New Research Proves That Plant-Based Diets Don't Have To Be Expensive

Written by Emi Boscamp

Photo by Stocksy

Sure, we think. Of course Gisele Bündchen and Tom Brady can eat like that. They can afford it.

But actually, aside from the whole private chef thing, a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables can be affordable for us non-celebs. New research conducted by the Miriam Hospital and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank demonstrated that — contrary to popular belief — a plant-based, extra-virgin olive oil diet is cheaper than the most economical recommendations for healthy eating from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Aside from the obvious benefit of more servings of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, the comparison to the USDA diet also showed an annual savings of nearly $750 per person.

In 1999, lead study author Dr. Mary Flynn developed a plant-based, olive oil diet for weight loss and also to improve biomarkers for chronic diseases. It includes canned and frozen produce, as well as four tablespoons a day of olive oil, whereas the USDA's MyPlate diet includes a combination of fruit and vegetables to cover half a plate, and says half of all grains consumed should be whole grains.

Then, collaborating with the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, Flynn's team at the Miriam Hospital recently developed a six-week cooking research program in order to improve food security for food pantry clients using Flynn's recipes.

They found that participants used the recipes for an average of 2.8 meals a week, which led to a decrease in their food insecurity, total groceries expenditures, and body mass indexes. Plus, 76% of the participants reported that the recipes were easier and faster than the ones they typically used.

"We did this analysis because it is commonly said that healthy diets are expensive and that it is the fruits and vegetables that make them too expensive," said Flynn in a press release.

"Extra-virgin olive oil is also thought to be expensive, but we suspected it was meat that made a diet expensive, and extra-virgin olive oil is cheaper than even small amounts of meat. We expected the two diets to be similar in fruit and vegetable content, but our plant-based diet was substantially cheaper, and featured a lot more fruits and vegetables and whole grains."

That's right: they found that meat is the costly (and not as healthy) culprit here. And research has shown that people in low-income households typically spend their grocery money first on meats, eggs, cereals and bakery products.

But the study authors believe that educating people on some weekly meals that instead include extra-virgin olive oil, vegetables and a starch "will decrease food costs and improve food access and body weight."

Andrew Schiff, CEO of Rhode Island Community Food Bank, said, "Our goal is to provide those we serve with the most nutritious food possible and help them prepare healthy meals, understanding that the household budget is limited."

So, next time you're at the grocery store, maybe try reaching for a can of beans or some produce over that steak. Not only could it help save your body, it could also help save your wallet.

(h/t Science Daily)

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