March 2013

Healthy Plant-Based Foods Linked to Lower Costs

Healthy food may not only contribute to health and physical fitness, but may also help decrease food spending and improve food security, a study reports.

The Rhode Island Community Food Bank recruited 83 people from emergency food pantries and low-income housing areas to participate in the Raising the Bar on Nutrition program. Miriam Hospital researchers who led the program taught participants to cook according to the Mediterranean diet pattern with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and olive oil. The team gave cooking classes for six weeks and then conducted a six-month follow-up.

A total of 63 people completed the study and reported using the recipes that they learned for about three meals each week. The total variety of fruits and vegetables consumed increased. Grocery store receipts collected by the researchers showed that subjects spent less on meat, soda, desserts, and snacks, as well as less money on food shopping in total, compared to their expenses at the start of the study. The results also suggested that food insecurity decreased for the participants.

The researchers concluded that healthy, plant-based food may not only help improve health and fitness, but may also lower food costs.

Fruits, vegetables, and olive oil are often used in the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in heart-healthy fiber and nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Olive oil has been linked to health benefits for people with high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, and is thought to lower the risk of heart disease.

The diet has become a popular area of study due to observations that populations that consume these foods tend to have lower incidences of chronic disease and higher life expectancy. Therefore, the Mediterranean diet gained much recognition and worldwide interest in the 1990s as a model for healthful eating.

For more information about the Mediterranean diet, please visit Natural Standard's Health & Wellness database.


  1. Flynn MM, Reinert S, Schiff AR. A Six-Week Cooking Program of Plant-Based Recipes Improves Food Security, Body Weight, and Food Purchases for Food Pantry Clients. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, 2013; 8(1):73. doi: 10.1080/19320248.2012.758066. 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2024 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.