When it comes to considering the cost of food, most people’s thinking begins and ends with the price they see on the grocery shelf or restaurant menu. But what many don’t realize is that what you eat now can affect health costs for you in the long run.
“About 75 percent of the $2.8 trillion in annual health care costs in the United States is from chronic diseases that can often be reversed or prevented altogether by a healthy lifestyle,” writes Dean Ornish, founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute, in The New York Times. “If we put money and effort into helping people make better food and exercise choices, we could improve our health and reduce the cost of health care.”
So really, eating well now can save you a lot of money down the road — as well as vastly improve your quality of life.
As we observe National Nutrition Month this March, consider making these moves to bring your nutrition up and your future health costs down.
For 20 years now, maintaining a southern-Mediterranean-style diet has been considered the “gold standard” for promoting lifelong good health, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, which introduced the diet. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, grains, fish, olive oil, small amounts of dairy and red wine, and, according to a new study in The New England Journal of Medicine, you’ll be in prime position to fight off cardiovascular disease.
Cook at Home
Fast food joints aren’t the only restaurants that can be bad for you. Even certain upscale establishments load up on unhealthy ingredients. To have the most control of what you put into your body, make your meals at home. “When you make it yourself, you know what’s in it,” says Food Revolution founder Ocean Robbins in The Huffington Post.
Drink Tap Water
Boing Boing reminds us that soda is nothing but empty calories, chemicals and, depending on the drink, lots of sugar. But if bottled water is your drink of choice, you may also want to think again. Business Insider points to a recent study that shows bottled water can come with its own potential health hazards because it is subject to less-stringent safety tests than tap water. If your tap water falls short, a filtration system may bring it up to snuff.
Trade Red Meat for Beans
The American Heart Association notes that red meat (beef, pork, and lamb) contains cholesterol and saturated fats that can raise your cholesterol and contribute to heart disease. But don’t think that cutting back on red meat has to mean cutting back on protein. “High in fiber and low in fat, beans are a great source of protein,” says Jackie Keller, NutriFit founding director, in Investopedia. Keller notes that, as a bonus, this plant-based food is inexpensive and versatile, since it can be a key ingredient in soups, chili and other recipes. Tofu, for instance, comes from soybeans.
Grow Your Own Garden
Want to know exactly where your food comes come? Grow your own. “Growing your own food is often less expensive than buying it,” notes MoneyNing. “Cooking at home not only saves you money on your grocery shopping, but it also results in healthier, non-processed meals.”
For healthiest homegrown fare, Mother Nature Network recommends a list of the most vitamin-rich foods, which includes broccoli, beans (especially navy, great northern and kidney beans), brussel sprouts, tomatoes, red bell peppers and leafy greens such as kale, collards and spinach.
Are you a healthy eater? Does eating healthy cost you more or less than the alternative?