Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Cost of Carbohydrates Versus Fats: Not What It Seems?

When we went shopping at the Scottsdale farmers' market a couple of weeks ago, Tracy wanted to get some spring mix from McClendon farms to make a salad for our wedding anniversary dinner.  While getting the greens, we noticed that McClendon Farms also had some artisnal butter that they were selling for 6.99 for a half pound.

We didn't get any of the butter, but Tracy got a small bag, about a quart, of spring mix.  When we got to the check out, the cashier announced that we were to pay $8 for the quart of spring mix.

The moment I heard that, I thought that we could be getting the half pound of butter for $7 and we'd get a lot more calories for our money.

A quart of spring mix supplies about 52 calories.  At $8 per quart, that works out to $0.15 per calorie.

A half-pound of butter supplies about 1626 calories, 31 times the calories found in a quart of spring mix.  At $7 per half-pound, that works out to $0.004 per calorie.

Hence, on a per calorie basis, spring mix is 38 times more expensive than butter.

I wanted to trade in the spring mix for the much tastier butter!

That got me curious about the cost of commonly consumed plant foods on a per calorie basis.

After the market, we went to Trader Joe's to get some supplies, and on the way I decided I would do some cost-per-calorie comparison shopping.

TJ's organic carrot juice costs $3.99 for a quart.

The whole quart supplies 320 calories:

That works out to $0.012 per calorie for the carrot juice.

TJ's pint of organic heavy whipping cream also costs $3.99.

The pint supplies 1600 calories:

That works out to $0.0025 per calorie for the organic cream.

Per calorie, the organic carrot juice is 4.8 times more expensive than the organic heavy cream.

TJ's has conventional cream from animals not treated with r-BST for $3.29 per pint:

Of course it supplies the same number of calories per pint as the organic cream:

The cost per calorie from this cream is $0.0021.

If you're on a budget, trying to meet your energy needs, cream is a far better value than carrot juice, or for that matter, any fruit or vegetable.

TJ's regular butter costs only $3.19 per pound, which supplies 3252 calories, about what a physically active young man needs for an entire day.  That works out to about $0.001 per calorie.

Let's postulate that a young man gets 50% of his energy from butter and cream daily.  One stick of TJ's butter is going to provide him 813 calories for about $0.78 per day, and 8 ounces of heavy cream will provide another 800 calories for $1.65, for a total of 1613 calories at a cost of $2.43.

Now let's have him eat 3 eggs and 300 g of ground beef daily.

Three large (50 g) eggs supplies 233 calories, and 300 g of 80% lean ground beef.  He could once a week replace 100 g of that ground beef with pork or beef liver.  Three eggs and 300 g of beef will provide him with a generous 92 g of protein.

Fairly high quality eggs are going for about $3.00-$4.00 per dozen, or about $0.30 per egg.  Grass-fed ground beef is going for $6.99 per pound (454 g) at our local Sprouts store, so 300 g cost $4.62.

So this hypothetical young man can meet his calorie and nutrient needs on a high fat, animal-based diet, using eggs rich in omega-3 fats and beef from grass-fed animals, for about $7.95 per day.

Add  $1.05 for a teaspoon of nutritional yeast, a medium (131 g) orange ($0.35), a large (150 g) onion (0.31) and third of a bunch of spinach and he's good to go for $9.00 per day.

Source:  Numbeo

According to Numbeo, this is only $0.44 more than the average cost of food for an individual eating a standard Western diet in Phoenix:

If he's on a tighter budget he could choose conventional eggs and beef.   This week, Fry's Market in Scottsdale advertised ground beef for $2.99 per pound and pork loin roast or turkey breast for $1.49 per pound.

As noted above, the average cost for eggs in the Phoenix area is $2.26 per dozen, or just $0.19 per egg.  If he ate 150 g of ground beef ($0.99), 150 g of pork loin or turkey breast ($0.49), and 3 conventional eggs, the meat and egg portion of his low carbohydrate diet would cost  $2.05, and the butter and cream portion $2.43, for a total of $4.48.  Now he should substitute ~100 g of liver for one of the other meats once or twice weekly, and he can (if he wants) spend $1.52 daily for fruit, vegetables, and little nutritional yeast, and he is eating very well for $6.00 per day, $2.50 LESS than expected average costs (only $180 per month). 

If you do the cost per calorie calculation for any fruit or vegetable compared to the above deals for ground beef, turkey breast or pork loin, you will find the animal products are cheaper.

Here's another ad from Fry's:

Strawberries, at $2.00 and only 145 calories per pound, cost $0.014 per calorie.

Grapes, at $1.99 and 313 calories per pound, cost $0.0064 per calorie, half that of strawberries. 

Grass-fed ground beef, at $6.99 and 898 calories per pound, costs $0.008 per calorie, almost half the cost of strawberries and only 25 percent more than the grapes.

Conventional ground beef, at $2.99 and 898 calories per pound, costs $0.0033 per calorie, one-quarter the cost of strawberries and one-half the cost of grapes, and more nutrient dense as well.

Pork loin roast, at $1.49 and 1143 calories per pound (if you eat all visible fat), costs only $0.0013 per calorie, ONE-TENTH the cost of strawberries and one-fifth the cost of the grapes.

In summary, a meat- and fat- based diet is not necessarily more expensive than a carbohydrate-based diet in the short-term, and it may be less expensive in the long-term by saving you lots of costs in dental work (carbohydrates promote tooth decay and periodontal disease, protein and fat do not) as well as diabetes and other modern, sugar-related diseases.

Humphrey et al. "present evidence linking a high prevalence of caries to reliance on highly cariogenic wild plant foods in Pleistocene hunter-gatherers from North Africa, predating other high caries populations and the first signs of food production by several thousand years. Archaeological deposits at Grotte des Pigeons in Morocco document extensive evidence for human occupation during the Middle Stone Age and Later Stone Age (Iberomaurusian), and incorporate numerous human burials representing the earliest known cemetery in the Maghreb. Macrobotanical remains from occupational deposits dated between 15,000 and 13,700 cal B.P. provide evidence for systematic harvesting and processing of edible wild plants, including acorns and pine nuts. Analysis of oral pathology reveals an exceptionally high prevalence of caries (51.2% of teeth in adult dentitions), comparable to modern industrialized populations with a diet high in refined sugars and processed cereals. We infer that increased reliance on wild plants rich in fermentable carbohydrates and changes in food processing caused an early shift toward a disease-associated oral microbiota in this population."  [Italics added.]

Thus, even wild foods high in unrefined carbohydrate causes a high incidence of dental pathology.

Since a mammal can not survive without teeth, it seems impossible that natural selection could have favored reproduction of individuals whose internal organs demanded consumption of a high carbohydrate diet that progressively destroyed the individual's teeth from a very early age. 

Hamasaki et al. report:  "Multivariate analysis revealed that the percentage of calories from fat was a nutrient factor associated with periodontal disease, with the percentage of calories from fat being significantly lower in the group with advanced periodontal disease."   In other words, for modern humans, high carbohydrate diets promote – and high fat diets prevent – periodontal disease.  That's because carbohydrate feeds the growth of pathogenic oral bacteria, which can't metabolize fats for energy.

Thus it is clear that natural selection has not yet produced a human species that in the absence of modern dentistry can remain free of dental disease while eating a high carbohydrate diet.  In fact the practice of dentistry prevents such adaptation from taking place.  In nature the loss of teeth through decay would lead to malnutrition and an unattractive appearance that would prevent reproduction and cause early death. 

Can a diet that causes progressive dental disease (in the absence of modern prophylactic and remedial dentistry) really be good for the gut or the rest of the body?

Dr. Philippe P. Hujoel, professor of dental public health sciences at the University of Washington  School of Dentistry reviewed the relationships between diet, dental disease, and chronic systemic illness in a report published July 1, 2009 in The Journal of Dental Research.  As reported by Leila Gray of the University of Washington

"He weighed two contradictory viewpoints on the role of dietary carbohydrates in health and disease. The debate surrounds fermentable carbohydates: foods that turn into simple sugars in the mouth. Fermentable carbohydrates are not just sweets like cookies, doughnuts, cake and candy. They also include bananas and several tropical fruits, sticky fruits like raisins and other dried fruits, and starchy foods like potatoes, refined wheat flour, yams, rice, pasta, pretzels, bread, and corn.....
"Hujoel observed that the dental harms of fermentable carbohydrates have been recognized by what looks like every major health organization. Even those fermentable carbohydrates assumed to be good for systemic health break down into simple sugars in the mouth and promote tooth decay. All fermentable carbohydrates have the potential to induce dental decay, Hujoel notes.

"But what if fermentable carbohydrates are also bad for systemic health? Hujoel asks. What if dietary guidelines would start incorporating the slew of clinical trial results suggesting that a diet low in fermentable carbohydrates improves cardiovascular markers of disease and decreases body fat? Such a change in perspective on fermentable carbohydrates, and by extension, on people’s diets, could have a significant impact on the dental profession, as a diet higher in fat and protein does not cause dental diseases, he notes. Dentists would no longer be pressed to recommend to patients diets that are bad for teeth or remain mum when it comes to dietary advice. Dentists often have been reluctant, Hujoel says, to challenge the prevailing thinking on nutrition. Advising patients to reduce the amount or frequency of fermentable carbohydrate consumption is difficult when official guidelines suggested the opposite.

"The close correlation between the biological mechanisms that cause dental decay and the factors responsible for high average levels of glucose in the blood is intriguing. Hujoel explains that eating sugar or fermentable carbohydrates drops the acidity levels of dental plaque and is considered an initiating cause of dental decay.

“Eating these same foods, he says, is also associated with spikes in blood sugar levels. There is fascinating evidence that suggests that the higher the glycemic level of a food, the more it will drop the acidity of dental plaque, and the higher it will raise blood sugar. So, possibly, dental decay may really be a marker for the chronic high-glycemic diets that lead to both dental decay and chronic systemic diseases. This puts a whole new light on studies that have linked dental diseases to such diverse illnesses as Alzheimer’s disease and pancreatic cancer.

"The correlations between dental diseases and systemic disease, he adds, provide indirect support for those researchers who have suggested that Alzheimer’s disease and pancreatic cancer are due to an abnormal blood glucose metabolism.

"The hypotheses on dental diseases as a marker for the diseases of civilization were postulated back in the mid-20th century by two physicians: Thomas Cleave and John Yudkin. Tragically, their work, although supported by epidemiological evidence, became largely forgotten, Hujoel notes. This is unfortunate, he adds, because dental diseases really may be the most noticeable and rapid warning sign to an individual that something is going awry with his or her diet.

“'Dental problems from poor dietary habits appear in a few weeks to a few years,' Hujoel explains. 'Dental improvement can be rapid when habits are corrected. For example, reducing sugar intake can often improve gingivitis scores (a measurement of gum disease) in a couple of weeks. Dental disease reveals very early on that eating habits are putting a person at risk for systemic disease. Since chronic medical disease takes decades to become severe enough to be detected in screening tests, dental diseases may provide plenty of lead-time to change harmful eating habits and thereby decrease the risk of developing the other diseases of civilization.'

"In planning a daily or weekly menu, Hujoel suggests: 'What’s good for your oral health looks increasingly likely to also benefit your overall health.'"  [Bold and italics added.]
And what's good for your oral health?  Hujoel said it:  "a diet higher in fat and protein does not cause dental diseases."


silvertabby said...

I remember reading an interview of a body builder who never adopted the high-carb diet which became very popular among other body-builders. He knew that his grandparents ate all of the full-fat animal products produced on their farm, and that they both lived actively into their nineties.

He also recalled one Indian Joe, their farmhand. Joe was all muscle and bone with no body fat. He was 75, but looked 40, and ate only beef muscle, organs, and intestines...and nothing else!

bookgirl said...

I find this article of poor quality. So adopt a meat fat based diet because its cheaper? I don't consider that a valid argument.

Also the plant eating paleolithic people had cavities as they were not consuming enough calcium/phosphorus not because they were eating carbohydrates. Dr. Mellanby did a tooth remineralization experiment, and she obtained the best results in children consuming large amounts of milk and no cereals. But all the children, even the ones with the best results, still consumed 56 grams of sugar per day, showcasing how its not the sugar that's the problem it's the lack of minerals.

bookgirl said...

Also, Weston Price visited many different populations and even though some of the agricultural based African peoples did showcase a slightly higher incidence of tooth decay, this was probably because they were consuming insufficient amounts of fat soluble vitamins and minerals since the Swiss, the Gaelics, the Melanesian and Polynesian peoples all had excellent teeth despite eating rye, oats, and tubers.

Don Matesz said...


Nowhere did I suggest that one should adopt a meat and fat based diet BECAUSE it is cheaper. I just illustrated that contrary to common belief, eating a meat- and fat- based diet can be cheaper than eating a conventional high carbohydrate diet.

Fermentable carbohydrates are the chief cause of tooth decay, they fuel the growth of acid-producing bacteria in the mouth. Populations eating meat- and fat- based diets such as the Inuit have the lowest rates of tooth decay ever recorded. Any carbohydrate in the diet above a certain level increases the risk of tooth decay.

All carbohydrate foods are sugars. ALL OF THEM. Salivary amylase turns starches to sugar in the mouth. In Mellanby's experiment, the best diet for dental caries was the one (#8) with the lowest total carbohydrate (154 g vs. 281-287 g for the others). Refined sugar was kept the same between diets to eliminate a variable, but total carb intake for the best diet was ~130 g less per day than for the other diets.

Also, table II shows that Diet 8 (the most effective and lowest carb) and Diet 6 had virtually identical Ca and P contents and ratio, casting doubt on the idea that it was the minerals that protected. Since eliminating oatmeal (in diet #6) and both oatmeal and bread (diet #8) eliminated carbohydrate as well as phytate, and also included manipulation of vitamin D intake, one can't conclude that the only difference and key was elimination of phytate and hence the freeing of minerals.

Finally, table III of Mellanby's report shows that even in the best diet #8 containing "only" 154 g carbohydrate daily, there was some observed new initiation of caries (0.37 per child) over the short study period. According to the report "This cereal-free
diet,rich in vitamin D,was given to twenty-two children for an average period of
twenty-six weeks." An average initiation of new caries activity of 0.37 per child over just one-half year is substantial. This might translate into an average of one new carious tooth per child every 18 months. That would put the caries incidence in these children far greater than the essentially zero incidence among populations consuming less than 50 g of carbohydrate daily.

Here's the link to her study in case you want to check up on my statements.


Baumgartner et al showed that even without dental hygiene, 4 weeks on a stone age diet (low carbohydrate) IMPROVED gum health, and "Subgingival bacterial counts increased for several species not linked to periodontitis, whereas tongue bacterial samples decreased during the study period." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19405829

Bottom line is that fat and protein are non-fermentable hence can't feed bacteria that cause dental decay and periodontal disease, and Mellanby's experiment failed to show that manipulation of Ca & P availability alone accounted for the results of diet 8, because diet 8 was not only free of cereals, it was also substantially lower in total carbohydrate and higher in vitamin D than the other groups.

Don Matesz said...

Oh, and I wanted to add, if you look at Price's data carefully, the Swiss, the Gaelics, the Melanesian and Polynesian peoples all had a higher incidence of dental caries than the Eskimos, other hunter tribes, and the pure pastoralists like the Masai. Yes, their teeth were FAR better than the modernized groups, but they weren't as good as the low-carbohydrate groups.

Don Matesz said...


Interesting story. Many people recount similar stories about their grandparents. Advocates of high carbohydrate diets brush such accounts off, claiming that these people are exceptions to their supposed rule that high animal diets shorten lifespan. If you lose your teeth by the age of 50 from a high carbohydrate diet, you are not going to live as long as Indian Joe who has all his teeth because he didn't eat any significant carbohydrates.

bookgirl said...

The Aborigines of Australia also had a zero percent caries rate despite consuming fermentable carbohydrates. The Chewya at Kisurnu, Kenya had a caries rate of 0.2 whilst eating fish and sweet potatoes. The Masai ate a lot of milk, which contains fermentable carbohydrates, and also had a low rate of tooth decay. And the Swiss people had a 0.2 percent rate of cavities. I personally do not see much of a difference between 0.2 and zero percent.

Charles Grashow said...

So - what is your diet now? What do you eat on a regular basis? Have you gone back to a LCHF paleo type diet or are you still a LFHC vegan?

Shameer Mulji said...

By Fermentable Carbohydrates, you specifically mean starch-based carbs (roots, tubers, grains)? Or can non-starchy carbs be classified as Fermentable Carbohydrates?


Bartverhaeghe said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pHyghcN9Sws vegetarians have less periodontal problems. Green tea is an good mouthwash that counter acidity. some nice video's on dental health on nutritionfacts. But that's old news meybe.

Jerry Tobin said...

Don, I thought you were in favor of a plant based diet??