When it comes to health and finances, not everybody gets the connection – but it’s there. Eating plenty of vegetables is good for your body, and in a way, your body runs like a bank account: Calories are deposited, and calories are spent. Too many calories spent and you’re hungry and overdrawn. Too many calories deposited and you’re bloated and eventually overweight. Of course, we would all rather have an extra bulge in our bank accounts than at our waistlines. The truth is that eating plenty of veggies can also be good for your real-life bank account by saving you money in the long run over a diet packed with junk.
Vegetables are a great source of micronutrients, which may lower your risk of disease
For many habitually healthy eaters, a fast-food hamburger can feel like a brick in their stomachs. When compared to how it feels to eat clean and green and thriving on natural foods, the difference can seem like night and day. Fruits and vegetables have essential dietary fiber that helps your body run optimally and vitamins and minerals that help make you feel great. Sure, you could just buy a bunch of pills and supplements to get most vitamins and minerals, but spending a lot of money on supplements is a great way to go broke. Besides, you’ll sell yourself short on more than just fiber.
The term “micronutrients” refers to small nutritional compounds that can’t be categorized as carbs, protein or fats. Micronutrients encompass vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, which are compounds such as antioxidants, carotenoids and polyphenols. The protective benefits of phytochemicals are just beginning to be researched, although emerging data strongly suggest that many have preventive powers when it comes to cancer and other diseases. Since almost every disease costs money – and almost any kind of cancer will cost thousands – this is one way to protect your health and bank account in the future.
Unlike phytochemicals, which generally aren’t available in pill form, vitamins and minerals of almost any kind can be bought in bulk. However, not all delivery systems are created equal. Most vitamins and minerals are absorbed better when eaten in whole food form, according to current research. Plus, synthetic supplement versions of nutrients such as calcium and vitamin E may cause health problems down the road that are both painful and costly.
Eating your vegetables can help you lose weight, or keep it off
It’s no secret that obesity has been linked to a litany of health problems, but lesser known is the cost of those diseases. And the price tag isn’t exactly paltry, either. Costs linked to obesity in the U.S. are estimated at $147 billion annually, according to the federal government. Not only that, but normal-weight individuals also tend to make more money than their overweight and obese counterparts and take fewer days off from work. Also, overweight and obese people have higher premiums for both life and health insurance.
Eating lots of vegetables can help you lose weight. Research has shown that people who weigh less tend to eat more fruits and vegetables on a regular basis than overweight individuals. Maybe it’s because you can eat a much higher volume for relatively fewer calories by eating filling, low-calorie vegetables – or even high-calorie vegetables for that matter – but veggies also have staying power that other foods don’t. Amelia Eisen, a San Francisco-based health coach who specializes in healthy eating on a budget, tells her clients to stock up on veggies to keep a healthy weight and bank account. “Since they contain high amounts of nutrients, fiber and water, they will satiate and hydrate you, keeping you fuller longer,” Eisen explains, “So you will inevitably eat [less] and spend less on food if you eat more vegetables.”
How to minimize the cost of fresh vegetables
In addition to preventing disease and staving off weight gain, eating more vegetables can help you save money today. Try Eisen’s vegetable shopping tips:
- Shop at local farmers markets. When you buy local, costs are always lower because the food doesn’t travel as far.
- Find recipes before shopping, and stick to the ingredient amounts so you won’t buy more than you need.
- Veggies freeze well once cooked, so make big meals and freeze leftovers for later.
- Stick to in-season veggies, which are always cheaper.
- Don’t buy prechopped, frozen vegetables – you can save money by chopping and freezing them yourself.
To save even more, try adopting “Meatless Monday” by going completely vegetarian one day a week – and it doesn’t have to be Monday. By subbing vegetarian meals once a week, you’ll save money without missing out on a lot of protein. And going meatless one day a week can help you cut your saturated fat intake by 15 percent. You can also save money at the supermarket by growing your own healthy vegetables at home, and if you have extras you can preserve or freeze them, so they’ll last longer.
This article was originally published on U.S. News.
Vegetables photo courtesy of Shutterstock.