The True Cost of Food

The average person makes over 200 daily food decisions1, many of which relate to price. How do our food expenditures reflect our wellbeing?

We Americans spend less money on food than our grandparents did, and more on our health. In 2013, we spent almost 10% of our income on food; in 1950, we spent 17.5% on food; in 1900, a whopping 42%2! With industrialization, the cost of food has decreased, yet our caloric intake has increased3 along with our rate of disease and healthcare fees.

Individually, we pay more than ten thousand dollars per year on conventional healthcare alone, more than twice the amount of most other developed nations4,5 (equating to $860 monthly; $215 weekly). The US Bureau of Labor indicates that each American spends $7200 yearly on food6 (equating to $600 monthly; $150 weekly).

We are spending more on illness than on wellness, yet we are eating innumerable foods that contribute to our ailments. We neglect our instincts for food from the earth, and choose cheaper, less-flavorful foods made in factories. We create foods that are nutrient-poor, and toxin-rich. We sacrifice flavor for preservatives and fortification. The result is a skewed vision of the true cost of food and a global crisis of expensive, patched-up sickness.

Subsequently, we consume supplements containing isolated nutrients scientifically identified to offset disease.

Wouldn’t it be better – and cheaper – simply to eat more nutritious food?

Is some food actually more nutritious than other food? Study after study indicates the nutrient density of food grown in rich, diverse soil is higher than in food grown in depleted soil. Eating naturally raised foods rather than processed does matter.

High quality food – responsibly grown, toxin-free, minimally processed and as local as possible7 – offers us the nutrients our body needs without additives that adversely affect our health. Even certified “organic” foods may contain preservatives (such as tBHQ8) not required to be listed on the label, causing uncertainty about how store-bought foods are affecting an individual’s cells. Consumed over time, these additives and toxins contribute to costly disease by damaging the gastrointestinal tract, disrupting hormonal function and modifying our genes.

We now know that nutrients actually do play a role in gene expression! Research in the field of epigenetics shows how nutrients affect not only our cell integrity and function, but also our genetic expression9. This puts a whole new meaning on “you are what you eat” – your future generations will be affected by your food choices! Perhaps it’s time to reconsider our financial investment in our family’s health, and look to our forefathers’ habits.

Some of the most natural, high-quality foods to eat are ancestral foods, regional foods, and seasonal foods, provided that they are grown with sustainable, biodiverse, chemical-free practices in natural ecosystems with respect for land, water and animals. These foods still exist! And they’re actually affordable when you buy them locally in season.

Get to know your farmers and their farms. Ask about growing practices, and become comfortable – adamant, actually – about spending a little more to purchase their products. You are supporting age-old practices that also support you. Farm-fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy and meats are invariably higher in nutrient content and better for your metabolism10 and wellbeing.

While it may seem slightly harder on your wallet at first, once you taste the flavors of seasonal foods grown in diverse, rich soil and notice the benefits to your body and mind, your conceptions about food costs may shift.



1Wansink, B. (2006). Mindless eating: Why we eat more than we think. New York, NY: Bantam Books.