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Eating Healthy on the Cheap

Plant-based diets may offer the best investment for dietary health.

May 1, 2012 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited

Acknowledgements

Images thanks to Mat_the_W

Transcript

The public health community sees the economic downturn different than many people. For example: gasoline prices going up? Great! In the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study they found that Rising prices of gasoline may be associated with an unintended increase in physical activity, every 25 cent increase in gasoline price was associated with about an extra 10 exercise units, roughly equivalent to 17 min of additional walking per week for every extra quarter per gallon.
What effect might the economic downturn have on healthy eating, though? Recently researchers at Harvard compared the cost and healthfulness of various foods across the country hunting for the best nutritional bargain. They conclude that people should purchase more nuts, soy, and beans and whole grians, and less meat and dairy.
Although spending more money was associated with a healthier diet, large improvements in diet may be achieved without increased spending. The purchase of plant-based foods may offer the best investment for dietary health.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

For more on eating healthy on a budget, see my video Superfood Bargains and the follow-up Biggest Nutrition Bang For Your BuckThe Effect of Canned Tuna on Future Wages offers a perspective from the other side of the health/wealth equation. Just three of the hundreds of my videos on more than a thousand subjects—enjoy! Note that the Harvard paper is open access, so you can download its entirety by clicking on the link above in the Sources Cited section.

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts:  Uric Acid From Meat and Sugar and Best Nutrition Bang for Your Buck

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    For more on eating healthy on a budget, see my video Superfood Bargains and the follow-up Biggest Nutrition Bang For Your Buck. The Effect of Canned Tuna on Future Wages offers a perspective from the other side of the health/wealth equation. Just three of the hundreds of my videos on more than a thousand subjects—enjoy! Note that the Harvard paper is open access, so you can download its entirety by clicking on the link above in the Sources Cited section.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=670735069 Tan Truong

    I’ve begun to spend most of my time in the produce section anyway. Anything I need outside of that section, pretty much more than doubles my spending sometimes.

  • Thea

    This video is very helpful for the newbies.  I can not tell you how often I have had conversations with people who tell me that they can’t afford to eat healthy.  They have been brainwashed by the media.  You’ll notice that this study has received exactly zero media attention.

    Having videos like this can be helpful in educating the masses.  At least I have an easy reference to back me up. 

  • Guest

    I’d like some clarification on just what we should be buying to save our money and health. I find that buying nuts is a pretty expensive proposition and that if I eat very many of them, 1/4 of a cup a day or more, I tend to put on some weight. I’m still dieting a few days a week to compensate, even on a vegan diet. I tend to loose weight during the week, and pack it on during the weekends. It’s very difficult to keep my goal of a BMI of 22. I was there 2 or 3 weeks ago, and then gained 9 pounds.  I’m wondering if there may also be a problem with getting too much in the way of saturated fats or too high an omega-6/omega-3 ratio with nuts.I don’t know anything except what I’ve read, and I’ve read that this ratio also be a problem in eating whole grains and seeds too. I’ve cut back on whole grains etc. for this reason and usually only have 2-3 servings a day. Yet if I totally eliminate grains, nuts and seeds, will I get enough calories on just vegetables, fruit and a few legumes? Of course, I don’t want to eat too many legumes for social reasons. So, is there no ideal diet, but only a compromise between healthy vegetables, the fruits which may have too much sugar, and the other foods mentioned above that also have their problems? And I haven’t even mentioned lectins, phytates, trypsin inhibitors and other nasties. At least, you’ve shown that not everything causes cancer! Reading the above, I’m wondering if I’m not orthorexic.

    • pam ella

      It seems the obvious answer is to aim for a plant-strong diet/lifestyle – and even more so to LEARN TO LOVE BEANS!  They are the answer.  And the social issue?  Join with others on the same eat-to-live path and it isn’t an issue:)
      This answer is not meant to be flippant.  It is genuine.
      With love xxx

    • Mike Quinoa

      I think if you eat beans on a regular basis, then gas becomes not much of a issue. At least that’s been my experience.

      Regarding the topic of the video, I find a vegan diet quite inexpensive. For example, for breakfast this morning I had steel-cut oats with sliced banana, blackberries, walnut pieces, and some organic unsweetened soy milk to moisten it all. I also like to eat some romaine lettuce leaves for breakfast as I find they are quite rehydrating. (Note to Dr. Greger: I do have purple cabbage in my fridge—lol.)

      For lunch I had green lentils and pot barley over some chopped-up broccoli, green pepper and tomato.

      Bulk grains, cello-packed beans, peas and lentils are all dirt-cheap. Nuts are not so cheap, but buying in bulk helps keep the price down. We’ve all been told to eat more fruit and veggies because of their wonderful health-promoting qualities, so the price shouldn’t be the first consideration. They are cheap enough when on sale or in-season anyway.  All in all, when you consider the positive impact on your health, a whole-foods, plant-based diet is a real bargain.

    • Seri

      how to cook beans to minimize intestinal gas, this really works: http://www.chezbettay.com/pages/basics1/basics_beans1.html

  • Jo Folini

    IM VEGETERIAN……..SO I CAN TELL YOU.TRUE;MUCH HEALTHER…………….;P

  • Valnaples

    Scored a head of green cabbage for $1 today…a 1-pound of brown rice was 78 cents (all of this at Wal-Mart; I don’t often shop there but hey, they DO offer organics also!)…and a 1 pound bag of lentils was 88 cents. Now all 3 of those items are pretty healthy and will last me a while…oh, and one pound of organic whole carrots was 88 cents, JUST saying….there ARE ways to buy healthy foods inexpensively.

  • salbers

    Would you like to eat healthy FOR FREE? Check out this possibility. Some soul food stores strip greens of their stems onsite for customers (kale, turnip, collards, etc). They do this as a convenience for customers who will only eat the leaves. So what happens to the stems? In most cases they are thrown out. Even worse, some stores PAY to have them hauled away. So if you offer to take some stems they will often give them to you for free.

    So here is a culinary secret: Greens stems, properly cooked, are just as delicious as the leaves and can be used in a wide range of dishes like stews, casseroles or just by themselves. Just think about all those nutrients and the fiber they contain. And they could be available FOR FREE.

  • Rachel

    I felt this video didn’t go into how to eat health while sticking to your budget very well. Though I agree with the view, I can’t see this changing someone’s mind.

  • lentower

    You mention a link to the open access harvard paper, but it isn’t in the “Sources Cited” section.

    Please add it?

    Thanks either way -len