Spend More But Save in the Long Run



Many argue that fresh fruits and vegetables are too expensive and perish quickly, making it difficult to afford and to keep on hand. Well, that argument has been substantiated by a study published in the medical journal BMJ Open. The fact is, fresh foods increase a grocery bill and can be inconvenient if one has to travel to the market frequently. However, the long term costs of eating a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables and getting regular exercise is far less than the costs of a unhealthy lifestyle. Just the medication costs alone for conditions associated with poor diet and exercise (diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke) can run in the thousands of dollars per month. So think of healthy eating as an investment that may cost more now but the return on investment will be priceless.

From http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/16/health/multivitamins-studies:

Healthy eating costs an extra $1.50 per day: study
Fri, Dec 13 2013
By Shereen Jegtvig
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – That healthy foods cost more has become conventional wisdom, but a new study is the most thorough yet in calculating how much more: about a dollar and a half.
“Before now, we’ve seen studies looking at prices of one or a few foods or diets, in one city and from one store,” said Mayuree Rao. “And the results have been mixed, with some studies finding that the healthier options cost more and some studies finding they don’t.”
Rao is a junior research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health and a medical student at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. She led the study that was published in BMJ Open.
The research team identified 27 previous studies from 10 countries that met their inclusion criteria and reviewed each of them. Fourteen studies were conducted in the U.S, two in Canada, six in Europe and five in other countries including South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Brazil.
Twelve of the studies were market surveys that evaluated the prices of anywhere from two to 133 foods each and included up to 1,230 stores.
Fifteen studies were dietary surveys that ranged from 30 participants to more than 78,000.
The researchers compared the costs of the healthiest eating patterns with the least healthful and found that the healthiest diets cost on average $1.47 more per day based on actual food intake, or about $1.54 more per day for every 2,000 calories consumed.
The studies in the review used various definitions of “healthy” – including comparing the amount of fat or sugar in similar products, or comparing whole grain versus refined carbohydrate versions, or looking at total fruit and vegetable intake or overall calories.
But all the findings were consistent across current standards for healthy eating, such as the Mediterranean diet, or Harvard’s Alternative Healthy Eating Index.
The researchers also compared price differences in food groups – healthier meats and proteins had the largest difference between healthy and unhealthy choices – about 29 cents more per serving.
It’s important to consider what an extra $1.50 per day can mean for individual as well as family budgets, according to Rao.
“It translates to about $550 more per year for one person, and that could be a real barrier to healthier eating. We need better policies to help offset these costs,” she said.
“On the other hand, $1.50 is about the price of a cup of coffee – just a drop in the bucket when you consider the billions of dollars spent every year on diet-related chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. When you look at the long-term health impact, the extra $1.50 is a good investment,” she said.
Rao says that determining why healthier diets are more expensive is certainly an interesting topic for more investigation.
“Other research from our group has observed that over the past century, the U.S. has developed a complex system of farming, storage, transportation, processing, manufacturing, and marketing that favors a lower cost of highly processed foods,” Rao said. “We just don’t have the same system to support healthier foods like fruits and vegetables.”
That extra daily cost can be a burden for low-income families said Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health. He was not involved in the new research, but some of his work was included in the review.
“An additional $1.50 represents a 15-25 percent increase for the average American,” Drewnowski said. “It does not sound like much but low-income families spend about $6 on food. So here, $1.50 represents a 25 percent increase.”
“Also remember that $1.50 per person per day represents $540 per year, or $2,200 for a family of four. When you multiply by 200 million American adults (I am being conservative here), you get a total cost of 108 billion dollars – more than the entire USDA budget for food assistance,” he told Reuters Health in an email.
Drewnowski points out that dollar figure is about the same as the estimated cost of obesity to society, said to be on the order of $100 billion per year.
“So – are we asking consumers to spend another 108 billion in order to eat healthier? I wish they would, but I am not optimistic. At the very least we need a recognition that nutrition education needs to be accompanied by some economic measures,” he said.
Drewnowski thinks the main problem is that empty calories have become extremely cheap.
“Sugar, refined cereals and vegetable oils have made the food supply relatively inexpensive. However, those foods provide calories and (sometimes) few nutrients – so that obesity and hidden hunger can coexist,” he said.
“Subsidizing healthy foods and taxing unhealthy foods are evidence-based ways to address the price imbalance and nudge people towards a healthier diet. These are strategies that policymakers in many countries should be looking at,” Rao said.
SOURCE: bit.ly/1cxRT49 BMJ Open, online December 5, 2013.


Getting Enough Folic Acid is Important for Men, too

Another report links the diet of men and the health of their offspring. According to the journal Nature Communications, a father’s diet influences the health of his offspring, according to a study that suggests men, like women, should plan to eat and live healthily in the run-up to conception.
So guys, be sure to get sufficient B9 vitamin by eating lots of green leafy vegetables, cereals, fruit and low fat meat.

From http://news.ninemsn.com.au/health/2013/12/11/05/44/you-are-what-daddy-ate-study-says

You are what daddy ate, study says
A father’s diet influences the health of his offspring, according to a study that suggests men, like women, should plan to eat and live healthily in the run-up to conception. Researchers led by Sarah Kimmins at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, looked at what happened when male lab mice had a diet that was poor in vitamin B9.

B9, also called folate, is present in green leafy vegetables, cereals, fruit and meat.

Women often take folic acid supplements, before and during pregnancy, to reduce the risk of miscarriage and birth defects in their offspring.
But Kimmins’ team were startled to find that male mice that had a B9-deficient diet also fathered mice with a higher rate of birth defects, compared to counterparts which had eaten sufficient folate.
“We were very surprised to see that there was an almost 30 per cent increase in birth defects in the litters sired by fathers whose levels of folates were insufficient,” said one of the team, Romain Lambrot.”We saw some pretty severe skeletal abnormalities that included both cranio-facial and spinal deformities.”
The problem, according to the investigators, lies in the sperm’s epigenome, or the “switches” that turn genes – the protein-making codes for life – on and off.
This switchgear, influenced by diet or other life experiences, deregulates key genes during the embryo’s development, according to their theory.
If the findings in rodents also turn out to hold true for humans, there are important implications for men’s diet, said Kimmins.
“Despite the fact that folic acid is now added to a variety of foods, fathers who are eating high-fat, fast-food diets or who are obese may not be able to use or metabolise folate in the same way as those with adequate levels of the vitamin,” she said.
“Our research suggests that fathers need to think about what they put in their mouths, what they smoke and what they drink and remember they are caretakers of generations to come.”

Oh, Nuts!

Who’s your favorite nut? Almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, cashews, peanuts, Brazils, pistachios, walnuts – they’re all healthy for you. So along with your fruits and veggies, eat a handful of nuts a day. A major study shows that eating nuts seven or more times a week lead to a 20% reduction in risk of death.


From Medical News Today: Eating nuts every day may prolong life


The largest study of its kind, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, finds that people who eat a handful of nuts every day live longer than those who do not eat them at all.

Scientists from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Harvard School of Public Health came to this conclusion after analyzing data on nearly 120,000 people collected over 30 years.

The analysis also showed that regular nut eaters tended to be slimmer than those who ate no nuts, putting to rest the notion that eating nuts leads to weight gain.

From the LA Times: Go nuts for nuts — they may help you live longer http://www.latimes.com/food/dailydish/la-dd-nut-study-live-longer-20131121,0,981985.story

“Nuts are a tiny food that pack a powerful nutrition punch,” said Rachel Berman, health content manager at About.com and a registered dietitian. “They are rich in heart healthy monosaturated fats, fiber, protein and disease-fighting antioxidants like vitamin E.”

Berman said that having nutrient-dense nuts as a snack can help keep you fuller longer, and she recommended incorporating one ounce per day into your diet.

She suggested pistachios, which are 49 nuts per 160-calorie serving; almonds, which are 22 nuts per serving; and walnuts, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and have been shown in studies to help reduce the risk and symptoms of many conditions including heart disease, arthritis and depression.

Fried, Overcooked, Burned

These are the three things to avoid, even with vegetables and fruit. Apparently, overcooked foods, especially fried foods, contain acrylamide, a chemical that causes cancer. So the beloved potato, the favorite vegetable of us all, whether chips or french fried, must be avoided. That well-done toast, thrown in the trash. Even coffee should not be burned. Instead, cooking foods at  248°F or less is safer, producing less acrylamide, but cooking at higher than 248°F, produces more acrylamide.

Here’s a great article from Forbes:


Forbes Published 11.15.2013

FDA Says To Avoid Yet Another Food Chemical: Acrylamide

Yesterday the FDA released a Consumer Update suggesting that people try to reduce their consumption of a compound found in well- and over-cooked foods, called acrylamide. Apparently the offending chemical is found in such staples as potatoes, cereals, coffee, crackers or breads, dried fruits and “many other foods,” according to the FDA. And apparently the chemical has been linked to cancer in animal studies enough times that the FDA has decided to urge us to reduce our intake as well, since it likely causes cancer in humans, too. Given the number of common – not to mention delectable – foods in which the compound is found, the new advisory is a bit unnerving. But since it’s also fairly easy to reduce your intake, don’t bang your head against your desk just yet.

The bad news is that, yes, acrylamide is found in many foods we love, like potatoes, breads, and, most horribly, coffee. The good news is that much of the acrylamide found in foods is actually generated during the cooking process – especially when items are fried, overcooked, or burned. The compound is created when a sugar and an amino acid called asparagine combine during high-temperature cooking or heating for extended lengths of time. This means that avoiding frying or otherwise burning or charring foods is an effective way to cut down.

Since up to 40% of the calories we consume contain acrylamide, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, it’s worth exploring some of the other ways to reduce it where we can.

Here are a few tips on how to reduce consumption from the FDA and Cancer.gov (see below for images):

  • Fry foods as little as possible, since the processes causes acrylamide to form. “If frying frozen fries,” says the FDA, “follow manufacturers’ recommendations on time and temperature and avoid overcooking, heavy crisping or burning.”
  • Frying, baking, roasting and broiling are the methods that create the most acrylamide, while boiling, steaming, and microwaving appear to generate less.
  • According to Cancer.gov, 248°F (120°C) seems to be the magic temperature, above which more acrylamide forms. On the contrary, foods heated to below 248°F or less do not seem to contain the chemical.
  • Don’t eat burnt toast, since the darker the toast, the more acrylamide has formed. “Toast bread to a light brown color rather than a dark brown color. Avoid very brown areas,” advises the FDA.
  • Storing potatoes in the fridge can increase the amount of acrylamide that forms when they’re cooked. “Keep potatoes outside the refrigerator in a dark, cool place, such as a closet or a pantry.”  The FDA suggests soaking potato slices in water for 15-30 minutes before cooking to reduce the amount of acrylamide that will form.
  • And again, don’t brown potatoes when cooking by any method. “Brown areas tend to contain more acrylamide,” says the FDA.
  • Potato chips and French fries contain the highest levels, according to Cancer.gov

The World Health Organization says that “Acrylamide is known to cause cancer in animals and, in high doses, can cause nerve damage in humans.” Though it may be difficult to consume doses high enough to generate this kind of damage, over time, it may be possible to consume enough (depending on your diet) to cause enough DNA damage to lead to cancer. And again, the FDA believes there’s enough evidence in animals to warrant trying to reduce how much we humans take in.

Last week, the agency said it was on the path to banning trans fats in foods. Our French fries may never taste the same after this takes place, but now we have another reason to avoid them – or at least, watch how we prepare them at home.

Additional resources:

For a fairly comprehensive list of acrylamide levels in foods from Boca Burgers to coffee to chocolate to French fries, see the FDA’s acrylamide breakdown.

For more information on how to reduce acrylamide in your diet, see the FDA’s tips page.


Best and Worst Kids’ Fast Food Meals

For the past three years, researchers at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity have published Fast Food FACTS which looks at the nutritional quality of fast food menus, fast food advertising on TV and the internet, and marketing practices inside restaurants. Some of the interesting findings include:

Despite the addition of some healthy kids’ meal options, less than 1% of all kids’ meal combinations – 33 out of 5,427 possible meals — met recommended nutrition standards.

Only 3% of kids’ meal combinations met the food industry’s own revised CFBAI nutrition standards or the National Restaurant Association’s Kids LiveWell standards.

Fast food restaurants continued to target black and Hispanic youth, who face higher risk for obesity and related diseases.

Fast food advertising spending on Spanish-language TV increased 8%. KFC and Burger King increased their spending by 35% to 41% while reducing English-language advertising.
Black and Hispanic youth were more likely than other youth to visit one-third or more of all fast food websites

The list of the Best and Worst Kids’ Meal combinations at the top 18 fast food chains can be found at:




Eat your carrots, sweet potatoes and leafy greens to keep inflammation at bay and ward off depression

Do you love soft drinks, fatty red meat and refined grains such as pasta, white bread and chips? Well, the bad news is that these foods may trigger inflammation that leads to depression. The good news is that eating olive oil, coffee, wine, carrots, sweet potatoes and leafy greens, and omitting the trigger foods, seem to keep inflammation at bay.

Just read the conclusion of a clinical study which finds an inflammatory dietary pattern is associated with a higher depression risk. This suggests that chronic inflammation may underlie the association between diet and depression.

A great summary from http://www.ktvu.com/news/lifestyles/pasta-may-contribute-depression-women/nbfqg/:

“A newly published study says inflammation linked to diet may contribute to clinical depression in women.
Researchers followed 43,000 women who started off without depression over a period of 12 years and found that those with diets linked to inflammation were 29 to 41 percent more likely to suffer some form of depression by the end of the study.

The specific diet triggers were soft drinks, fatty red meat and refined grains such as pasta, white bread and chips.

Dr. Michael Lucas, a Harvard researcher who co-authored the study, said the causes of mood disorders are hard to pinpoint. He said it’s not clear how inflammation affects mental health, but there does appear to be a link.

Food choices that help keep inflammation down include olive oil, coffee, wine, carrots, sweet potatoes and leafy greens, Lucas said.”


Want to remember your name when you’re 70?

Several studies have shown that elevated blood sugar is linked to memory problems. However, there is good news! Research shows consuming a diet rich in fiber, vegetables, fruit, fish, and whole-grain products, together with regular exercise, keeps your blood sugar at safe levels. So in your golden years, you’ll be able to remember your address, your grandkids’ names, and which relative still owes you money.

Aging Well: Keeping Blood Sugar Low May Protect Memory


Love that bone, nerve and connective tissue…

Did you read the study about how researchers analyzed the chicken meat in chicken nuggets and found meat was not the predominate component – instead they’re made up of mostly fat and bone, nerve, and connective tissue.

This is a great article about alternatives to fast food:

No More Chicken Nuggets! 5 Healthy Alternatives to Fast Food


Rats, just like many humans, like to eat the creamy filling first…

Just read the article “Oreos as addictive as cocaine” which only reaffirmed what I already knew: high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do. I have a special attachment to sugar – I can’t live without it. I go through withdrawals when I try to cut back: headaches, low energy, irritability, etc. I wish I had this relationship with vegetables and fruit. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every time you ate an apple, you’d feel euphoric, like with dark chocolate? Or, with every salad you’d feel like you could work all day and not be tired? I’m in a vicious circle with chocolate – the more I eat the more I crave. I usually give it up for a couple of months every year. And I feel really good after three weeks or so. But eventually the temptation is too much to bear and I give in and am in the cycle again. Hence, this is one of the reasons I would really like to incorporate at least five servings of fruits and veggies in my family’s diet every day. Maybe I will learn to instinctively turn to healthy sweets instead of chocolate. Or, more realistically, maybe eating fruits and veggies will help me to have a healthy amount of sweets in moderation. I think this is possible. A while back, an author I knew told me she gained 20 pounds with her first book because she snacked on a bowl of M&Ms next to her computer while she worked. For her second book, she replaced the M&Ms with carrots. She found that she needed to chew while she wrote. It didn’t matter if it was candy or carrots, both helped her focus. And she didn’t gain any weight with the second book though her skin turned a little orange.