Recent news reported that the cost of prescriptions for type 2 diabetes and other metabolic conditions is over $50 billion per year, making up over 20% of the total prescription costs of the US. In the UK we have a similar situation.
Profile of an unhealthy nation
We live in times whereby the cheapest and most popular food options fit the following profile:
- High carbohydrates
- High saturated fats
- High sugar and/or salt
- Low fibre content
As a very reliable rule of thumb, the cheaper the produce the worse it is. If you want to find a cheap loaf of bread, say for under 50p, you’ll need to sacrifice quality.
A fair number of us are aware that this kind of bread is inflated with air rather than allowed to rise from yeast but perhaps of more significance is the lack of nutrition in the loaf. It’s still pretty starchy so high in carbs but, crucially, very low in fibre –about 1g per slice. In fact there’s more sugar per slice than fibre.
Why is fibre significant?
Fibre is particularly important because fibre can help to reduce cholesterol. Another benefit is that it allows food to be digested more leisurely so, particularly for us with diabetes, that means the carbs take longer to turn into higher blood sugar. Also, if you take two like-for-like products, you’ll often find that the higher the quantity of fibre, the lower the carb value.
Take white flour and wholemeal flour from the same brand. The white flour has 68g of carbs per 100g and 3g of fibre. The wholemeal (seed and grain) variety has 58g of carbs and a quite impressive 14g of fibre per 100g.
And if this isn’t convincing enough, fibre also helps us to feel full for longer and aids digestion.
What can we do as a nation to eat better food?
At the moment, people aren’t seeing enough incentive to eat better food. There’s lots of educational campaigning but little in the way of incentive. Price is king and therefore cheap, fibre-lacking rubbish like cheap white bread, cheap oven bake pizzas and cheap donuts are also ruling over not just our supermarkets but effectively ruling over and above the NHS.
Until the incentive balance is changed, there’s not going to be a great change in our eating habits and we’re not going to get any much healthier as a nation.
At the moment we have things the wrong way round. The general populace is paying less in the short term by buying cheap but bad produce but we’ll pay for it in the long term as the NHS copes with our impending metabolic conditions.