Global Diet: Nutrition Trends and Triggers Worldwide
According to experts from the World Health Organization, a sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthy diet are still the main reasons why we are in declining health. They are responsible for the development of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, as well as a number of cancerous diseases, which contribute massively to premature deaths in most countries around the world. However, despite the fact that people persist in their self-destructive habits of consuming too much sugar, salt, and fats while neglecting whole grains, fresh vegetables, fruit, and other types of healthy fiber, we should acknowledge the overall positive change in the diet towards a healthier lifestyle.
- Cutting back on calories
Until quite recently, economists and nutrition specialists all around the world observed an unambiguous trend: the higher the welfare of the population of a country, the more calories its average resident consumes. Yet, in the recent ten years, we have seen the reverse trend. In many rich countries, the average income per capita growth leads to a reduction in calorie intake. Switzerland, Germany, France, Japan, and even the USA have been demonstrating a steady decline in the demand for high-calorie foods. The economist. Hannah Ritchie. contributes it specifically to the increased demand for fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as their accessibility and affordability for people in developed countries. The number of foods that we can eat is limited, and if the share of “vegetarian” food increases, the share of high-calorie and unhealthy foods steadily decreases.
- Cutting back on carbohydrates
One more trend the world nutrition and food security experts pay attention to is the reduced carbohydrate-rich foods in developing countries.
For instance, in Brazil and China, whose economies boosted in the recent ten years, the popularity of dishes rich in carbohydrates has declined dramatically. Their staples, such as groats and root vegetables, which are nourishing, cheap to grow, and easily stored for long periods of time, have seen a decrease in sales.
On the other hand, meat consumption has sharply increased. In China alone, its consumption rates have increased by five times than in 1996, 63 kilograms per year per person. Protein, including animal protein, is undoubtedly more useful as the basis of the diet than carbohydrates. It is safe to assume that if the economic growth rate in these countries continues to grow steadily they will soon join the “vegetable league”.
- Some extra fat
Vegetable fats, as well as unsaturated fats of animal origin (for example, contained in certain varieties of fish), contribute to the normal functioning of the cardiovascular system. Over the last decade, in both developed and developing countries products rich in healthy fats which are fish, avocado, nuts as well as various animal and plant-based oils, are becoming accessible for people to enjoy.
- Chicken or fish instead of meat
Meat has always been and still is the most coveted product for people in poor and developing countries. Economic well-being seems to be a global litmus paper. As soon as the income level starts growing and the population can enjoy a higher living standard, the proportion of meat in their diet increases sharply. What is worth noting is that this trend does not live outside those cultures where meat was never viewed as an integral part of the traditional diet of Southeast Asia or India. Moreover, the “meat hunger” is satisfied in the first place by cheap red meat, primarily pork.
However, if the economy continues to grow, over time, the focus of consumption shifts from harmful red meat to safer white meat, chicken, or turkey. Soy, which is a vegetarian source of protein, and, of course, fish, are also growing in popularity.WHO experts remind us to enjoy a healthy diet of 25% proteins (vegetable and animal), 30% of healthy fats, and the remaining 45% in the form of safe carbohydrates. Unfortunately, today it’s hard to objectively foresee when all countries will get close to these perfect figures.
Incidentally in Italy, where the food habits are considered some of the healthiest, consumption of fresh greens, herbs, fruits, and vegetables makes up only half the recommended levels. On the bright side, however, the general trend is rather positive. If the growth of the world economy and the economies of developing countries remain at least at the current level, at least the world diet will inevitably change towards a healthier and safer pattern.
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