Don’t you hate going to the grocery store and seeing the rising costs of food? Kale $2/bunch? Almond butter at $10/jar. Yes, it’s out of hand. Though, surprisingly Americans spend less than 10% of their income on food. Really.
But I’m not really talking about the direct costs involved with eating healthy. Yes, the price of eggs rose 28% in the past year, and supposedly due to a peanut crop shortage we should be seeing a hike in peanut costs (all the more reason to eat Valencia PB, right? Grown in NM they are aflotixin free!).
I’m talking about the cost of your diet on your indirect cost of health care. The biggest health care debt burdens of individuals and populations is due to the preventable diseases: Cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes (and obesity, which is linked to these diseases). Wanna play a little game? You can download this cost-burden calculator from the CDC and see what the cost burden is in your state for whatever population you put in (or just use their default) for various chronic diseases. When I played with it for California alone it estimated over 2.5 BILLION DOLLARS in costs for diabetes and heart disease based on current statistics!
Further, when you have a chronic disease, even when you have insurance, you are still paying out of pocket for some expenses like medications or uncovered treatments AND you might be losing work hours/functionality because of illness. I am no economist, but I’m thinking this is no-bueno on your pocket book.
So, let’s get back to diet and how it relates. Imagine just spending an additional $10/week on items like fresh green vegetables, high quality meat and eggs, and whole grain products instead of processed grain products. Imagine swapping out one sugar sweetened beverage (at say $3) for one more fruit or vegetable or non-sweetened beverage. We think about the moment-to-moment spending as so burdensome when we are at the checkout, but are we thinking about the return on investment for eating healthy?
I admit that it doesn’t cross my mind as often as it should to see my food as my medicine. It is the easiest, tastiest, most diverse way for me to prevent illness, next to exercising and managing my stress. Oh, and those last two things are also lumped into the category of “I can’t afford”…… meanwhile internally your body is dealing with the burden of NOT having those things and in the end, you will have to pay for them one way or another.
So, I suppose this whole concept is just making me ponder. Instead of balking at prices of food I should feel grateful that my health, as of right now, can more or less be managed by simply eating well, exercising and managing my stress. Not too bad. After seeing my dad have a massive stroke at age 48, where he no longer has the choice of whether or not his diet is going to impact his health, I do see the real-life consequences of neglecting the day-to-day care of the body and spirit. Oh, and paying those dental bills for having so many cavities filled after years of noshing on sugar all the time…well, those aren’t fun either. Who knew that those $.50 Mike and Ike candy packets I ate daily in high school would cost hundreds (or is it thousands now) at the dentist.