Tight budget? Science says it still makes sense to buy pricier, natural foods
As more workers fight for a "livable" minimum wage of $15, the problem of how to afford groceries is terrifyingly real for millions of Americans. But you need to reconsider reaching for most of what's sold for cheap. Most of the time, that includes processed and highly refined foods ranging from cookies and snack cakes to white rice. Instead, consider reaching for "whole foods"--that is, foods that haven't been refined or enhanced with additive substances, such as natural fruits and vegetables. Here are some research-backed reasons why your body will thank you.
1. Processed foods typically won't fill you up.
Both soluble and insoluble forms of fiber benefit digestive health, but soluble fiber absorbs water and turns gel-like. It slows down how fast foods leave the stomach and, as it expands, triggers nerve impulses that tell the brain you're full. Similarly, protein increases the hormone PYY, which also tells the brain to stop eating. It boosts levels of the intestinal hormone CCK, as well, which contributes to feelings of fullness.
The end result is that you feel satisfied faster and can go longer before you feel hungry again. That can matter big time when meals are scarce. Processed foods generally are low in fiber and protein and aren't very satiating, so you can end up eating a whole pack of what you buy and still feel ravenous not long after you're done.
2. Non-whole foods are nutritional deserts.
Processing often strips away or destroys many food nutrients. It also routinely involves the addition of sugar, fat, salt or other preservatives. If you favor processed foods because they cost less, everything from your sleep to moods could go haywire.
3. Cheaper options pack a calorie punch.
Many inexpensive, processed foods are high in sugar and fat, so they're high in calories. Unfortunately, foods with fat don't contribute to satiety as well as those with protein and fiber, so it's easy to overeat, blow your calorie allowance and gain weight.
Today's businesspeople don't have as much money for food and their hectic schedules promote grabbing processed meals. Science, however, says you're better off selecting whole or minimally processed options. Since you'll probably feel full on less and eat less often, you won't necessarily pay more, and you'll get what your body needs.
RELATED: 12 ways to slash your grocery bill
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