Why You Should Invest in Healthy Food (Hint: Interest Rates Are High)

Investing in Healthy Food

For those who can afford it, it’s a complaint. For those who can’t, it’s an injustice. In any case, the price tag on healthy food -- or, beyond that, the widespread subsidization of unhealthy food --  is met with collective disapproval.

Even in a country undeniably addicted to junk food, nobody wants to eat unhealthily. Whether a person is conscious of that wish or not is another story, but it’s true of even the most passionate Big Mac aficionado. We might think we like eating unhealthily, but our bodies tell us otherwise. And believe it or not, our wallets do, too.

At FRESH Med, we get that in a financial pinch the scale always seems to lean toward convenient junk food. However, pay more for health food now and you’ll pay less for health care later. And while you will have to pay about $547.50 more per year according to a 2013 study published in the British Medical Journal by the Harvard School of Public Health, and that is no small feat a struggling family, it sounds more manageable when viewed as a difference of $1.50 per day. To invest in healthy food is to invest in the most powerful tool for your lifelong success (Especially when interest rates are high... Think: stronger body, sharper mind, more energy, less illness!). [1]

Of the $550 premium, HSPH and Harvard Med associate professor Dariush Mozaffarian says “This would represent a real burden for some families, and we need policies to help offset these costs. On the other hand, this price difference is very small in comparison to the economic costs of diet-related chronic diseases, which would be dramatically reduced by healthy diets.”

When he mentions diet-related chronic diseases, Mozaffarian is referencing some of the following health risks:

Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (excess fat and inflammation in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol), osteoarthritis (a health problem causing pain, swelling, and stiffness in one or more joints), some types of cancer: breast, colon, endometrial (related to the uterine lining) and kidney; stroke [4]

Because about 80% of such chronic diseases are preventable through lifestyle changes, the amount we spend trying to reverse rather than prevent them seems a wee bit ludicrous. In the U.S., chronic diseases are responsible for 7 of 10 deaths each year and over 75% of our healthcare budget treats them. [5] It’s like we keep on burning toast, but instead of changing the toaster’s settings we just scrape off the damage with a butter knife and adjust to the smoky twinge.

When we live unhealthily, we are forced to deal not only with burnt toast, but also with direct costs like those required for medical care and prescriptions. But the indirect costs, which harm the system as a whole, are worth mentioning. These include increased mortality, disability and absenteeism before retirement. [1] Coupled with a higher incidence of depression and other mental illnesses, which are exacerbated by overweight and obesity, society suffers great losses in productivity.

In fact, according to a study in Obesity Reviews, “the indirect costs are often far more important than the direct medical care costs. The Chinese case study found that the indirect effects of obesity and obesity-related dietary and physical activity patterns range between 3.58% and 8.73% of gross national product (GNP) in 2000 and 2025 respectively.” That's a lot!

Reimbursed with Interest

Finances and government spending aside, our integrative practice focuses on getting you feeling FRESH. But we understand that the road to healthy eating can feel like something out of a Green Day song.

I walk a lonely road

The only one that I have ever known

Don’t know where it goes

But it’s only me and I walk alone.

Even at FRESH Med, we’re not above a dramatic rendition of Oasis’ “Wonderwall.”

And all the roads we have to walk are winding

And all the lights that lead us there are blinding.

At every twist, a “Low Fat!” label jumps out at you like an evil clown, while Salt and Sugar are hiding in the bushes. At every turn, a Sugar Free sign pops up beside Maltodextrin, Carob Syrub and 59 of their friends.

Yes, healthy eating is an exercise in and of itself as you sweat to decipher fact from fiction. And then you still have to actually exercise! But if we’ve shared anything in this blog, we hope it’s the sense that the returns on healthy living are worth the cost. For all of our future wallets, but most of all, for your livelihood and longevity. At each fork in the road, remember whichever path improves your health will come to reimburse you with interest.

And when the going gets tough - Come see us! We’ll keep you away from emotional alternative rock hits of the late ‘90s/early 2000s and on the road to the FRESH life.