Is buying healthy food really worth the cost? It’s no secret that eating healthy lowers your risk of disease and death. However, spending money on higher-quality food could also save you thousands or more in health care costs over your lifetime.
Why do we eat junk, even though we know it’s bad for us?
Convenience foods save time and money — in the short-term, at least.
There are many reasons you’re more likely to toss a bag of potato chips into your shopping cart instead of a few fresh potatoes. Convenience is a major contributor in many households, says Livestrong.com. Baking a potato takes minutes, while opening a bag of potato chips takes seconds. Even though you know one is better for you than the other, choosing the latter saves you both money and time — theoretically.
Are fruits and vegetables really that expensive?
Produce isn’t actually that expensive — and it’s good for you, too.
Eating more fruits and vegetables provide essential nutrients to keep you healthy and fight off disease and aging. Yet many people argue that produce is just too expensive to buy and consume consistently. The USDA shows it’s not as expensive as you might think. Buying produce in season helps — and so does spending the money you’ve budgeted for snacks on a bag of apples.
Whole grains combat disease
Whole grains provide nutrition refined grains never will — and that means fewer diseases.
Maybe the problem isn’t that you’re buying chips — but instead that you aren’t buying high-quality breads, cereals, or pastas. The reason experts recommend eating more whole grains isn’t because they want you to spend more money on these products.
According to The Whole Grains Council, foods made with quality grains provide the fiber and other nutrients necessary to decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and more. Less disease means fewer health care costs for all of us.
Health care costs a lot — but you already knew that
Over 100 million Americans live with costly chronic illnesses.
America spent trillions of dollars on health care in 2015. Many of these costs are likely due to the number of Americans living with diet and lifestyle-related chronic conditions. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines, 117 million U.S. adults live with at least one chronic disease. Two common chronic illnesses: Obesity and type 2 diabetes, cost billions of dollars in health care costs annually — and both could be prevented, in many cases, by improving dietary habits.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients spend less on health care
It turns out the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program actually works — it encourages healthier eating.
The Food and Nutrition Service’s list of eligible food items encourages many Americans to substitute junk food for healthier meals and snacks. Apparently, it’s effective. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that low-income adults participating in the SNAP program had lower expected annual health care costs than those not part of the initiative. If eating healthier food can save thousands of dollars in health care costs, it must be worth the price.
These are the most expensive chronic diseases in America
Heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes are among the nation’s costliest illnesses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlined U.S. spending, both in medical and productivity loss costs, on chronic conditions and related lifestyle behaviors over the last decade.
- Heart disease cost the nation about $316.1 billion in 2012-2013
- Diabetes cost $245 billion in the same year
- In 2008, obesity costs hovered around $147 billion
- Costs associated with drinking too much alcohol were an estimated $249 billion in 2010.
Most of these costs can be prevented through lifestyle changes, including healthier eating habits.
How healthy eating prevents disease
A healthy diet has repeatedly been associated with lower risk of multiple diseases.
Chronic diseases are the nation’s leading cause of disability and death, says Harvard Health. That doesn’t mean you can’t prevent them — and their associated costs. A poor diet means you’re eating high amounts of saturated fat, sugar, and sodium, and lacking essential nutrients to fight off various illnesses. Researchers have linked healthy eating to healthier living — meaning you might spend more on food this year, but less at your doctor’s office and local hospital over the next decade.