The Price of Health: New Study Reveals The Real Cost of Eating Healthy
BY JUSTIN FAERMAN
Among the reasons most frequently cited for not eating more healthfully is that it is simply too expensive compared to the cost of a conventional diet—that is, one with significantly less emphasis on freshness and food quality. And it’s true; organic, unprocessed, wholefoods cost more to produce, which ultimately results in higher prices for end consumers. But exactly how much more expensive is eating healthy than a diet of conventional, processed foods? A recent study out of Harvard set out to understand just how big the price difference between these two diets is on average. The team conducted a meta-analysis of 27 different studies based on findings from 10 countries worldwide. While they did find that healthful diets are more expensive than conventional diets on the whole, the actual cost difference between the two (broken down by day, month and year) is almost negligible except for the most impoverished individuals worldwide.
The study, which is the most comprehensive of its kind assessing the price differences between dietary choices, found that eating healthy, which they define as rich in fresh, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts, costs approximately $550 more per year than eating unhealthily, which they defined as a diet focused primarily on processed foods, meats and refined grains. That breaks down to $45.83 per month or just $1.53 per day.These findings only take into account the literal price difference between diets. If you begin to factor in associated lifestyle costs, for example, the price of treating diet-related diseases, then eating healthy begins to seem like a real bargain and less like a slight financial burden.
“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,” said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, the study’s senior author and associate professor at Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School.