Global Diet: Nutrition Trends and Triggers Worldwide

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According to experts from the World Health Organization, sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet are still the main reasons why we are losing health . They are responsible for the development of the 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 consuming too much sugar, salt and fats while neglecting whole grains, fresh vegetables, fruit, and other types of healthy fibre, we should acknowledge the overall positive change in the diet towards a healthier life.

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, recent ten years have seen just 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 vegetable 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 comfortable being stored for a long time, have seen a decrease in sales.

On the other hand, meat consumption has sharply increased: in China alone, its consumption rates are five times bigger 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. Besides, 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 normal functioning of the cardiovascular system. Over the recent decade in both developed and developing countries products rich in healthy fats — 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 wellbeing 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 leave out those cultures where meat was never viewed as an integral part of a traditional diet: 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 that you enjoy a healthy diet if 25% of calories fall on proteins (vegetable and animal), 30% on healthy fats and the remaining 45% are present in a form of safe carbohydrates. Who experts reminde

Unfortunately, as of today, it’s hard to foresee objectively when countries can get near 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 make up only half the recommended rate. On the bright side, however, the general trend is rather positive. If the growth of the world economy and the economies of developing countries remains at least at the current level, the world diet will inevitably change towards a healthier and safer pattern.

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