Everyone knows they should eat more greens. But according to a review just published in The Lancet, we should double our consumption of vegetables, nuts, fruits, and legumes, and eat half the amount of meat and sugar.
This “Planetary Health” diet could prevent 11.6 million people from dying prematurely every year, the researchers said, and it could cut greenhouse has emissions while preserving more land, water, and biodiversity.
In the report, the researchers say feeding a growing population of 10 billion people by 2050 with a healthy and sustainable diet will be impossible without transforming eating habits.
More life threatening diseases like obesity, malnutrition, and cancers are caused by diet than unsafe sex, alcohol, drug and tobacco use combined.
“The food we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet, and we are currently getting this seriously wrong,” said study author Tim Lang, a researcher at City, University of London.
“We need a significant overhaul, changing the global food system on a scale not seen before in ways appropriate to each country’s circumstances.”
He added these problems are not easily fixed, but the goal is in reach.
“The scientific targets we have devised for a healthy, sustainable diet are an important foundation which will underpin and drive this change,” he said.
The review involved 37 specialist scientists from 16 countries who concluded that global consumption of red meat and sugar should be cut by 50 percent, while we should double our consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables and legumes.
“The world’s diets must change dramatically,” said Walter Willett from Harvard University, co-lead commissioner of the study. “More than 800 million people have insufficient food, while many more consume an unhealthy diet that contributes to premature death and disease.”
The diet the review suggests, he said, allows flexibility for different agriculture, cultural traditions, and dietary preferences like vegetarianism and veganism.
Currently, North Americans eat almost six and a half times as much red meat as they should, while people in South Asia only eat half the suggested amount.
Editor-in-chief at The Lancet, Richard Horton, said there has been a global failure to address the impact poor nutrition has on our health.
“Our connection with nature holds the answer,” he said.
“And if we can eat in a way that works for our planet as well as our bodies, the natural balance of the planet’s resources will be restored. The very nature that is disappearing holds the key to human and planetary survival.”