A friend of mine bought a car recently. In the car-buying process, he was getting all kinds of advice as most of us do. “Don’t get a big car. The gas mileage will kill you.” “Check out Consumer Reports; they have great ratings.” “I love my Honda. I’ve had it for years with no problems.” “Whatever you do, don’t buy a Kia!”
It seems like sage advice to avoid Kias and the likes of the car world. There are a few car brands that sell for significantly lower prices than all other cars. They seem tempting to buy. If you can get a car for 10 or 20 or 30 percent less than a similar car made by another company, it seems like a great deal. But oftentimes, the cheaper car, or cheaper goods of any kind, simply are not made as well. They are of an inferior quality. That’s why cars are increasingly rated on value or some form of total cost of ownership. These ratings factor in the maintenance costs, how long the car will last, and all of the costs associated with owning a particular car. So a car that’s cheaper to buy may not necessarily be cheaper to own over a number of years when you factor in costly repairs and a shorter lifespan.
This makes common sense to most of us. When buying a car or jeans or a bicycle or silverware or an education, we hardly ever simply buy the cheapest one. Many of us buy the one that’s the best value. We know that buying the cheapest grill will save us some money at the time of the purchase, but that the one that costs a bit more could well be the last grill we ever buy since it’s built to last a lifetime. Spending $600 once costs less than spending $250 three or four times, right? With grills and most goods, this makes sense to most people.
But when it comes to food, however, many people still buy simply on price, not value. They literally buy the cheapest food they can buy. I remember growing up and seeing my parents going through the weekly circulars and circling the best buys on chicken breast, fruit, and all kinds processed food. Like many people, they were thinking that as long as food kept you alive, it was doing its job. Our bodies are remarkably adaptable and can survive, for relatively extended periods of time, on food that is very low in nutrients and loaded with harmful substances. But a poor diet eventually causes the wheels to fall off. It often starts as low energy, low sex drive, gradually gaining a few pounds of bodyfat a year; it often leads to chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and other lifestyle-related diseases. A poor diet is one of the leading causes of chronic disease.
What are you buying when you buy the cheapest food—Kia food, if you will? You’re buying lower levels of nutrients especially vitamins and minerals. And you’re buying higher levels of harmful substances in the form of preservatives, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, coloring agents, and other substances not natural to food.
So what is the value of Kia food? It’s not a very good value. You see, there are many down-the road costs associated with eating Kia food:
1. Higher insurance premiums (for all of us whether we are the ones eating Kia food or not)
2. Higher costs for pharmaceutical drugs (eating Kia food is a direct path to requiring medication for your survival)
3. Decreased earnings from your work (less vital, less well people earn less, on average, than more vital, more well people)
4. Increased chance of needing to live in a costly assisted-living facility or nursing home (how you eat in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s greatly impacts how well you will be in your 70s and beyond)
The best values in foods are:
1. Plant foods (vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes) that were grown organically
2. Meat (beef, poultry, fish, and all kinds of meat; both muscle meat and organ meat), eggs, and milk from wild animals or animals raised in a relatively natural environment (given room to move around in the outdoors, fed a diet like they would eat in the wild, not treated with antibiotics, not given synthetic hormones)
These foods, very straightforwardly, are high in nutrients and low in harmful substances. Do eggs from free-range chickens cost more than Lucky Charms for breakfast? Yes. Over the course of a lifetime, will you spend more money by eating eggs from free-range chickens for breakfast or from eating Lucky Charms for breakfast? Considering what tends to happen to a person eating a poor diet over 20, 30, 40, or more years, and considering the costs associated with medical care and elder-living facilities, for most people, eating real food, of the highest quality, tends to be the best value.
The other day, I had a conversation with a woman from the building I live in as we were both walking out of the building. She asked me what I did and it naturally led to conversation about eating well. She lamented how it was so hard for her and her family to eat well. I wanted to help her and suggested that making simple, tasty meals from real food really could be quite fun and doesn’t have to be stressful as it’s often portrayed to be. She could start to see how that could be true and I offered to send her the Goot’s Diet Recipes and suggested she start by buying a supply of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, and meat of various kinds for the week ahead. I suggested she check out our phenomenal local farmers market and the fish markets across the street from where we live. She lamented, “Oh, but vegetables are so expensive. And fish too. I’d love to eat more fish, but it’s so pricey.” We ran out of time to continue the conversation, but I told her I’d love to talk with her more about this. She agreed, and slung her Gucci bag into her SUV on her way to pick her kids up from private school.
My point: The discussion of the cost of food is not about cost, it’s about priorities. As a society, we’ve deprioritized true wellness and true disease prevention. And I’m making no judgements on face value. I’m simply making an observation. Most people that would never by a Kia, gladly buy Kia food. Are clothes important? Of course. Is an education important? Surely. Should we buy the safest, most well-made cars and not simply the cheapest cars? That seems to make sense. Should we buy the food that contributes to robust vitality and thriving wellness? That seems to make sense too. And not just for how good robust vitality and thriving wellness are to experience, although those are great reasons. But also because eating high-quality real food simply is the best value and makes the most fiscal sense.
Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.