While Brazil may not have the scientific muscle of American research institutions, its dietary guidelines are remarkably more consistent.
Rather than emphasize the consumption or avoidance of certain nutrients, as the American system does, Brazil recommends learning how to cook, sharing meals with friends, and being skeptical of food advertising.
Above all, Brazil recommends eating minimally processed foods "mainly of plant origin," which are the basis for diets that are nutritious, delicious, appropriate, and supportive of socially and environmentally sustainable food systems.
The South American nation's approach is receiving praise from prominent American food scholars such as Marion Nestle at her blog Food Politics. Nestle is a professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University.
In her Big Think interview, Nestle echoes the Brazilian guidelines by explaining that focusing on individual foods or food groups is more often a result of industry advertising and food fads than actual nutrition:
"I think about food in categories. ... I can’t think of a single food that – a single, single food, that is absolutely essential. If you look at human diets across the entire world, you see the diets vary enormously and dependent on what’s available locally. So, the whole business about, you need to eat this food or you shouldn’t eat that, that’s all about marketing. It’s not about health."
A press release from Brazil's health ministry explains the country's official outlook on food, placing what we eat in an important social and economic context. Among the recommendations, published in English and Portuguese, are 10 steps to eating a healthy diet:
- Make natural or minimally processed foods the basis of your diet.
- Use oils, fats, salt, and sugar in small amounts when seasoning and cooking natural or minimally processed foods and to create culinary preparations.
- Limit consumption of processed foods.
- Avoid consumption of ultra-processed products.
- Eat regularly and carefully in appropriate environments and, whenever possible, in company.
- Shop in places that offer a variety of natural or minimally processed foods.
- Develop, exercise, and share culinary skills.
- Plan your time to make food and eating important in your life.
- Out of home, prefer places that serve freshly made meals.
- Be wary of food advertising and marketing.
According to the World Health Organization, worldwide obesity has nearly doubled since 1980:
"People are fatter now everywhere, even in the poorest developing countries, where malnutrition and starvation are widespread problems. In 2008, more than 1.4 billion adults were overweight. Of those, over 500 million men and women were obese. The trend now reaches into developing countries. Obesity is a problem in Mexico, the Middle East, and in several countries in Africa."