Potassium Rich Foods Just for the Rich??August 8, 2011
The USDA Food Pyramid was updated last year to raise the required levels of potassium needed by the average person. So far so good, but this year a University of Washington study apparently indicates that eating healthy with plenty of potassium rich foods to meet the new guidelines will cost more money. Or, as was mindlessly written by the LA Times, “don’t trade that apple for a Twinkie just yet.”
Not just the LA Times that picked up on this, it was repeated as far away in the media as India.
Well, yes, sugar is cheap – thanks in no small part to massive government subsidies, but who with any sense would believe that a Twinkie is a sensible choice in anyone’s food budget? I am quite sure that apples can be had cheaply as well, and they are more satisfying and nutritious than a Twinkie. (Actually, paint scrapings are probably more nutritious than Twinkies.)
I am tired of this cliche about the “poor” (and, believe me, in the US that term is used very much in a relative sense) not being able to afford to eat properly. It’s simply in the choice of foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables in the USA are ridiculously cheap, and readily available. The problem is that consumers are not educated, so they buy heavily processed foods with minimal nutritional value. Eliminate the processed garbage, increase the fresh produce consumption, and most people will see their food bills go down – not up.
When I lived in China, I always found the humble meals served in the countryside to be much healthier than than the luxurious dinners I had in the cities. The wealthy leaned heavily towards meats and fats (and a fair bit of alcohol). The people in the country couldn’t afford the meats, so their meals were often vegetable heavy, and much better. This is universal, as fresh produce of some kind is always in abundance, and prices can be very cheap. There is simply no way eating Twinkies can be a money saver. On top of their complete lack of nutritional value, Twinkies (and most processed foods) train the taste buds to love junk. I think that’s another reason the fresh produce goes unsold.
Try it yourself. Forget the frozen processed and foods, and go with fresh produce. Keep track of your bill. I can almost guarantee you will be spending less, not more.
If you skip to the comments below, you’ll see one reader talking about the “food desert” theory, which essentially claims that people don’t have access to good food because supermarkets and such are not interested in opening in poor neighborhoods. It’s a popular theory, I think, because it taps into the current flow of popular socioeconomic theory. I answered that I don’t buy the theory.
So I was happy to read today that a new study supports my opinion in this case.
“Many have argues that those who live in unhealthy food environments — heavy on fast food, light on grocery stores — are more likely to consume less nutritious options. But Roland Sturm, an economist at RAND Corporation, analyzed the food environments of 13,000 adolescents in California, looking at how many fast-food restaurants and supermarkets were within a 1.5-mile radius of their homes and schools. He then looked at how much fast food, fresh fruits and other foods the kids consumed. And his study found no correlation between what food sources kids lived near, what the kids ate and how much they weighed.
“Maybe the whole idea that what is 400 meters away is no longer relevant when people drive everywhere. In California, we see about 97 percent have access to motorized transportation. Where they get their food could have little to do with what’s directly in their neighborhood.”
The other key issue has to do with what fast-food restaurants and supermarkets sell. Grocery stores do sell fruits and vegetables. They also sell candy and chips. “That makes the storyline a little more complicated than a supermarket will make you think,” Sturm notes. “By the same logic, supermarkets also make you drink soda.”
Again it comes down to education and choices. We could certainly help in the education area. Choices are another story. There are few of us who always make the right choice even when we know what the right choice is. I hope some of the recipes here make the right choices easier for everyone.