Research highlights the advantages of vegan diets – being both the cheapest food option in high income countries and the healthiest
Research from the University of Oxford has discovered that in high income countries – such as the US, the UK, Australia, and Western Europe – adopting a vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian diet could reduce the amount people pay for food by up to a third.
The study, comparing the cost of seven sustainable diets to the current typical diet in 150 countries, used food prices from the World Bank’s International Comparison Program.
A vegan diet can have benefits for the heart
The researchers found that in high-income countries, vegan diets were the most affordable and reduced food costs by up to one third, with vegetarian diets being a close second. Additionally, flexitarian diets with low amounts of meat and dairy reduced costs up to 14%, in contrast with pescatarian diets, which increased costs by up to 2%.
The study focused on whole foods, not including highly-processed meat replacements or eating at restaurants or takeaways.
Dr Marco Springmann, researcher on the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, said: “We think the fact that vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets can save you a lot of money is going to surprise people. When scientists like me advocate for healthy and environmentally-friendly eating, it’s often said we’re sitting in our ivory towers promoting something financially out of reach for most people.
“This study shows it’s quite the opposite. These diets could be better for your bank balance as well as for your health and the planet.”
Miguel Barclay, author of the ‘One Pound Meals’ series of cookbooks, added: “I definitely agree that cutting down your meat, or cutting it out completely, will save you money, without doubt vegan and vegetarian meals consistently come in at a much lower price than recipes with meat. I definitely agree that cutting down your meat, or cutting it out completely, will save you money.
“I’ve written seven budget cookbooks and have costed up hundreds of recipes, and without doubt vegan and vegetarian meals consistently come in at a much lower price than recipes with meat.”
Grains, greens, and beans are cheap staples of the vegan diet
The study additionally noted that in lower income countries, for instance on the Indian subcontinent and in sub-Saharan Africa, eating a healthy and sustainable diet would be up to 25% cheaper than the typical Western diet, but at least a third more expensive than current diets.
Analysing the options, researchers looked at foods which could improve affordability and reduce diet costs, the study looked at several policy options. It found that making healthy and sustainable diets affordable everywhere will be possible within the next 10 years, should economic development – especially in lower income countries – reductions in food waste, and health-friendly pricing of foods be made an option.
“A healthy and sustainable diet is possible everywhere, but requires political will”
Dr Springmann finalised: “Affording to eat a healthy and sustainable diet is possible everywhere, but requires political will. Current low-income diets tend to contain large amounts of starchy foods and not enough of the foods we know are healthy. And the western-style diets, often seen as aspirational, are not only unhealthy, but also vastly unsustainable and unaffordable in low-income countries.
“Any of the healthy and sustainable dietary patterns we looked at are a better option for health, the environment, and financially, but development support and progressive food policies are needed to make them both affordable and desirable everywhere.”
Along with the benefits veganism and vegetarianism presents for people’s health and financial spending, the dietary movements are also being renowned for their low environmental impact. Additionally, they are appraised for their major reductions in water usage and carbon emissions in food production, highlighting a stark difference in carbon emissions from those produced by the meat industry.
The global and regional costs of healthy and sustainable dietary patterns: a modelling study is published in The Lancet Planetary Health.