasts a long time. This makes it one of the most budget-friendly protein sources in the grocery store, and peanuts (and nuts in general) are packed with antioxidants. Other types of nut butters can get more expensive, but sunflower and almond butters are other affordable options if you avoid peanuts. However, look out for the added sugars and sodium content when choosing one.

2. Frozen Berries

I always have frozen berries on hand. They come in a larger package and last way longer than fresh berries, so it makes them easy to add to everything, from oatmeal and smoothies to dessert. Plus, berries are one of the most antioxidant-rich foods around, and the particular antioxidants they contain—called anthocyanins—are associated with better brain health as you age. Frozen berries are picked at peak ripeness and flash frozen, so you won't be sacrificing any nutrition compared to fresh berries. 

3. Canned or Dried Beans 

Canned and dried beans are a pantry staple for me, and I firmly believe beans are a food we could all be eating more of. They're super versatile, inexpensive, last years in your pantry and boast some impressive health benefits. Beans come in a variety of shapes, sizes and flavors, but they all are packed with fiber, protein, nutrients and antioxidants. Some research suggests that the type of antioxidants in beans might reduce cancer risk and promote longevity. With recipes like our Easy Vegetarian Chili, Classic Hummus and Breakfast Beans with a Microwave-Poached Egg, you can enjoy beans in any meal or snack, from breakfast to dinner. 

4. Apples 

You may have heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. While that old adage might need some fact-checking, it's well-supported that apples are a super-nutritious food. They're packed with fiber, vitamins and antioxidant compounds of a variety of types. Regularly consuming apples can help protect your heart health, boost your brain health and lower chronic disease risk, from diabetes to cancer. Not to mention, they last for weeks, which is much longer than most other fresh fruits. My favorite way to enjoy apples is sliced with nut butter or cheese, or in our Apple-Pie Baked Oats.   

5. Potatoes  

Ah, the humble potato. Though it may have a bad rep, it's a super-healthy and budget-friendly complex carb that deserves a spot in your eating pattern. Potatoes are packed with tons of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant. Together these nutrients can help protect your heart and lower cancer risk, especially if you have access to the purple variety (but any type of potato will help you reap the benefits). Try our Stuffed Potatoes with Salsa and Beans for a quick and flavorful main—it takes just 10 minutes of active time to prep.

6. Frozen Greens 

Cruciferous vegetables, which include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and a variety of dark leafy greens like kale, are packed with a variety of antioxidants. They can help with numerous body functions, including healthy skin, healthy immune function, promoting bone health, healthy vision and even reducing the risk of cancer. But we all know the struggle of buying a clamshell of leafy greens from the store only to realize it's gone bad before you get a chance to use it. That's why I typically opt for frozen greens instead. They work in everything from smoothies to casseroles and last way longer than their fresh counterparts. 

The Bottom Line 

Antioxidants might be trending, but that doesn't mean they need to be expensive. Foods like canned beans, frozen berries, potatoes and nut butter can help you up your intake while respecting your budget. Keep an eye out for these foods on your next grocery trip so you can reap the benefits in a delicious way.