Unhealthy diets pose a bigger global health risk than unsafe sex, alcohol, drug and tobacco use combined. This is according a new report that estimates 820 million people are underfed and that many more consume low-quality diets that substantially increase the risks of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and obesity.
To combat these problems, the EAT-Lancet Commission recommends a “planetary health diet” for everyone over the age of two. This consists of a daily intake of 2,500 calories made up of a “variety of plant-based foods, low amounts of animal-based foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and few refined grains, highly processed foods and added sugars”.
For Africa, achieving the planetary health diet will require a range of initiatives. It will involve investing in innovative farming techniques and educating communities on healthy eating, including of traditional African foods and fortified foods. Since the Lancet report cites urbanisation is a key reason for the rise in unhealthy eating, one part of the solution will also be for Africa to boost food production in its cities.
To do this, Africa must invest in innovative urban farming practices to ensure healthier foods are available to everyone. Some regions are already trying this. In South Africa, for example, the Western Cape Department of Agriculture actively encourages citizens to grow crops in urban areas. Meanwhile, in Kenya, backyard farming is becoming increasingly common despite negligible government support. Read more …