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19.12.2011


It is possible to eat healthily for little money

If you're aiming for a healthier diet, you'll notice that many healthy foods in the supermarket are more expensive than unhealthy foods. Nevertheless, it's possible to eat healthily on a limited budget, nutritionists at Harvard concluded after analyzing the eating habits of nearly eighty thousand American women.

A measure of dietary quality is the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), developed by Walter Willett. This index runs from 0 to 100. The nearer to 100 your AHEI is, the closer your diet resembles that of the Cretans, the healthiest Europeans. But if you are one of the post-modern nutritional tribe that considers 'healthy eating' to mean 'lots of dead animal', then the AHEI won't convince you. It doesn't convince the big food manufacturers either.

Look at it this way: if you take statins every day, you'll reduce your chance of developing cardiovascular disease by 25 percent. Cost: 830 dollars a year. But if the AHEI of your diet goes up by 20 points, you'll also reduce your chance of developing cardiovascular disease by 25 percent.

But how much does it cost to raise your diet AHEI by 20 points? The figure below provides the answer: nothing.


It is possible to eat healthily for little money


Within the 3.48-dollar group, the AHEI index of the healthiest group is almost 30 points higher than that of the least healthy group. So it's possible to eat a healthy diet for little money.

Not that money makes no difference at all: for every group it was true that as the women spent more money on food, their choices became healthier.


It is possible to eat healthily for little money


"In our study, we observed that greater spending on nuts, soy and beans, and whole grains was associated with the greatest improvement in dietary healthfulness", the Americans write. "Fish and poultry, vegetables, and fruit offer the next best investment."

Health-conscious consumers would do best to avoid buying pork, beef, meat products, full-fat dairy products and 'empty calories' such as snacks and sweets.

Source:
Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Nov;92(5):1197-203.