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The Cost of Eating Healthy

By Debra Rodzinak

I have been consciously trying to buy foods that are not processed for the obvious health reasons.  Processed foods are refined (developed) through the removal of nutrients and addition of preservatives.  They are usually very high in calories while low in nutrition. 

Why Are Nutrients Removed If They Are So Good for Us? 

One word – transportation. With foods today having to travel long distances, producers have come up with a way to make these foods last longer. Producers of food haven’t created these foods to make Americans fatter; they did it to make transportation and storage of these foods easier. 

But, the problem lies in the changes made to these foods.  When foods are processed and nutrients removed, you get “less bang for your buck” in terms of calories. 

For example, an apple picked from a tree that has not been treated with pesticides or changed genetically will last about a week before starting to rot.  On the other hand, applesauce that is processed will last weeks if not months before “expiring,” which is the time the company says you should eat the food before throwing it out.  Because the applesauce has added sugar and additives with nutrients being removed, it actually has more calories but less nutritional value than the apple. 

Other examples are even more stark in contrast.  Fruit rollups, a childhood favorite, on average are far more expensive per kilogram than fresh fruit.  If you were to buy an equal amount fruit rollups versus fresh fruit like apples, bananas, oranges, pears, and peaches, you would be shocked at the amount of sugars and fat contained in the fruit rollups!  Fruit costs, on average, $4/kg versus $46/kg for the rollups.  That same rollup contains 18 grams of sugar and 3.2 grams of fat compared to 11.5 grams of sugar and 0 grams of fat for the fresh fruit.

Why Do So Many Americans Buy Processed Food If It Is So Bad for Us?

Based on my own personal research in a lifetime of eating food, I would say because it tastes good.  Processed foods often contain extreme amounts of sugar and/or fat that turn on the brain chemicals that signal joy.  But, others have hypothesized that it is due to our ancestors. 

Until recently (the last few centuries), our ancestors didn’t live as long as we do in modern times.  Their bodies depended on high calorie foods to survive.  No longer on the edge of extinction due to hunting a sabertooth tiger or other wild beast wanting to eating us, humans still have that primal need for foods high in carbohydrates and fat.  Modern humans need foods higher in fiber and lower in carbs and fat because we live longer and have ready access to food.

So, if you are willing to invest time and a little extra money, you can replace a large amount of processed food with fresh food.  It won’t be easy, but in the end, your body will thank you. So the real question should be, “What is the cost of NOT eating healthy?”        

 

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