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When I gave up meat almost four years ago, I found myself discovering so many new foods. Lentils became my best friend, and seeds were like the sidekick to my salads and smoothies I never knew I needed. Meaty veggies like eggplant and mushrooms became the center of many of my nightly masterpieces in the kitchen. A whole new world popped out at me as I perused the isles of the grocery store like never before.

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Many people have this perception that eating a plant-based diet, much like opting for organic, is an inaccessible lifestyle choice if you are on a budget. But new research suggests something quite interesting for anyone hesitant to put down the meat and pick up the veggies. And, with the recent news surrounding the health risks of processed meat, these findings should give you even more reason to listen up.

According to new research led by the Miriam Hospital and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, a plant-based diet, complete with olive oil, is almost $750 cheaper per year per person than what the United States Department of Agriculture recommends in terms of economics and health. The study, which was published this past December in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, also noted that this plant-based diet also provides significantly more servings of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.

The Makings Of Dr. Mary Flynn’s Plant-Based, Olive Oil Diet

Back in 1999, Dr. Mary Flynn, lead study author, created the diet in order to aid in weight loss as well as mitigate biomarkers for chronic diseases, all while ensuring the program would be reasonably affordable. The diet, which focuses on canned and frozen produce, as well as incorporating four tablespoons of olive oil each day, differs from the USDA’S MyPlate diet that recommends fruits and vegetables to cover half a plate, and notes that whole grains should be half of all grains eaten. When the diet was executed by women with breast cancer for a pilot study, it was discovered that the participants experienced greater weight loss and a decrease in susceptibility to some chronic diseases in comparison to a diet lower in fat. Furthermore, there was an overwhelmingly positive response to how economically friendly it was.

Backed By Research

These findings led Flynn to team up with the Rhode Island Community Food Bank at the Miriam Hospital in order to concoct a six-week cooking research program, utilizing Flynn’s recipes, aimed at making food more affordable for pantry clients. The results proved entirely beneficial for the participants, who, on average, used the recipes for 2.8 meals a week. Not only did their food insecurity diminish, but so did their grocery bills.

Flynn’s motivation for the analysis was a result of people constantly labeling healthy diets as too expensive, pinpointing the price of fruits and vegetables as the offender.

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“Extra-virgin olive oil is also thought to be expensive, but we suspected it was meat that made a diet expensive, and extra-virgin olive oil is cheaper than even small amounts of meat. We expected the two diets to be similar in fruit and vegetable content, but our plant-based diet was substantially cheaper, and featured a lot more fruits and vegetables and whole grains,” Flynn explained.

What People Really Spend The Most Money On

The research explains that meat is actually the most expensive of the ingredients that make up people’s grocery carts. Not only that, but research has exposed that, in low-income households, people prioritize meat, eggs, cereals, and bakery products over fruits, vegetables, olive oil, and whole grains.

It is their hope to rectify people’s misconceptions about healthy eating by showing them how to create weekly meals focused on Flynn’s diet. Doing so will help lessen people’s food costs and make these items more accessible, paving a path towards optimum health, where body weight is ideal, in the process. “Our goal is to provide those we serve with the most nutritious food possible and help them prepare healthy meals, understanding that the household budget is limited,” explained Andrew Schiff, who is the CEO of Rhode Island Community Food Bank. “This is really good news for individuals served by the Food Bank – showing that wholesome eating on a tight budget is possible for everyone.”

Image: Mind Body Green

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