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Global Nutrition Remains Poor: Here’s What We Should Be Eating Instead

November 29, 2018, 1:47 PM UTC

Every hungry country is hungry in its own way. And it turns out there are no countries that aren’t suffering from some form of malnutrition, say the authors of this year’s Global Nutrition Report. There are also huge disparities within individual countries: China, for example, has both rising rates of obesity and the second-largest population of underfed people.

The United States also suffers from obesity. But it’s by no means alone in having nutritional problems: even the best-performing five countries in the world are only on track to hit four of the nine nutrition targets set by the authors of the report, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, several national aid agencies, the Eleanor Crook Foundation, and the European Commission.

In a world flooded with shoddy nutrition advice, there’s a huge opportunity for calling BS and updating both government-level and peer-pressure on nutrition guidance. Yet the basic information is always the same.

Some of these are going to sound familiar. Americans should:

  • cut their sugary drink intake by a factor of 20. Yep, with a zero.
  • cut their processed meat intake by a factor of nine.
  • cut their salt, red meat, and trans fat intake by more than half.

Just like your mom always said, you should also eat more vegetables (about twice as much), more whole grains, nuts and seeds, and more legumes such as lentils and chickpeas.

At the same time, when you can choose between saturated fats such as butter and unsaturated fats such as olive oil — well, guess which one you should choose? That’s right, the olive oil.

The good news is that many countries have made some progress toward meeting some of the targets, the authors say. That means countries can learn from each other about what’s working, as none of the nutrition problems are intractable.

Better nutrition will make for better business too. UNICEF executive director Henrietta H. Fore, said in a statement, “Food systems that contribute to prevent malnutrition in all its forms will be critical for children’s growth and development, the growth of national economies, and the development of nations.”