Eat Healthy AND Cheap? You can do it and here’s how

The nutritional profile of a food is the most important thing to consider when you’re evaluating foods for health / weight loss. Many foods have the exact same nutritional profiles, but wildly different costs. Most food companies don’t want you to know this.

We’re constantly bombarded with messages that promote “weight loss friendly” foods, tout the latest “superfoods,” or demonize common dietary staples. The result is an entire industry that is intentionally or unintentionally taking advantage of this confusion with overpriced “health” foods containing “special” ingredients that may not be providing the additional benefit you’re paying for.

It is commonly thought that eating healthfully is expensive and that such costs limit healthy diet habits. However, a recent analysis of food prices done at Harvard University concluded that eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and nuts costs approximately $1.50 more per day than an unhealthy diet2. For many consumers, this is much less than expected. The idea is that when you focus on a food’s nutritional profile and cost as opposed to the latest headlines, you can cut through a lot of food marketing BS and save a good chunk of money.

Let me ask you a question: what’s “healthier”, whey protein or soy protein? We know that protein is important for muscle growth/preservation as well as satiety (fullness). But when it comes to the simple decision of choosing a protein powder, there is an abundance of messages we receive that pulls us in different directions. Some articles claim that phytoestrogens in soy will lower testosterone levels, making muscle growth and preservation more difficult. Others declare that animal proteins such as whey are carcinogenic1 with even more going on to debate the immune system boosting properties of whey or antioxidant qualities of soy.

However, research consistently demonstrates that both soy and whey protein are complete proteins that are equally beneficial for body composition with no differing effects on hormones3. In addition, comparing their stats finds that 25 grams of either protein powder will yield 20 grams of protein with comparable amounts of fats, carbs and micronutrients.

protein nutritional comparison

So when we make this decision, we should turn to other factors to guide us. A quick comparison of the most popular protein powder brands on Amazon.com shows that soy protein comes in at $8.39/lb and whey protein at $11.59/lb. Finally, as a plant-based protein, soy requires significantly less land and water to produce than whey.

The sum of all this analysis is that we think soy protein is a superior choice for someone trying to eat well on a budget.The Stats are equal, but the cost is not! In other words, you should look at the nutritional profile of foods you want to eat and then select for lower cost. To cut through all the marketing and hype surrounding specific foods, simply look at the Stats!

Note: We’re not trying to demonize any one food – we absolutely love whey protein as well, but rather we hope to demonstrate our framework for making informed choices on food.

  1. Cheeke, R. (2014). No Whey, Man. I’ll Pass on the Protein Powder – Nutrition. Retrieved February 06, 2016, from http://nutritionstudies.org/no-whey-man-ill-pass-on-protein-powder/
  2. Rao, M., Afshin, A., Singh, G., & Mozaffarian, D. (2013). Do healthier foods and diet patterns cost more than less healthy options? A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open, 3(12).
  3. Samantha Rubin, Douglas Kalman, Michele Martinez, Diane R. Krieger, Nutrition Miami Research Associates.(2005). A Randomized Double-Blind Clinical Pilot Trial Evaluating the Effect of Protein Source when Combined with Resistance Training on Body Composition and Sex Hormones in Adult Males. Experimental Biology 2005, April 5.

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