A few simple changes could have a huge impact on your health.

By Maggie O'Neill
Updated: April 29, 2019

We all know that healthy foods are often more expensive than foods with little nutritional value. But the prohibitive cost of foods that are good for us might be taking a bigger toll than you previously realized. A shocking new report published in the journal The Lancet claims that as many as one-fifth of deaths around the world are linked to poor diets.

The study explains that globally, 11 million deaths in 2017 were associated with poor diets. Cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes were among the top illnesses causing those deaths.

Nutrition sticks out as one of the areas of public health that's gotten drastically worse during the 21st century. Cancer death rates, for instance, went down for both men and women in the U.S. from 1999 to 2015. But the new report highlights the alarming fact that the estimate of diet-related deaths has gone up: In 1990, it was only 8 million.

While many factors influence the growing number of diet-related deaths, the report stresses the importance of three nutrition recommendations that are being ignored far too often. It also stresses the need to cut out three categories of foods we're eating too often. Here are the biggest diet mistakes leading to deaths around the world.

RELATED: The Best Diets of 2019

Not eating enough nuts

"The largest shortfalls in optimal intake were seen for nuts and seeds," according to a press release for the new report. In general, we're only getting 12% of our recommended nuts and seeds, it says.

So how much should you be getting? Aim for 21 grams a day, according to the study. (The average intake is only about 3 grams daily.)

Nuts are a great source of protein, fiber, heart-healthy fats, and vitamins. "Instead of eating foods with unhealthy saturated fats, try substituting a handful of nuts or a tablespoon or two of a nut spread," the Mayo Clinic recommends.

RELATED: The Best and Worst Nuts for Your Health

Skimping on milk

Globally, we're only consuming 16% of our suggested recommended amount of milk, according to the new study. The recommended daily amount, it says, has been set at 435 grams.

There's been some debate about whether or not milk is good for you in recent years. But whole milk is making a comeback. Consuming whole milk and other full-fat dairy products has been linked to a lower risk of obesity. Additionally, whole milk might help children absorb vitamin D more efficiently. We probably don't even need to mention this, but milk has also been associated with stronger bones.

RELATED: 14 Non-Dairy Foods That Are High in Calcium

Eating too few whole grains

We're not great at eating enough whole grains either. The average daily intake is 29 grams, but we're supposed to be getting 125 grams a day, the study says.

Potential benefits of eating enough whole grains include a decreased risk of heart disease, better digestive health, and assistance with weight management. This area of concern is especially important for Americans to pay attention to. "Low intake of whole grains (below 125 grams per day) was the leading dietary risk factor for death and disease in the USA," the press release says.

Sneak these foods into your diet when you can to increase the amount of whole grains you're consuming: brown rice, barley, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, and popcorn.

RELATED: 8 Awesome Whole Grains You're Not Eating

Consuming too many salty foods, sugary drinks, and processed meats

We know you hear about the horrible side effects of drinking too much soda all the time, but, just in case you forgot: Soda can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and tooth decay. Unfortunately, diet soda isn't great either; it's been linked to an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, dementia, and, counterintuitively, weight gain. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure, strokes, and heart attacks, and processed meat can increase your chances of having diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.

Hopefully, knowing just how many people are killed by poor diet choices every year—one in five—will help you ditch the soda and grab some nuts the next time you're at the grocery store.

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