Eastern Europe is full of rich and varied food traditions. The wooly Mangalitsa pigs of Hungary make for beautiful sausage. Albania’s version of borek is the ultimate incarnation of simple comfort food. The khachapuri of Georgia even gives pizza a run for its money.

Putting flavor aside, however, it is not a land of healthy diets.

But you may be surprised to hear that West Africa is. Far more so, actually, than our land of supersized milkshakes and potato chips covered in barbecue flavor crystals. The world of science hath spoken.

First, let’s back up. A recent review of global dietary habits published by The Lancet Global Health has effectively ranked what 187 nations eat on the basis of nutrition. The good news: The world is eating more healthy food than it has in the past. The bad news: It’s also eating a lot more shitty food.

Surely this is a contradiction, you say! Not quite. Researchers examined data from 320 self-reported diet surveys collected between 1990 and 2010 and analyzed them using three dietary patterns. The first included the consumption of healthy fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, fish, and milk, as well as total polyunsaturated fatty acids, plant omega-3s, and dietary fiber. The second pattern included unprocessed red meats, processed meats, sugary beverages, saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium. The third pattern looked at all of those food groups at once, and performed an overall assessment based on all 17 food groups. The study covered 187 nations representing 4.5 billion world adults.


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