We all know that as humans, we ideally need our daily recommended dose of fruit and vegetables, and for most of us, it’s easily achievable. But what if there simply wasn’t enough to go around? Well, according to a new study, the world is now not growing enough fruit and vegetables for everyone to eat healthily.
In order to feed the world’s rapidly expanding population with healthy diets, scientists involved in the new study have said that more fruit and vegetables must be produced alongside a shift to plant-based proteins. Scientists discovered that such a dramatic shift would also reduce land use and cut greenhouse gas emissions, meaning it would be good for the planet as well as the global population. With the world’s appetite for sugary and fatty foods escalating daily, alongside a new surge in grain production in order to feed new and developing countries with growing populations, making new changes would be needed to be put in place as soon as possible in order to maintain a safe level of produce to provide a balanced diet for all individuals around the world.
The scientists based their research during the study on Harvard University’s official “healthy eating plate” guide, which has recommended that half of our diets consist of regular fruit and vegetables, a quarter of whole grains and the remaining quarter consisting of protein, fat and dairy. Scientists then worked out how much land is currently actively used for farming, as well as how the active land is currently divided, and how much would be needed if everyone regularly stuck to the recommended Harvard system.
The results from the study itself revealed a rift between the ideal amount of fresh fruit and vegetables an individual would have to consume to be healthy and the reality of what is currently available to do so, with 12 servings of grain being produced per person, instead of eight, and just five servings of fruit and vegetables being produced. instead of the recommended 15 servings. Scientists also discovered that the levels of fat and sugar production as a whole were also far higher than is currently necessary for a healthy population to consume.
“We simply can’t all adopt a healthy diet under the current global agriculture system,” said Professor Evan Fraser of the University of Guelph, who was one of the study’s co-authors.
According to the scientists, in order to fully achieve self-sufficiency in healthy diets, developing countries who have pumped large amounts of investment into produce like grain and corn production in the last ten years or so must swap some of this capacity for other in-demand crops to protect the future of fruit and vegetables for decades to come.
Other findings from the study also confirmed that going vegan is the ‘single biggest way’ to reduce our impact on the planet as a whole, however there was also a smaller shortage in the amount of protein that’s currently being produced, with around three servings per person being available, instead of the recommended five servings. According to scientists, in order to raise protein consumption to the recommended amount, a new greater emphasis must be placed on plant-based proteins instead of relying on animals to get all of our desired (and necessary!) protein.
“Major players in the protein industry are investing in alternative protein options such as plant-based proteins, and consumers are taking advantage of the recent increase in alternative protein options hitting the market,” said Professor Fraser.
While shifting production to match the health needs and standard of the world’s population would be difficult – it would also slash the required land area by 50 million hectares due to less space being needed to plant grains and crops. While putting something as large as this into action may be time consuming, expensive and difficult to fully organise efficiently, scientists have stated that unless the appropriate changes are made, feeding the 9.8 billion people expected to make up the global population by 2050 will require 12 million more hectares of arable land and at least one billion more hectares of pasture land, meaning we’ll quickly come to a shortage in supplies.