April 8, 2020
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Welcome to ALUX.com! The place where future billionaires come to get inspired. If you’re not subscribed yet, you’re missing out. Hello Aluxers, and welcome back! Today, we’re taking a look at something none of us can live without – food. More specifically, we’ll be asking: Why is eating healthy so expensive? For anybody who wants to be successful, a healthy diet should be one of our top priorities. As the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘The first wealth is health’ – and since we are what we eat, having a nutritious diet allows us to perform at the top of our game, and live longer, more prosperous lives. But there’s one question that’s increasingly on our minds: How much does healthy eating cost? We’ve all heard advice to eat organic fruit and vegetables, or include a superfood like quinoa into our diet. But time and time again, it becomes clear that the healthier options require more cash. In a recent survey of young people in the UK, three quarters stated that while they wanted a healthier diet, they just couldn’t afford one. In this video, we’ll be looking at what makes some healthy ingredients so expensive, as well as asking ‘Does healthy eating really need to cost that much?’ Before diving into the high costs of some niche health foods, let’s take a look at how we ended up in the current situation, where we’re surrounded by food that’s cheap and convenient, but often really unhealthy. If you’d lived a century ago, chances are you would have been surrounded by a varied supply of affordable, healthy ingredients because most people lived in rural communities and worked in agriculture. Fast forward a hundred years, and instead it’s junk food, or at best, vegetables sprayed with chemicals that are within easiest reach. But how did this happen? In a nutshell, the 20th century happened. Food production transformed entirely, with farms producing crops on an industrial scale, replacing human labour with machines and using chemical inputs and genetically modified crop varieties. Meat and dairy farms placed animals in inhumane living conditions, feeding them antibiotics and hormones. The reason for this was to maximize output, and it did translate to a lower price tags, but there was a downside. Not only did food become less nutritious, but putting chemicals into our food chain led to a higher incidences of cancer. Already sounds pretty bad, right? Well, it’s about to get even worse, and that’s because of another change that happened. Food corporations had the bright idea that they could save people the time needed to prepare food by doing it for them, manufacturing anything from breadsticks or ready-to-made pizzas to sugary soda drinks. Processed foods do have a few plus points: the ingredients can easily be grown in vast quantities and then processed; they’re high in calories, ensuring that nobody goes hungry; and they’re easy to store and transport, making them a cheap and convenient fix. But there’s a catch; they’re also overloaded with carbs, unhealthy fats and sugars, resulting in steady rises in obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Relying on processed foods also makes it easy to neglect fresh fruit and vegetables, which contain vitamins that are essential for healthy living; but as they often need to be picked by hand and are difficult to store and transport, prices of fresh produce at the check-out are pushed up. And we haven’t even got onto processed meat, the type you’ll typically find in sausages and burgers. Which contain less desirable cuts, other animal tissues like bones, as well as the antibiotics and hormones that are fed to livestock, so it’s not hard to see how low cost leads to damaging impacts on health. It would only be a matter of time until people took an interest in returning to healthier and more natural food production methods – cue the organic movement. While its roots date back to the early 20th century, 1990 was a landmark year for organic food, being the year when organic sales hit 1 billion dollars in annual earnings in the USA and when US Congress set out the criteria for organic certification, providing farmers with an incentive to ditch the chemicals. Since then, we’ve witnessed an exponential rise is everything from home-delivered vegetable boxes to organically-reared Angus Beef. And the consensus is that organic food contains more nutrients and reduces the risk of cancer. On average, organic fruit and vegetables cost 10 to 30 percent more than non-organic, with a number of reasons accounting for this. Organic farms tend to be smaller, have lower yields per hectare, use more human labour, and require a rigorous process to be organically certified, all resulting in higher unit costs. We’ve also been witnessing rising demand for naturally produced animal products like grass-fed beef, and eggs from pasture-raised chickens. Animals raised naturally develop healthier fats and higher vitamin counts than those given artificial feed, and live far happier lives. But the space and labour needed to raise animals naturally and humanely, means – you’ve guessed it – a higher price tag. This all leads to a simple equation: healthier equals more natural, equals more expensive. A great illustration of this is a common fish-lovers’ favourite; salmon. Whether you like your salmon smoked or fresh, most salmon in supermarkets or restaurants is farmed, meaning that fish are raised in overcrowded pens and given inferior food, antibiotics, and even colourants to make their low-quality skin look pinker. Traces of chemicals end up on the plate, and many experts advise against farmed salmon altogether. The alternative is wild salmon, which is chemical-free but 3 to 4 times more expensive. So, where is the market for organic food heading? At the moment, sales are sky-rocketing: from €11 billion globally in 1999, it’s now close to €100 billion. 14 countries now produce over 10% of their food organically, the top 5 places including Austria, Estonia and Sweden, with Samoa in second place, and Liechtenstein in the top spot. And with the upsurge of organic foods, corporations are likely to increasingly get in on the action, which could eventually lead to lower prices. There’s no doubt that interest in healthy eating is on the rise worldwide, and the organic movement is just a part of it. Plant-based diets are constantly gaining a bigger following, with over 10% of the world now vegetarian. As vegetarian diets avoid the antibiotics and hormones in most animal produce, they have huge health benefits; and they’re environmentally friendly, which means more good news. A further advantage of going vegetarian is that it’s cheaper, simply because plants require less resources than animals; one case where healthy doesn’t mean expensive. But most trends towards healthier eating are likely to cost more. Let’s take the vogue for superfoods, which generally have a high price tag. One of the best-known is quinoa, an edible seed originating in South America. With a high count of fibre, protein and minerals, it’s definitely worthy of the superfood label, but you can expect it to cost around three times as much as rice. This is down to the complicated harvesting and drying process it requires, and the fact that rapidly increasing demand has meant that supply hasn’t been able to keep track. We can also look at the trendy Atkins, Keto and Paleo diets, which help bodybuilders and movie stars shred fat and build muscle through a low carb count and a high intake of animal proteins and fats. Given that animal produce is a lot more expensive than most carbohydrate sources, less carbs and more protein is bound to cost more – especially when these diets recommend pricey ingredients like beef, salmon, and avocadoes. So it’s little wonder that Atkins has been labelled the world’s most expensive diet. Clearly, there’s a lot of money be made out of health foods – just take a look at Amazon’s purchase of the Whole Foods brand in 2017. So you might ask – is the health industry scamming us? One topic that polarizes opinion is gluten-free diets, which can boast celebrity endorsers including Hollywood star Gwyneth Paltrow and tennis ace Novak Djokovic. So, what’s the problem with gluten, which you’ll find in everyday foods like bread and pasta? Around 1% of the population suffers from gluten intolerance, but unless you belong to that category, the need to go gluten-free is far from proven. But what isn’t in doubt is that it will cost you more, in some cases 3 times as much, because of the complex process to give gluten-free ingredients the required consistency. Other health foods have caused controversy for different reasons. Avocado toast has been hailed as the breakfast for millennials, and the reason why many of them are broke. Avocadoes, packed with healthy omega 3 acids, are more expensive than less healthy sugar-filled cereals. But the boom in avocado sales has been blamed for deforestation in Mexico, with farmers cutting down forests for crop space, and the vast quantities of water used have been putting pressure on irrigation systems. There have even been reports that the avocado trade in Mexico is partly controlled by drug cartels, meaning that avocado sales worldwide may be funding violent criminals. So what does the future hold for healthy eating? Given current food trends and environmental concerns, vegetarianism, veganism and organic production are likely to go nowhere but up, which is good news all around. But where will we get our protein from if not from animals? There’s one possibility, and it isn’t a vegetarian option or, for most of us, an appetizing one. According to some experts, the future of food lies in insects. With a rapidly rising population, we need to ask how we can keep on feeding everyone. And insects provide lots of answers. They’re extremely nutritious, with high levels of protein, fatty acids, vitamins and fibres. You can also add to the fact that these creepy-crawlies require much less land and water than meat, and what’s not to like about insects – apart from the fact that, well … they’re insects … But there’s a growing number of gourmet chefs who are already onto the job of converting you, including Michelin-starred Punto MX in Madrid, which boasts ants and crickets on the menu. Keep in mind that many cultures have been eating insects for centuries and that demand for insect food has tripled to rise to 1.8 million dollars by 2023 – meaning that ‘entomophagy – or eating insects – may soon become part of your vocabulary. Superfoods, celebrity diets and insects aside, let’s return to our question – does eating healthy need to cost that much? You don’t have to go as far as eating wild salmon daily to be healthy. Instead, you could just stick to the basics: keep processed food to a minimum, replace it with fruits and vegetables, and perhaps non-processed meat, which many experts say is acceptable. For most of us, following these rules won’t leave us broke. A study by the Harvard Public School of Health estimates that eating healthy costs just 1 dollar 50 a day more than living on junk food. And factoring in the long-term costs of a poor diet in lower productivity and medical bills, that really doesn’t seem like a huge price to pay now does it? Alright Aluxers, we’d like to know: Let us know what you think in the comments. And, of course, for sticking with us until the end, here’s that bonus we owe you. We searched for the most expensive diet we could find, and in 2015, Hollywood action man Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson, revealed what he eats to maintain his musclebound physique; a daily intake of 7 meals and 5000 calories. A blogger who attempted the diet found that it cost $1,262 a month, nearly half of this spent on Johnson’s favourite fish, cod. But keep in mind, if you try the Rock’s diet without following his exercise regime, your body mass will increase, but it won’t be muscle you’re gaining. Thank you for spending some time with us Aluxers. Make sure to like and subscribe so you never miss another video. We also handpicked these videos which we recommend you watch next. You can talk to us on all social medias or ask a question on our website ALUX.com! Thank you for being an Aluxer and we’ll see you back tomorrow.

Randall Smitham