The Reference Diet: New Global Diet to Save Ourselves and the Earth

On the 16th of January, the Lancet, which is a highly-regarded medical journal,  came up with some universal suggestions for us to eat healthy as well as save the planet.

The rationale for this is the increasingly intake of unhealthy food, continuous malnutrition in the world as well as deteriorating environmental conditions as a result of our food production systems. So, they proposed a Reference diet that everyone in the world can key into, whether we eat ‘Swallow’ and soup or not. So, it is a diet that is supposed to transcend culture. That is, we have to adapt it suit our local situation.

Tangerine fruit removed from the peel

Their advice to us is that (my summary):

  1. If we continue to eat and produce foods the way we do, we will continue to perpetuate malnutrition, cause more diseases and death and destroy the earth
  2. Globally, we should eat more of foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and unsaturated oils (such as groundnut oils, olive oils, soybean oils etc)
  3. We should eat a moderate amount of seafood and poultry
  4. Eat little or no red meat, processed meat, added sugar, refined grains and starchy vegetables (like yam)
  5. Countries of the world should shift towards production of healthy foods (as mentioned in 2 and 3) and its called ‘the great food transformation’.


Please, note that the lancet took into consideration Sub Saharan Africa and its malnutrition problem. While this reference diet recommends low consumption of animal foods, it recognizes that increase in animal protein helps to improve nutrition and health of women and children in Africa. So, take note.

To achieve this global transformation towards the reference diet, they came up with 5 strategies:

  • Get international and national commitment towards the shift to a healthy diet
  • Reorient agriculture priorities from producing large quantity of food to producing healthy foods
  • Intensify food production sustainably and focus on high-quality output
  • Have effective governance of land and ocean
  • Reduce food waste and losses by half


How realistic does this sound? Is it something that can be achieved knowing fully well that powers that control the food industry will do what they can to continue making their profits from processed and refined foods? Well, my take is that we can strive to achieve this. It is something we aspire to achieve but it would take a lot of time and a lot of fight both from the consumers and the producers.

As always, I encourage you to eat better and live better.

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