“Spend your money on good food so you don’t have to spend it on doctors.” –Myron Dell

(reposting from 2009; the occasion was my Dad’s 88th birthday)

When I left home and moved across country at age 21, my Dad gave me some really good advice. He said, “Spend your money on good food so you don’t have to spend it on doctors.” 

Now, in those days I was not yet a nutritionist. I had not yet lost my Mother to cancer. I was still over-fond of coca cola. But somehow, I did manage to hear my Dad’s advice. After all, Dad was a farmer who started farming long before the days of tractors and even electricity. I always trusted he knew something special about food, nature, and life in general.

Many, many moons have come and gone, and now that I do know just how true his advice was, it occurs to me today and especially in these difficult financial times that Dad’s advice bears repeating.

People often tell me that eating healthy foods is too expensive and that eating organic foods is altogether cost prohibitive. I beg to differ. Spend your money on good food and your overall budget will thank you.

We aren’t comparing apples and apples when we make food choices based on lowest price available. Pick up a loaf of any brand white bread for $1.00 and hold it next to a loaf of Ezekiel brand sprouted bread for $5.00 and you may think I’ve lost my argument. But take a minute and read the labels. The ingredients are not remotely similar.

We might even say that the white bread is air and paste that is masquerading as bread. Most nutrients have been removed in the processing of the grain, leaving its nutritional value very low and its potential harm to health very high. In this sense, the purchase of the cheaper bread is not a cost savings but rather a waste of a dollar bill with a high-risk side effect of damaged health. And we’re still hungry.

Bread is one simple example, but each and every food choice we make bears this consideration:  what nutrients are we actually buying?  Human bodies require a range of nutrients to sustain life. At the most basic level, this is why we eat.

It seems unlikely that we would go to a clothing store and buy a package that says it contains a pair of jeans only to find something made of paper inside. Yet that is precisely what we do when we buy low price, low quality food. Worse yet, the paper jeans wouldn’t do us much harm beyond perhaps the bit of embarrassment from wearing them in public, but the poor quality processed food does harm us.

In fact, processed food is at the crux of the chronic, degenerative health problems that are rampant today (for example: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, pain, and aging in general) and at the crux of preventing our vibrant longevity.

Try this. Next time you go to the grocery store, shop only on the outside aisles. Buy only fresh or dried food that you can recognize. Fresh vegetables and fruits, fresh meats, whole grains such as rice, dried beans such as pintos or kidneys or lentils. Buy locally produced or organic foods which will increase your return on investment even further.

Skip the soda pop, the chips, the cereals, crackers, candy bars, the frozen dinners, the canned soups, and all other forms of processed food. Now add up the totals and see how your before and after grocery bills compare.  

Let me know if it turns out Dad was right.