Welcome, conscientious viewers, to Healthy Living. This week we examine how the vegan lifestyle can significantly lower the cost of food, health insurance and healthcare while promoting wellness.
We’ll hear the views of three individuals in the US who’ve made important contributions to the field of public health: Dr. Pamela Popper, a vegan nutrition expert, naturopath, and founder and Executive Director of the Wellness Forum, Dr. Neal Barnard, a vegan physician, researcher, bestselling author and President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Ellen Jaffe Jones, a vegan former Emmy-winning TV investigative reporter and anchor, certified personal-fitness trainer and author of “Eat Vegan on $4 a Day.”
We hear first from Ms. Jaffe Jones, who shares how a plant-based diet, free from meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, can substantially reduce our grocery bills.
I wrote, "Eat Vegan on $4 a Day" because I saw so many stories on the news that said you can't eat well on a budget. I just felt like reporters need more resources than that very biased opinion that, in order to eat healthy, it has to cost a lot of money. I have eaten this way most of the last 30 years. So I knew personally that it wasn't true.
And I also knew that it costs so much money when you don't eat this way, not only at the grocery store, but then when you start getting the diseases of affluence like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. You know, a bypass surgery in the United States can cost upwards of US$100,000 to US$200,000.
So if you really average out, as we liked to do when I was a financial consultant, the cost of that bypass surgery into the cost of a US$5 burger, that US$5 burger may actually cost like US$100 or US$1,000, depending on how many years you live and how many burgers you eat.
So it's not just as simple as what you save at the grocery store. It's the amount of money you have to pay when you get sick or when you have to go to the hospital or when you have to hire people to help you when you are so debilitated.
How is it possible to eat on just US$4 a day? It is simpler than one might think.
The big secret to eating well on US$4 a day is buying foods in bulk, and buying them when they're on sale. For example, a big bag of beans at a big box store is about 10 cents for a four-ounce serving of cooked beans, with high fiber, and is a great source of protein. You compare that at the same big box store to the cheapest form of hamburger meat.
Now that's going to be 30% fat. I don't know what else is in the other 70%, stuff you wouldn't want to eat anyway. But that is going to cost about 60 cents. So burger meat is six times more expensive than bean protein. And if you start going to more expensive cuts of meat like tenderloin, for example, it's going to be even more expensive. And if you go to a restaurant, it's going to be even more expensive.
So, you really save a lot of money by eating bean protein. And even if you don't buy the biggest bag of beans, canned beans are only twice as expensive as cooking beans from scratch. And it's just not a big deal to cook beans from scratch. My book has a lot of tips on how to do that in a quick way, in an easy way. I give all the proportions of water to beans. So if people have never cooked beans from scratch, it's not a big deal.
Ms. Jaffe Jones has several recommendations regarding shopping for groceries. First, make sure you eat before going shopping, as we tend to buy “impulse foods” when we’re hungry. Second, purchase fruits and vegetables when they’re in season or on sale. Third, if the price of some of the fruits or veggies is exceptionally good, buy extra quantities and freeze or dehydrate them for use in the winter months when prices are much higher.
There's a great deal of variety in a plant-based diet, even eating on US$4 a day. The big secret to eating on US$4 a day, is, “beans, greens, and grains.” The more extended answer is to cook foods in their natural states. Stay away from the frozen processed food aisles. Shop the perimeter of the store.
But it's very easy to have beans be the source of your protein, whether it's lunch or dinner. You can combine it with a wholegrain, and even grains are only about 5 cents to 10 cents more expensive per ounce than beans. So when you combine those two, you get all your calories.
And then you have plenty of money left over to go buy the vegetables and the fruits that might be a little more expensive. But even a banana costs only 22 cents. So it is nature's perfect “fast food.” You just don't need to buy Twinkies.
For the price of one Twinkie, you can have three servings of bean protein. So you really can save your health so much by looking at different options in the plant kingdom. People say, "Well, isn't that kind of a boring diet?" And I go, "Excuse me? There are 90 different fruits and vegetables out there. So if you don't like one or two fruits or vegetables, try another one."
Produce comes in a wide range of colors, and for good reason.
Nature gave us these beautiful colors and foods. Why? So we would eat them; so we would be attracted to them. And I like to say, "Eat the colors of the rainbow, because nature did a great job in putting almost every color with an associated anti-oxidant or nutrient or vitamin that makes you just want to crave that purple cabbage or the eggplant or a red apple or a yellow squash." There are just so many different colors out there. They're great and they're cheap.
Many meat-based recipes can easily be converted into delicious, money-saving vegan dishes.
An example of a specific recipe would be if you're used to making chili with hamburger meat. Given the example of beans costing 10 cents versus the same quantity serving of hamburger meat costing 60 cents, just in that meal alone, if you're cooking for your family, you can see how this would multiply out not only over that meal but over that day, the course of a week, the course of a year and a lifetime.
The savings are really phenomenal when you start multiplying this out. And that's just the food that costs money at the grocery store. When you figure out that you don't need the US$100,000 bypass surgery, the savings are tremendous.
One of the best ways to save money and improve one’s health is to avoid purchasing processed foods.
Cookies and crackers are probably some of the worst kinds of processed foods that you can buy, in part because they’re so addictive, but they’re also very expensive. So if you are eating rice as a whole grain by itself, that’s going to cost you maybe 10 cents to 15 cents for a quarter-cup serving (45 grams), and that’s going to fill you up for that meal, as opposed to a package of cookies, which costs maybe US$3-US$4.
Another big one would be cereals that are very processed and very expensive, in the big boxes. Then when you look inside the box there’s not quite so much inside, and a whole a lot of sugar, a lot of high fructose corn syrup in many products, a lot of added sugar in different forms. What I like to eat in the morning is a quarter cup of oats, and that cooks into a half-cup serving.
And I add some fruit to that and that costs me maybe 20-25 cents; verses 50 cents to a dollar for a grocery store serving of the same quantity. And that doesn’t even include the fruit.
Once people experience how wonderful they feel and how much money they save on a plant-based diet, they become enthusiastic advocates of the vegan way.
My book has only been out four months and already I'm getting a tremendous response from people on Facebook. I have close to 4,000 followers, and the response really has been amazing. People are getting the book and within a week of reading it saying, "I'm already seeing a difference." And some of the people are already vegan. Some of them are not.
So especially, when they're not vegan and they trade out a few meat meals a week for bean protein, for example, they really start to see some significant savings. And if it's more than just them, say they have a family of four, it's really quite noticeable. And I give a lot of tips in the book about how to save money at the grocery store.
And it's important to understand that it's not just looking for beans in quantity but there are other ways to save money, like understanding that products, especially the more expensive products, are placed right in front of your eyes, at eye level, so you will be sure to buy those things. And understanding what the stores are doing to try to get us to buy is important, too.
But saving money on grocery bills is only the beginning. Consuming animal products leads to many serious, life-threatening illnesses which are entirely preventable.
It is really important that you understand you will save not only money in the choices of the food that you buy, but by avoiding the diseases and illnesses that making poor food selections will cause. Many people tell me, and I certainly have had this experience, that once they adopt a vegan diet, they don’t get sick. Every time when I was younger and I used to run a great distance like six miles, I would get sick like clockwork.
And since I have adopted a plant-based diet, I just never get sick. When most people make this change, they never go back. They are amazed how delicious the food tastes, how colorful and vibrant it is, how energized they feel by it. And then, when they start saving money on their medical bills, they’re going like, “Well, why didn’t I start this 20 years ago?”
And how much time is lost because they didn’t start it sooner. So my advice would be: “Do it now. Don’t waste another minute.” You’re going to have so much energy. You’re going to save so much money, and I think it’s something that you will never regret.
Mounting scientific research is revealing the direct relationship between eating animal-based foods and rapidly climbing healthcare costs. In 1995, Dr. Neal Barnard and colleagues conducted an extensive study comparing the prevalence of hypertension, cancer, diabetes, gallbladder disease, obesity-related musculoskeletal disorders and food-borne diseases in meat eaters and vegetarians in the US. The researchers then calculated the medical costs, including needed physician and hospital services and prescription drugs, due to meat consumption.
When we compare people who eat meat and those who don’t eat meat, the people who eat meat have a higher risk of certain diseases, heart disease, certain forms of cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and some others. And when we look at the frequency of those diseases, and we associate the added healthcare costs that come with them, we could determine the proportion that’s attributable to meat consumption.
And the result is shocking: Meat consumption increases healthcare costs in the billions of dollars every year. In the US we’re in the trillions of dollars in medical costs. And a very substantial portion of that is related to the fact that the Americans follow a very unhealthy diet. And unfortunately it's getting worse year by year.
In the 1990s, we calculated that US$30- to US$60-billion of medical costs were directly attributable to meat consumption, just for a very few health conditions. We were being very conservative. Since that time, it's been 15 or more years, those costs have escalated dramatically.
Consumption of animal products is the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes which, according to the World Health Organization, are the world’s most common diseases, and account for about 23% of all annual deaths globally.
We know that in the United States, the cost of a (coronary) bypass surgery, just one bypass can be between US$100,000 and US$200,000. So if you are able to avoid that surgery, whether you pay for it, the insurance company pays for it or the government pays for it, that is just for one person. If you multiply that by all the heart procedures that could be avoided, I think billions of dollars could be saved, billions.
And the bottom line is preventable diseases are just not sustainable. It doesn’t matter who pays for them. It’s not only the medicine that is used to treat cancer, but the caregiver expenses that must be maintained. Again, billions of dollars will be saved if we can avoid just one of these diseases.
So the numbers add up really fast, and we have very clear data on the cost of caring for people with various conditions. If you have multiple sclerosis in the United States, it’s about US$50,000 a year to take care of you. So, somebody’s insurance company is paying for that; diabetes, US$11,777; Crohn's disease, 30-some thousand dollars. Those are all diseases we can get rid of. And then what’s the cost? Zero.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 68% of all adults and nearly one-third of children in the US are considered either overweight or obese, and these conditions often lead to diabetes, a leading cause of blindness, amputations, and loss of kidney function. Diabetes is an enormous drain on the US healthcare system, costing an estimated US$128 billion in 2010 alone.
We have got to do something about kids. And parents have a lot of erroneous attitudes about food, some of which are a result of advertising. Our kids’ diets are getting worse at younger ages, and so they're getting sicker and fatter earlier. And the ramifications with this are severe because when you start out your adult life sick and overweight, the cost monetarily is outrageous.
But the cost in terms of the quality of your life is horrendous. When I was 20 years old, I thought I was invincible. I don't see a lot of 20-year-olds feeling that way about themselves right now. They're tired, they’re sick, they're overweight. I can outrun most 25-year-olds in the gym and a yoga class.
Skyrocketing medical expenses are not only a concern in the US, but in many other countries as well.
The health costs do differ, but the trend that we are seeing in almost every country is towards increasing meat consumption, and that follows increasing affluence and increasing ease of distribution. In China, meat intake has increased by about 50% in the last 10 years, and behind it will come more and more diabetes, more and more healthcare costs, more and more expenditure.
Supreme Master Ching Hai has also spoken on many occasions about the extremely high price of eating meat, as during this excerpt from a September 2008 interview on the US-based Environmentally Sound Radio.
Meat eating cause heart disease, over 17 million people perish each year due to heart attack and high blood pressure. I’m talking all this according to the World Health Organization, and United States health agencies etc., etc. Twenty million people survive heart attack but related ongoing cost of their case is enormous. The cost of burden of cardiovascular diseases to individual and government alone in United States is US$700 billion per year!
It’s not me who is speaking. It’s your government research. And now, cancer, more than 940,000 colon cancer cases yearly and nearly a half a million people die from it each year. In the US alone, cancer treatment cost US$6.5 billion. Billion!
Prostrate and bladder cancer affects more than half a million people every year. Researchers have identified chemical substance in cooked, fried and grilled meat that’s considered direct cause of cancer and people who eat beef 4 or more times a week are found to be 4 times as likely to be having colon cancer than those consuming less.
And concerning diabetes, 246 million people worldwide are affected by this. And the cost of it is US$174 billion. Add it all together from the top up to now, how many billions we spent just concerning treating people with meat-related diseases. And that’s in the United States alone.
And obesity is 1.6 billion adults are overweight with 400 million more who are obese. The cost of individual treatment for that is US$93 billion per year and another 2.6 million people die from problems related to being overweight.
How much do firms in the US spend on employee health insurance? What is the connection between the vegan diet and company productivity? Our experts answer these and other questions after this brief pause. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.
Welcome back to Healthy Living, as we continue with our program on how the vegan diet can promote wellness while substantially reducing healthcare costs. The estimated amount expended on healthcare in the USA is now over US$2 trillion a year, more than any other industrialized country in the world. This steadily rising figure means ever higher health insurance premiums for both individuals and companies.
So many people, especially in the United States are going bankrupt because they can't afford either insurance or the diseases that they're getting, that insurance companies won't pay for, or can't pay for.
The average employee is costing their company on a family plan, something in the vicinity of $1,500 a month. That’s a lot of money. That’s a lot of money. Some plans are more expensive, some plans are less expensive, but any way you cut it, it’s a lot of money.
Illnesses caused by eating meat, dairy and eggs not only drive up healthcare costs, they also cripple company productivity.
You have a lot of direct costs and then you have indirect costs. If somebody doesn’t show up for work today, that’s one thing, but then if they show up for work not feeling very well day after day, and their productivity is decreased, that’s a little harder to measure.
It's the person that calls you at seven in the morning and says, “I’m not coming in today, I’m sick.” Or, “I’m not coming in today because I have a sick child.” And so here you’ve a company with maybe 12 or 15 employees and now we got to scramble around and cover this person’s work and we were going to have a staff meeting today but we can’t do it without this key person.
What is the solution to these rapidly accelerating health-related expenses? Health insurance companies have begun to recognize the importance of what we eat. Scott Forslund, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Premera Blue Cross, a health insurer in the US, has stated, “The connection between a vegetarian diet and reducing the costs of these high-impact health conditions is clear as a bell.”
Dr. Popper, Ellen Jaffe Jones, and Dr. Neal Barnard all agree that the best way to reduce healthcare expenditures is through communities embracing the plant strong diet.
So I think this is really, at least in my mind, very much a solution, that if everybody went vegan, we would save so much money in insurance and medical costs.
The solution's so simple. It’s the food. And it’s so simple that people have trouble believing it. Everybody is looking for some new discovery, some new procedure. (But) it’s the food. All we have to do is teach them how to eat different stuff. And contrary to popular belief, their grocery bill goes down. This is not an expensive way to eat. It’s a very cheap way to eat, actually. And so, again, it’s back to everybody wins.
If the entire US population could somehow all adopt a healthy vegan diet, we would easily save US$150 billion, every single year, this year, next year, and next year. That will be a big burden off of the taxpayers, but also off of the government and the state and local governments as well.
That figure that I just gave doesn’t include the cost of disability, lost income and when a person can’t work, and they can't pay taxes anymore, or they need long-term nursing care. The cost I gave was just for the doctors’ bills, and the hospital bills and the prescription costs alone. It is many times higher when we include those extra indirect costs. There are so many cases where a person already has a disease or a health condition, when they change their diet, everything does get better.
So, for example, a person has got extra weight or diabetes, hypertension, or even artery blockages that lead to heart disease. When they change their diet, all of those things improve. And then all the medical costs that they’re using for treating them, whether that’s for medications or doctor visits, that all drops as well, and it can drop dramatically.
And I’m amazed at how many women probably could have avoided a hysterectomy if they’d had a doctor who said, “Why don’t try a plant-based (diet).” And I am also astounded at the amount of money that could be saved with women who are seeking answers in the medical community for menopause treatments. If they could just try a, plant-based diet. Food really is powerful medicine.
That’s now pretty clear that if a person follows a healthy, plant-based diet, it will really promote health in a good way. The next step, though, is how to implement it practically. So we have a couple of models that I think are useful.
One is in the business setting. You can offer healthy, vegan meals right in the company cafeteria. And you can offer a little bit of assistance to people who want to make a diet change. It’s easy to do, and the business saves money. We’ve tested it at one of America’s biggest auto insurance companies, and they loved it.
The second model is in office practices. Instead of doctors just treating one patient at a time, in addition to that, the patients can come into the waiting room all as a group. And you do a cooking class. And you do it once a week. So they may see the doctor here and there, but if you give them extra support in changing their diet, it makes the doctor’s life a whole lot easier.
We’ve tested that out and it works really well. So if we give people the tools at work, at the doctor’s office, in schools where people are, to help them change their diet, I think that’s going to really be the answer.
In the US, one can purchase a hamburger at a fast-food outlet for 99 cents. A study by the Center for Science and Environment estimated that the true cost of a hamburger in the US, including government subsidies to the livestock industry, the harm to public health from consuming beef and environmental damage caused by producing it is US$200.
Given its wide-ranging health and financial benefits, Dr. Barnard believes that the plant-based lifestyle should also be highly encouraged by the US government.
Right now, our government in the United States really needs to change its focus. It’s very much focused on promoting agricultural products, increasing cheese consumption, and promoting high prices for meat. And to do that, it buys up meat and cheese and puts it in schools, for example. And the dietary guidelines are not very progressive.
All of those things need to change so that children are getting lots of the vegetables and fruits that they need, beans and whole grains that don't have the animal fat in them. We’d have a healthier population, and we save some money in the bargain.
During a November 2009 videoconference with Supreme Master Ching Hai held in Washington DC, USA, she discussed how the US government can help its citizens live healthier lives and save our planet by prohibiting the production of all animal-based foods.
Meat causes hundreds of billions – hundreds of billions! – of US dollars in medical costs alone, and economic burdens on families and governments. Not to mention the pain and suffering of the families, of course, unimaginably great and lifelong. And all the while, we are suffering illness, losing lives, grieving over lost loved ones, family members; losing happiness; losing money due to the animal diet.
We are the ones who are paying the industry to continue producing this problem, producing meat, fish and the like, with our hard earned tax money that’s used to subsidize them. Ironic? The US government could, of course, redirect the billions of dollars now spent on livestock subsidies to help farmers switch to organic vegetable and fruit agriculture.
That will be a great help to your country and the health of the Americans. The government could use these powerful tools to spread campaigns about veg alternatives, bans on meat, and laws to help people switch to organic, vegan farming and consumption.
That is, we save US$32 trillion in climate mitigation costs, and having a healthy vegan population is a good deal, good business deal in all positive aspects. There is a very good reason for the American government to abolish meat, fish, eggs and dairy – all the animal products altogether. We must stop animal production now and at all cost if we want to keep this planet. I repeat: We must stop animal products right now and at all cost if we want to keep this planet.
I have always looked to the American people and their great government leaders as one of the best living examples of democracy and freedom, integrity, of our world. However, I must tell you truthfully that the meat industry is unbefitting to the greatness of your country and of the great American citizen.
Don’t you agree, sir? Thank you. Great people deserve great things. Great people lead great lifestyles. So we have to do away with the un-great things and we have to begin the great things, for the great people, great country like America.
I pray, sir, that the ones who are aware and want to save the children will do something about it, and fast, to stop this horrendous criminal system that is killing us and destroying our planet, and that we must not allow any longer. Thank you and God bless your faith in the Divine, in your leaders, and yourselves. God bless America!
Dr. Neal Barnard, Ellen Jaffe Jones, and Dr. Pamela Popper, we deeply thank you for your valuable insights on how widespread adoption of a plant-based lifestyle can significantly reduce our grocery bills, prevent many types of illnesses, and materially reduce national healthcare costs.
We truly admire the leadership each of you has demonstrated in the area of public health, and may you enjoy every success in all your future noble endeavors. We also deeply thank Supreme Master Ching Hai for promoting the wise, life-saving vegan solution.
For more information on today’s featured experts, please visit the following websites:
Dr. Neal Barnard www.PCRM.org
Ellen Jaffe Jones www.VegCoach.com
Dr. Pamela Popper www.WellnessForum.com
Books by all three experts are available at www.Amazon.com
Perceptive viewers, thank you for joining us for this week’s episode of Healthy Living. May we soon live in a vegan world of great abundance, where all beings enjoy lasting wellness and happiness.