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Eating healthy, nutrient-rich foods comes at a price, report says. But don't trade that apple for a Twinkie just yet

August 04, 2011|By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Bananas are a good source of fiber and potassium, two daily nutrient requirements.
Bananas are a good source of fiber and potassium, two daily nutrient requirements. (Eric Boyd / Los Angeles Times )

Buyer, beware: Eating as healthy as Uncle Sam suggests may end up costing hundreds of dollars extra per year, a new paper in the journal Health Affairs says.

The study looked at what it would take to try to meet the federal Dietary Guidelines for 2010 for fiber, calcium and other nutrients, and limiting fat and sugar intake accordingly.

Researchers from the University of Washington surveyed 2,001 residents of King County in Washington about their diet and nutrition.

Almost across the board, eating more nutrient-dense foods rather than empty-calorie junk foods came at a hefty price. For every extra 1% of daily calories in the form of added sugar, the consumer saved $25.55 a year. A little more saturated fat cut the annual food bill by a hefty $102.20.

Raising the average respondent's paltry consumption of fiber just 10% would cost an extra $54.75 a year. Raising potassium intake an extra 10% cost $189.80.

In fact, the study found that for potassium alone, raising the average person's intake (2,800 mg) to the recommended daily value (3,500 mg) would cost the consumer about $380 more per year. Ouch.

But don't exit the produce aisle just yet. The authors say this may simplymean that consumers need to be educated not just on how to eat better, but to eat smarter. A banana, for example is rich in both fiber and potassium, addressing two daily nutrient needs at once.

That's particularly important, the researchers point out, since the conflict between good eating and cheap eating means poorer communities get hit the hardest.

"Dietary recommendations need to become more sensitive to the economic constraints faced by consumers, particularly those in the most vulnerable segments of society, who bear a disproportionate burden of obesity and chronic disease," the authors write.

Follow me on Twitter @LAT_aminakhan.

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