Updated: Apr 15, 2019
If people started eating healthy diets up to one in five deaths could be avoided worldwide, according to a new study published in the Lancet this month.
The study reviewed 20 years of data from 195 countries and estimated that 11 million people globally died because of poor diets in 2017. This estimate puts poor diets ahead of smoking as a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Poor diet is the leading risk factor for death in most countries around the world.
The countries that do best are Israel, France, Spain, and Japan. The US placed 43rd. The study's lead author said: "Generally, the countries that have a diet close to the Mediterranean diet, which has higher intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and healthy oils...are the countries where we see the lowest number of [diet-related] deaths."
It's not enough to just eat food. It is necessary to eat good, nutritious food that enables us to stay healthy and avoid a host of degenerative diseases. The longer you continue to eat high sugary foods, refined-carbohydrates, and sodas, the closer you are traveling toward a diseased future. Choosing to eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains will improve your health and reduce the risk of disease.
But there's a catch
Allison Aubrey of NPR raised a serious question in light of the new study: "What happens if everyone around the globe began to eat a healthy diet, filling three-fourths of their plates with fruits, vegetables and whole grains? The answer is that we would run out of food.
Aubrey references a study published in PLOS One by researchers from the University of Guelph that demonstrates we would run out of food if everyone ate a healthy diet. There just would not be enough healthy food to go around. Evan Fraser of the Food Institute at Guelph says "At a global level, we have a mismatch between what we should be eating and, what we are producing."
There is simply too much junk being produced for everyone to share in the benefits of a healthy diet. Changing the global agricultural system will not be easy. Neither will changing the eating habits of millions of people. Real change will require extensive nutrition education, better access to healthy foods, and a restructuring of modern agricultural practices.
In the meantime, if you don't live in a food desert, take advantage of the availability of fresh produce, whole grains (if you can find them), nuts and seeds. Here are some resources you can use to plan your diet for optimal health:
-- Low Carb
-- Whole Foods