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Where in the world has the healthiest eating habits?

A report released by Oxfam this month has showed the best and worst places in the world for healthy eating. The countries were scored on four questions – “Do people have enough to eat?”, “Can people afford to eat?”, “Is food of good quality?” and “What is the extent of unhealthy outcomes of people’s diet?”. The criteria also looked at obesity levels, undernourishment levels, diabetes occurrence and variety of diet, among other things.

While you might assume that people in developing countries are undernourished, a look at the data proves that isn’t true. 904 million adults in developing countries have been classed as overweight or obese (compared to 557 million in developed countries in 2008). Similarly, there are three times as many obese children in developing countries as in developed (30 million compared to 10 million). Oxfam suggests that this is down to traditional diets changing. In countries where processed food is the norm obesity is rampant – the U.S. comes second in the obesity index, joint with Saudi Arabia. Only Kuwait scores higher, which has a surprising 42% of its population classed as obese.

So, where is a healthy place to eat? Well, The Netherlands comes top of the table, followed by France and Switzerland, then Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden. A combination of affordable food and low diabetes levels saw The Netherlands perform well, while the UK and USA didn’t make it into the top 12 because of their obesity levels. The USA did top the chart on the “Afford to Eat” index, with Angola coming bottom thanks to its ever-changing food prices, which are unaffordable for the poorest people in the country. Canada also did well on this index, coming joint top on the stability of food prices question (overall, Canada ranked 25th).

The “Food Quality” index was topped by Iceland, which scored highest for diversity of diet as well as access to clean water. Meanwhile, Cambodia was the country with the lowest levels of “Unhealthy Eating” and diabetes. This section also looked at obesity levels, with Ethiopia and Bangladesh only having 1.1% of the population obese – on its own, that’s more of an indication of poverty than healthy eating, which is why the four measures were combined to get the results. It’s still not a perfect measure though – countries which score well on the first three measures tended to score low on the last one. Even winner The Netherlands scored poorly on the obesity measures, with 19% of the population classed as obese.

So, there doesn’t seem to be a country which has both an abundance of food and low obesity levels. The report urges action on this and concludes by saying “The global food system delivers too much unhealthy food to many at the same time as it fails to provide adequate or sufficient food to more than 800 million.” But, if you wanted to have the best quality food at a reasonable price, it seems that The Netherlands is the best place to be!


Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!


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