3 Long-Term Costs of Eating Unhealthy That Hit Your Pocketbook


Ed note: Buying healthful foods can be costly, especially when you compare them to things like a fast food dollar menu. While fresh produce may cost more now, eating a nutritious diet can help guard against expensive health care costs related to disease in the future.

A lousy diet is one of the leading causes of chronic diseases today. Sadly, chronic diseases like obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and arthritis comprise 75% of America’s health care bill every year, and the majority of chronic diseases could be prevented. The Standard American Diet, a diet that’s high in animal fats, hydrogenated fats, processed foods, sugar, and low in fiber, complex carbohydrates and plant-based foods is exactly the kind of diet that’s costing Americans millions of dollars in health care expenses every single year.

Buying high quality fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and lean meats is undoubtedly more expensive than buying processed and fast foods. But reducing your expenses at the grocery store on essential, nutritious foods may be costing you thousands in expensive medical bills down the road.HealthyEating-square

Consider these shocking statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • From 2009-2010 nearly 78 million people, or one-third of adults, were obese (of youths aged 2-19, just about one in five were obese).
  • In 2010 seven of the top 10 causes for death came from chronic disease.
  • About 117 million people, or half of all adults since 2012 have one or more chronic disease.1.

1. Obesity

We all know that eating unhealthy processed foods, or worse, fast food, can lead to obesity.

Obesity produces much higher medical costs, leading to many costly and deadly chronic diseases such as type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. According to the CDC, medical costs linked to obesity were estimated to be $147 billion in 2008 while medical costs for obese people were $1,429 higher than those for people of normal weight in 2006. At the same time, a study at the Harvard School of Public Health found that it costs $1.50 more per day, or $547.50 per year, to eat healthfully. A healthy diet was considered to be a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts while an unhealthy diet was rich in processed foods, meats and refined grains.

2. Unhealthy Kids Turn into Unhealthy Adults

Eating a healthy family meal with your children is a great way to pass on good habits. Kids that eat unhealthy as children are much more likely to eat unhealthy as adults. Serving your kids nutritious, home-cooked meals means they’ll inherit the importance of healthy eating from you. Not to mention that when kids are growing, choosing nutritious and hearty foods is even more important to both their mental and physical development.

3. Mental Health

Eating unhealthy foods can also impact mental health because when you eat well, you feel better. Healthy eating makes it possible to maintain a healthy weight, which is also good for your self-esteem.

Studies have also shown a connection between food and your mood. Certain nutrients found in whole foods can improve your mental health. Omega 3 fatty acids, for example, found in fish like salmon, herring and mackerel, impact the signals that your brain sends to the rest of your body. Magnesium, found in leafy greens, avocados and nuts, also improve mental health, as does the folic acid found in leafy greens and fruits.

When you eat fast or processed foods you’re less likely to get enough of the nutrients that keep your mood balanced. This is bad for your long-term mental health.

While spending most of your time in the produce aisle versus the canned foods aisle may increase your grocery bill, the long-term impact can be even more costly for your long-term physical and mental health and for the health of your family.

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