There seems to be a penalty for consuming healthy foods! According to a Cambridge University study, healthy foods cost three times more than unhealthy foods.
A healthy diet could be a pricey diet
Leave all the study behind. Just put yourself out there. If you are given Rs 10 to buy food in the market, what will you buy? Would you choose between maximum retail price (MRP) or Maximum Health Price (MHP)?
- Apple: Rs 30
- Roadside Fruit Salad: Rs 20
- Coconut Water: Rs 25
- Milk (200ml): Rs 25
- Potato chips/biscuits: Rs 5/10
- Chocolate: Rs 5-10
- Cola: Rs 10
- Samosa: Rs 8
The Choice is clear! Who wants to buy an apple, a boring packet of milk, or any food that is healthy for a higher price, when one can do something “toofani” for Rs 10? (Pun intended).It’s a strange world. I studied Economics in college and we were taught that the market is efficient enough to take care of all the problems. But in the food industry, the market is causing more problems than it is solving.
If an apple costs more than cola, something is seriously wrong with our food industry today. Ever wondered why so much incentives are given to buy cola or junk food over something healthy?
The rabid obsession over calorie counting could be unhealthy.
This is why calculating calories are not correct.
Recommended read: Why it is wise to ditch diet coke!
Price plays a big role while buying healthy foods or otherwise
The economics of health is pretty strange! You might be thinking, “How can people buy food items on the basis of price? People are smart enough to realize those good things come for a price and they are willing to pay more to secure their health”.
For some people, it is true. That’s why organic foods sell. But non-organic food outsells organic food by more than 100 times. For a majority of the people, price matters! Not just for the poor people, but for almost everybody and not just in India, but globally. According to a research in the US, a minor difference of 5% increase in the price of milk changed the buying behavior completely.
The quality hardly mattered and people favored cheap milk instead. So we can’t dismiss the influence of price while buying healthy foods. The world is going through obesity and health epidemics and the major reason for it is easy and cheap access to junk foods. Without we even realise, we are seduced by big companies and superstars to eat unhealthy foods.
The results are quite depressing: 2 out of 3 adults in the western world are obese. For the first time in history, life expectancy has gone down despite so much of medical innovation.
A lot of people say that “it’s a western world problem and not an Indian problem in particular. We are eating healthy.” You will be surprised with the facts. In India, there are 7 crore people with diabetes, 20 crores with pre-diabetes, 10 crores with thyroid problems, 12 crores with heart problems. These are no small numbers. If only everyone had a healthy lifestyle.
If we make a nation with only Indians with daibetes and pre-diabetes, it would be the world’s fourth largest nation! Doesn’t it sound scary?
How do we solve this problem? Ideally, there should be a tax levied on all unhealthy foods and healthy foods should be subsidized, so as to make healthy foods cheaper.But the government is most unlikely to do it because of the huge lobbies controlling the food industry.
So, what else can we do? We came up with the second best option: create a virtual world, where healthier foods are cheaper than unhealthier ones. You are given a virtual currency called “Health $” with which you can buy these products. You have a daily budget of Health $, so you cannot buy a lot of unhealthy stuff. Because of the budget constraint, you are forced to eat right. Instead of MRP, all the products have MHP: Maximum Health Price. Healthier the food, lower is the MHP.
How to figure out what is a healthy food?
Now, the next big question: how do we determine which food is healthy and which food is unhealthy?
Ask this question to any expert or dietitian, you will invariably get the same answer “Look at the calories; lower the calories, healthier the food is”. So, we counted calories in some foods and we were startled by what we found:
- Apple has more calories than cola, so cola should be healthier than apple?
- Diet cola has 0 calories, so it should be the world’s healthiest product. But research shows it can cause health hazards.
- Calorie model assumes that 100 calories of sugar and 100 calories of fibre will have the same effect on your body! It is the most absurd thing I have ever heard. Most of the calories in fibre does not even get absorbed by your body. It just acts as a sponge and passes out of your body along with the stool. If the body does not break down fibre and absorb it, why is that calorie bad for your body? Calorie model assumes that 1 gm of sugar, carbs, fibre and protein are all equal 4 calories. Don’t fret, we’re all responsible for making the flawed calorie-counting model so popular.
- Salt and MSG has 0 calories. And so does preservatives and so many other harmful additives. So, calorie model allows you to have all these harmful things in unlimited quantity. This should ridicule anyone who has a pinch of concern for healthy living!
- The calorie model does not give any importance to minerals, vitamins, calcium and other nutrients in the food. Are they not important? Is food just about calories? Try ignoring these minerals and nutrients for a month and focus just on calories, you will see what harm it can cause to your body.
The calorie calculator model is not a good measure to figure out which food is healthy and which food is unhealthy. And unfortunately, there is no other comprehensive measure by which you can compare two different foods.
That created a big dilemma for us, “Do we want to create an alternative to calorie model which can be used to rate how healthy a food is?”It would mean months of work by a dedicated team and would cost us a lot of money. Also, everybody is such ardent follower of the calorie model, and telling people that calorie model is faulty is almost suicidal.
But being entrepreneurs, we decided to take the hard route, because we genuinely believe it can change the way we see food. What if we fail, we will make an honest attempt in changing the world for better, to propagate a healthy lifestyle.
Presenting Maximum Health Price (MHP) or the Health $
The MHP model is an innovative way to look at healthy foods that is beyond counting calories. It is a cumulative effort of over a dozen of expert nutritionists for the last 8 months. We have tried to rectify all the problems that exist in the calorie model. In our model, we have taken different values for sugar, carb, protein and fibre as all of them do not have the same effect on our body.
Also, we realize that there are good and bad carbs. Similarly, there are good and bad fats too. The calorie counting model does not make a distinction between good and bad stuff, which we have rectified in our model. Also, calorie model does not give any importance to micro nutrients and additives like MSG, preservatives, etc. which again does not make sense. Our formula takes into account all these parameters.
So, basically, MHP/Health $ is a far more comprehensive and practical tool to track your food habits to achieve healthy living. It does not look at food as your enemy but teaches you to eat healthily. And you will have some free foods with 0 price, which means you can eat those foods and it will not reduce your health budget.
Just imagine, buying an item from a supermarket for free. It’s definitely possible in our virtual world. 🙂 Let me just urge you to try MHP for a couple of days on our app. The burden of decision lies on all you users but I’m confident that it would be a great step towards a healthier you!
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