Fruit

The USDA recently released an agency-conducted study comparing the costs of healthy food versus processed junk foods high in fat, sugar and salt, and found that despite the myth that healthy foods typically cost more, they actually do not.

Among the study’s findings, the agency was quick to cast doubt on a well-publicized 2010 University of Washington report that found junk food to be more cost effective than healthy foods, especially for low income families, which measured strictly on a caloric gain and not on overall nutritional value and the benefits of eating healthier foods even if lower in calories than the junk food.

According to the agency, how consumers measure the price makes all the difference. If thinking strictly in terms of calories, then the higher caloric value of dense sweets and high fat junk foods would often be the bargain for the price, but comparing cost of food by weight or portion size puts fruits, vegetables, whole grains and even dairy products as the bargain meal when compared with processed foods. Consistently per serving, healthy foods like carrots, beans, lettuce and bananas were cheaper than French fries, sodas and ice cream, and as they offer superior nutritional benefits, the agency says it needs to become an easy choice for Americans, especially in light of the nation’s obesity epidemic.

And the agency suggests that measuring by calorie is not a smart move, either. Foods high in calories like donuts or pastries can leave you feeling hungry, but a high fiber piece of fruit or whole grain bread may make you feel fuller longer, and without the negative effects of too much sugar or trans fats.

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Image: MJorge