The largest killer in the 11 million global deaths attributed to poor diet every year is cardiovascular disease, which is often caused or made worse by obesity.
The last million deaths are from cancers and type-2 diabetes linked to diet.
Overall, poor diet is behind 16-percent of adult DALYs around the world.
Lack of those foods is a more significant predictor of diet-related illness and death than over-consumption of sugar and red meat, which gets most of the dietary attention.
Eating unhealthily claims more lives than smoking because of its links to heart disease, cancer and diabetes, say researchers.
However, they're encouraging people to focus more on adding healthy foods to their diets, rather than punishing them for eating fat and sugar. "We are what we eat and risks affect people across a range of demographics, including age, gender, and economic status", said lead author Ashkan Afshin, Assistant Professor at the varsity.
The researchers also found that diets high in sodium, and low in whole grains and fruits accounted for over half of diet-related deaths globally.
"We are highlighting the importance of low consumption of healthy foods as compared to the greater consumption of unhealthy foods". "It's important both policy makers and the food industry work together to be part of the solution to increase the consumption of not only fruits and vegetables but also whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes".
Diets lacking in healthy food are responsible for more deaths across the globe than smoking, a major new study has concluded.
She said the UK's challenge to the food industry to reduce sugar from everyday foods was "a clear step in the right direction".
But on average we consume only 3 grams of nuts and seeds a day versus the recommended 21 grams.
The UK ranked 23rd (127 deaths per 100,000) above Ireland (24th) and Sweden (25th), and the U.S. ranked 43rd (171 deaths per 100,000) after Rwanda and Nigeria (41st and 42nd), China ranked 140th (350 deaths per 100,000 people), and India 118th (310 deaths per 100,000 people).
The findings of the study stress on the pressing need for coordinated global efforts to improve diet. "For instance, fruits and vegetables should make up 80 percent of your diet".
For example, not eating enough whole grains was the leading dietary risk factor in several countries, including the United States.
'A menu of integrated policy interventions across whole food systems, internationally and within countries, is essential to support the radical shift in diets needed to optimize human, and protect planetary health'.