Why most people in the USA can't afford to eat healthy foods
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Why most people in the USA can't afford to eat healthy foods

Sacramento : CA : USA | Aug 05, 2011 at 1:21 PM PDT
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Is it true most people in Sacramento and across the nation really can't afford to eat healthy foods? See today's U.S. News & World Report article, Health Buzz: A Healthy Diet Isn't Cheap. Is food insecurity overtaking the USA? Now there's a new study that reports there may be millions of people in the USA who can't afford to eat according to last year's food pyramid. But was the government's food pyramid ever really that healthy? In 2011 we have a new government food 'plate' that has replaced the older government food pyramid. Check out the new USDA's MyPlate.

How unaffordable is healthy food such as organic produce and meats from grass-fed animals instead of grain-fed animals and farmed fish instead of wild-caught seafood? There's a new word in Sacramento to describe healthy food being affordable. It's 'foodorable.' Being unable to afford a food fad for health is 'fadorable,' but unfortunately, a new study published in the journal Health Affairs says most healthy food isn't affordable at all for most families in the USA. Up to 70 percent of your immune system resides in your gut. A poor diet, infection, and stress-caused too high (or too low) cortisol levels can worsen your immune system.

In Sacramento some poor people get non-perishable canned or processed food handouts or find fast foods at low cost consisting of white bread, pasta, beans, canned vegetables, white rice, powdered milk, cold cereals, chips, soda, potatoes, and sometimes onions. Others are given food stamps. What many children get used to eating daily--unperishable foods for the poor in cans. So when they get to school, kids are not familiar with some of the fresh produce, and sometimes a lot of fresh produce ends up in trash cans.

Remember back in the 1970s when there used to be government cheese? See the article, Where`s The Cheese? Changes In A Government Food Giveaway Program. The food becomes familiar, and often in school produce is discarded because it's not what kids were eating daily. How can people make healthier food choices when they can't afford the healthier foods?

Healthy is too expensive, but most Americans don't believe that. Most people can't afford to eat healthy foods. See the articles, Why Americans Can't Afford to Eat Healthy | Common Dreams and the August 4, 2011 article, Study: 1 in 10 homes can't afford healthy food | Sandusky Register. A new Gallup poll reports that most Americans are eating fewer fruits and vegetables than they ate last year.

A healthy diet is expensive and could make it difficult for Americans to meet new U.S. nutritional guidelines, according to a study published August 4, 2011. The study notes that government should do more to help consumers eat healthier. The only problem is that some measures are actually make it difficult for the poor to access healthier foods. One example in Sacramento are convenience stores in poor neighborhoods instead of supermarkets.

One way to combat that in Sacramento are community urban gardens where people grow their own produce. But that's not possible all winter. According to the journal, Health Affairs, if people ate according to last year's food pyramid, it would add hundreds more dollars to their annual grocery bill.

If you're poor in Sacramento, you can get potassium from potato salad if you can't afford oranges. And if you can't eat organic non GMO whole grains, you still can get your fiber from beans and lentils. After all, most Sacramento supermarkets carry large sacks of pinto beans. You can make hummus from beans or chick peas. Just choose colorful black and red beans, not white or pale pink beans and mash up the beans with a teaspoon of tahini (sesame seed paste) and some lemon juice. If you can't afford olive oil, there's rice bran oil.

Why would the study find that introducing more potassium in a diet is likely to add $380 per year to the average consumer's food costs? You can get potassium-containing produce from one of the food banks that give out free food or ask for the overrun or throwaway at farmers' markets.

Most people in Sacramento are not begging for raw potatoes to get potassium if they're looking for fiber in their diet to cure constipation caused by wolfing down starchy fillers such as pasta and processed dehydrated mashed potatoes that you mix with water to stretch the burger meat. And too many poor people in Sacramento are eating fatty fries instead of whole baked potatoes topped with unsweetened fat-free yogurt.

Healthful eating isn't being taught to poor people in Sacramento, let alone to average income people. Why market a diet of salmon, greens, and pilaf when most Americans can't afford that meal when wild-caught, healthy salmon, not farmed salmon with added orange coloring, is not affordable. Most people don't know they can buy a $3 can of wild-caught salmon packed from the over-run instead of paying $16 a pound for fresh or frozen wild-caught salmon at a Sacramento food market.

The question locally is why are so many Sacramento families going fishing off of piers in Berkeley or going to lakes and rivers around Sacramento instead of buying wild-caught fish? It's about what they can afford much of the time. Have you noticed so many coupons are for processed foods, not whole produce, not organic vegetables and fruits, but for packaged foods and goods? How many Sacramento supermarkets provide coupons for produce compared to coupons for ice cream, butter, cereals, and baked goods? Some food-assistance programs do provide coupons to buy fruits and vegetables.

The cheapest way to add potassium to a poor family's diet is with potatoes and similar root vegetables. But if the potatoes are cut up and eaten raw, they are healthier than when fried. Even baking or boiling a potato in a stew is healthier than deep frying it. But some people's arthritis is worsened by eating nightshade vegetables, which are the most abundant in Sacramento--potatoes, tomatoes, and bell peppers.

The new study was based on a random telephone survey of about 2,000 adults in King County, Washington, followed by a printed questionnaire that was returned by about 1,300 people. They note what food they ate, which was analyzed for nutrient content and estimated cost. The big issue why healthy food isn't affordable to most Americans is because researchers are looking at foods closest to meeting the federal guidelines for potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin D and calcium.

The study is saying that it costs too much to eat foods closest to the federal guidelines for what constitutes healthy food. What poor people with the least amount of money to spend on food are eating more of is saturated fat, salt, and sugar. To the poor, cheap food tastes good because that's what they are most familiar with from early childhood, unless they're the new poor who formerly ate healthier foods.

The study pointed out a percentage--nearly15 percent of households in America say they don't have enough money to eat the way they want to eat, and about 49 million Americans make food decisions based on cost, but that's just an estimate. Is the study too simple? Is healthy food always going to be too expensive for most people in the USA? That depends how many people you're feeding on your income.

Why are people eating so unhealthy when billions of taxpayer dollars subsidize agribusinesses' corn, soybeans, and wheat? Are more grains being shipped overseas? What happened to government cheese that used to be given out to the poor and often made light of on TV programs?

What's happened is that some of these subsidies helps to produce cheap junk food on one hand. On the other hand you have unsubsidized fruits and vegetables. You have a choice when poor and eating: lower-priced junk food that in the long run can run up your cost of health care unless you have the type of genes that only 6% of the population has--where you can eat anything and still live beyond 100 in good health. Or you buy the junk food at low cost because taxes support the junk food but not so much the organic produce that's healthier for you in the long-term.

Why is corn processed into syrup and also into grain-based feed to produce meat when the healthier meats come from grass-fed animals? All you have to do is check out statistics of how the government spent more than $50 billion into the corn industry, keeping prices for corn low enough for the poor to afford when they buy fast foods and soda pop.

You can buy a meal of corn-fed ground beef burgers, fries, and soda pop cheaper than you can buy organic vegetables and wild-caught fish for a healthy, hearty fish stew and whole-grain or whole-legume (flourless) bread. Have you checked out the price of supplements containing greens and whey protein? Some containers cost around $40 for a scoop of healthy supplements that you mix with liquid to get your green vegetables, protein, and plant extracts.

What's cheapest to eat for the poor besides potatoes? It's corn and products made from corn. A lot of poor people in Sacramento, especially kids buy a bag of chips from potatoes or corn for lunch because they are familiar with the taste from early childhood and the chips are affordable as is the soda sweetened with corn syrup. It's affordable.

A bag of fruit is not. How many kids go into a convenience store when there's no supermarket in their poor neighborhood and buy a bag of bananas, apples, and nectarines? They buy chips and wolf down 1,200 calories with 875 calories of soda pop instead. Then they wonder why poor people are more obese than the middle class who is more obese than the rich who buy organic produce and eat smaller portion sizes of healthier wild-caught foods.

The pay-off is higher health costs down the road for those eating cheap, more dental extractions for the uninsured, and a complete ignorance of how cheap foods and sweet foods rot your teeth from the inside out. Check out the school lunches in Sacramento for school kids. There are too many pizzas, even with the whole wheat flour, and too many fries.

What this new study has opened is a new forum on the politics of nutrition for the new poor. Sacramento has the philosophy, if you can't afford it, grow it in a container or volunteer to help in a local urban produce garden. Are most local foods affordable compared to imported foods for the majority of Sacramento families? You could also ask your house of worship's or community center's landlords to grow food on their property and share the healthy vegetables and fruits with those who need healthy foods most.

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Why are poor people eating so many starchy fillers that are affordable?
Is it true most people in the USA can' afford healthy foods?
AnneHart is based in Sacramento, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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