With food prices rising rapidly, more than ever want to find ways to save money on our grocery bills. I’ve always believed that eating plant-based foods is an important way to control costs, and a recent study from the UK confirms that calculating that vegan meals can cut food bills by up to a third.
the Pricing model studyconducted by researchers from Oxford University and published in The Lancet Planetary Health, examined food costs in 150 countries. Based on 2017 prices released by the World Bank’s International Comparative Program, the study found that replacing plant-based foods with animal-based foods could lower food bills in rich countries, including the United States.
In particular, the study found that vegan diets are the most economical and can cut food bills by up to 34 percent compared to the food costs of a typical Western diet. In terms of budget-friendliness, the vegan diet was followed by the vegetarian diet, with the potential to cut food costs by 31 percent; flexitarian diets that could cut costs by 14 percent; and veggie-heavy Pescatarian diets that could actually add 2 percent to the cost.
The study looked at two types of vegan diets – one with more grains and one with more vegetables – and found that while both saved money, the grain-based vegan diet was the cheapest of all the diets analyzed. According to the study’s authors, fruits and vegetables cost more than grains and legumes worldwide. None of the diets modeled by the researchers contained ultra-processed foods.
“We believe that the fact that vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets can save you big bucks will surprise people,” said author Marco Springmann, a senior researcher on population health at Oxford Martin School, in a university report on the learning . “When scientists like me advocate healthy and environmentally friendly nutrition, it is often said that we are sitting in our ivory towers promoting something that most people cannot financially achieve. This study shows that the opposite is true. These diets could be better for your bank balance as well as your health and … the planet. “
The idea that vegan food is more expensive has been regularly criticized for a plant-based diet for years.
Before conducting the price comparison study, researchers at Oxford University noted a growing scientific understanding of the health and climate costs of animal foods. However, they found less research (and what there was was contradicting) on the cost to consumers of animal vs. plant-based foods.
The Oxford study went beyond bills at the supermarket checkout. The study found that taking into account a range of nutritional costs that are not currently included in food prices, the price of plant-based foods would drop even further. These external costs included diet-related health expenditure and greenhouse gas emissions caused by the cultivation and transportation of food.
According to the study, including climate costs in food prices would increase the cost savings potential of a vegan diet to 45 percent compared to a conventional diet, while if health costs were included, a vegan diet plan would reduce food costs by 47 percent. If both types of costs were taken into account, a vegan diet would save 53 percent of food bills, according to the researchers.
“There are many other effects of the food system that are not currently reflected in food prices, including effects on biodiversity and air and water pollution,” the study authors noted.
One significant health expense that could decrease as more people in the US eat vegan is the cost of treating moderate to severe COVID-19 infections. During 2021, a trickle of medical research began to uncover a link between a plant-heavy diet and milder COVID infections.
In June, a to learn published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health Journal, found that among 2,884 frontline healthcare workers in six countries including the United States, those who followed a plant-based diet had a 73 percent lower risk of moderate to severe COVID than employees in health care had to eat more animal foods.
In September, the medical journal Gut a to learn from Massachusetts General Hospital, which analyzed data from 592,571 participants in a smartphone-based study of COVID symptoms and found that those who ate the most plant-based foods had a 9 percent lower risk of developing COVID, and develop a 41 percent lower risk of severe COVID. Study participants came from the USA and Great Britain
For decades, there has been a surge in medical studies showing that plant-based diets protect against many of the leading causes of death in the U.S. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020 (the last year for which statistics are available) is the front runner two Causes of death Heart disease remained followed by cancer, both related to the high consumption of animal foods. The number of deaths from heart disease saw the largest increase since 2012, increasing 4.2 percent in 2020. COVID was the third leading cause of death in 2020.
The deaths from diabetes and Alzheimer’s, two diseases associated with an animal diet, rose 15.4 percent and 9.8 percent, respectively, in 2020. Of the eleven leading causes of death in the US in 2020, only two (accidental injury and suicide) have no known association with dieting. The potential association between developing severe influenza and pneumonia (the ninth leading cause of death) has not been well studied. All others – stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases, and kidney disease – correlate with animal-based consumption, and all showed improvement or reversal in patients who switched to plant-based meals.
But health care costs aren’t the only burden that current food prices don’t account for. The US meat subsidies also distort prices at the supermarket checkout and around the world.
after a Paper published Last year, the U.S. spent nearly $ 38 billion annually on agricultural subsidies in the Columbia Journal of International Affairs, less than one percent of which went to vegetable and fruit growers. Instead, the lion’s share of government support goes to ranchers and farmers who grow crops that are used to feed cattle or produce highly processed foods. The same paper noted that these US subsidies not only distort food prices in the US, but also depress international market prices for crops, causing many farmers in poor countries to give up farming and forcing their governments to import food, which could be grown locally if the economy was different.
This brings us back to the study by the University of Oxford, which also examined food prices in poor countries. While vegan food in affluent countries can save money for consumers according to the researchers, it is different in developing countries. The current diet there is often nutritionally inadequate. Because the researchers assessed the cost of following a nutritionally appropriate vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, pescatarian, and western standard diet, residents of poor countries would have to pay more to meet this standard regardless of what type of diet they followed.
After all, while the Oxford University study brings high-quality, much-needed data into the political debates about food costs, vegan and vegetarian shoppers have known about these savings for generations. For the past few months, I’ve spent time in the Portland Room of the Portland Public Library, where, with the help of archivist Abraham Alain Schechter, I’ve found historical evidence of the affordability of vegetarian foods.
For example, half a century ago the Maine Sunday Telegram ran a story entitled “How to Cut Your Grocery Bill 25%”. The article published on August 20, 1972 reports on the frugality of vegetarian food. Reporter Lloyd Ferris compared the price his family of four paid for groceries, an average of $ 25 a week, to that of meat-eaters in a University of Maine history class he was taking; they were spending an average of $ 35 to $ 50 a week.
“After a year of vegetarian life,” wrote Ferris, “I sometimes believe – perhaps a little complacent – that my carnivorous friends are suffering unnecessarily.”
I don’t feel complacent at all. I am sad to find that this unnecessary suffering drags on for much more than 50 years.
Go back even further, for example 169 years to October 6, 1853, when Jeremiah Hacker‘s alternative newspaper, the Portland Pleasure Boat, printed an article from the American Vegetarian Society. “As much food for the body can be obtained for three cents from floury or plant-based foods as can be obtained from animal food for thirty cents,” the article says.
Recent research from Oxford University adds scientific confirmation to anecdotal information known for more than a century. Eating vegan and vegetarian options has long been the thrifty choice in Maine.
Avery Yale Kamila is a food writer who lives in Portland. She can be reached at [email protected] Twitter: @AveryYaleKamila
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