Over the past few years, our diets have changed a lot. For one, we’re consuming significantly more alcohol than we were in the 1990s, according to a recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch research report.
The world is also eating way more meat, cheese, milk, and sugar than we were just two decades ago — and way less rice, cereal, and wheat.
Here’s a table from the recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch report showing some of the most powerful trends in agriculture and food between 1992 and 2014. The green rectangles show products that we’ve started eating way more of; the red ones show products we’ve started eating less of.
The chart brings good and bad news.
Here’s the good: Globally, people are eating more protein, an ingredient critical to healthy muscle and tissue development.
And the bad:
1. Most of that protein is coming from animal sources.
A big uptick in the amount of animals we raise for food can also put a strain on global resources of water and energy. It takes far more water, land, and energy (in the form of carbon and methane, two gases that contribute to climate change) to raise cattle that are slaughtered than it does to raise crops for people to eat.
2. Wealthy countries — where people already eat too much protein — account for most of the increase.
The countries that account for the majority of the uptick are wealthy countries, where people are actually eating more protein than they need. According to the report, developed countries like the US and the UK already eat about twice as much meat compared with the global average, and it predicts this trend will continue until well into the 2020s.
3. People are drinking way more alcohol and eating way more sugar.
The consumption of alcohol and sugar worldwide has spiked. People are drinking more than four times as much as they were in 1992 and eating nearly twice as much sugar.
Too much sugar causes your blood sugar to spike and then drop a short while later, leaving you hungry for more.
4. People are eating way less grain.
Contrary to what low-carb and paleo diets might have you think, grains are a vital part of any healthy diet.
Whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat, and cereals (as opposed to processed grains like the kind found in white bread or white rice) are rich in fibre, which helps keep your digestive system running smoothly. Some of these grains even contain enough protein to make them competitive with meat, even while being far less harsh on the environment.
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