But we have no shortage of fats and sugars.
The agriculture industry needs to get its priorities straight.
According to a newly published study, the world food system is producing too many unhealthy foods and not enough healthy ones.
“We simply can’t all adopt a healthy diet under the current global agriculture system,” said study co-author Evan Fraser in a press release. “Results show that the global system currently overproduces grains, fats, and sugars, while production of fruits and vegetables and, to a smaller degree, protein is not sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the current population.”
For their study, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from the University of Guelph compared global agricultural production with consumption recommendations from Harvard University’s Healthy Eating Plate guide. Their findings were stark: The agriculture industry's overall output of healthy foods does not match humanity's needs.
Instead of the recommended eight servings of grains per person, it produces 12. And while nutritionists recommend we each consume 15 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, the industry produces just five. The mismatch continues for oils and fats (three servings instead of one), protein (three servings instead of five), and sugar (four servings when we don't need any).
Overly Full Plate
The researchers don't just point out the problem, though — they also calculated what it would take to address the lack of healthy foods while also helping the environment.
"For a growing population, our calculations suggest that the only way to eat a nutritionally balanced diet, save land, and reduce greenhouse gas emission is to consume and produce more fruits and vegetables as well as transition to diets higher in plant-based protein," said Fraser.
A number of companies dedicated to making plant-based proteins mainstream are already gaining traction. But unfortunately, it's unlikely that the agriculture industry will decide to prioritize growing fruits and veggies over less healthy options as long as people prefer having the latter on their plates.
READ MORE: Not Enough Fruits, Vegetables Grown to Feed the Planet, U of G Study Reveals [University of Guelph]
More on food scarcity: To Feed a Hungry Planet, We're All Going to Need to Eat Less Meat