4 Foods That Are Surprisingly Sustainable

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When people first think about living a more sustainable lifestyle they generally think about actions like driving their car less, recycling and having solar panels installed. One thing that people tend to overlook is their diet. What you choose to eat can have a huge impact on the environment and increase your personal carbon footprint.

There are lots of factors which can increase the carbon footprint of food including growing practices, transportation and storage. As a general rule if you can buy locally grown food then do that. Local farmers markets are great for this. It’s also important to eat food that is in season. 

Another way to reduce your food carbon footprint is to reduce the amount of meat you eat each week or even better give up meat altogether. Meat has the highest carbon footprint of all foods, especially beef. 

14.5% of global climate-changing gases are due to meat and dairy production (more than all forms of transport)Friends Of The Earth

 

If you do decide to cut down or eliminate meat from your diet then it’s a good idea to start taking supplements to keep your health in tip-top condition. Most people regardless of whether they are a meat eater on not should start taking supplements as unless you have an uber-healthy diet you will not be getting all of the vitamins & nutrients you need from your food.

 

Related Post: How To Get Started Reducing The Amount Of Meat You Eat 

Personally, I follow a plant-based whole foods diet and I take 4 different types of supplements every day. I take Vitamin D, B12, protein and vegan omega 3 supplements.  I know I need to take these particular ones as I pay to have a regular, at home blood test kit, which tells me what levels are low.

4 Foods That Are Surprisingly Sustainable  

 

Below are 4 foods that are surprisingly sustainable…

Algae (Seaweed)

Algae, or as it’s more commonly know seaweed, is a nutrient-rich edible which is a great source of antioxidants and essential fatty acids. It can also be rich in protein which makes it great for non-meat eaters. As seaweed grows naturally in water it doesn’t require any chemical pesticides or fertilisers. This means it can be grown and harvested throughout the year with minimal impact on the surrounding environment

edible seaweed
Photo by Dilara Yilmaz on Unsplash

There are different types of edible algae including laver seaweed & wakame seaweed. 


It can either be eaten dry as a savoury snack or added to soups and other dishes. In Wales, people make laverbread out of laver seaweed. Wakame seaweed is farmed in places such as Korea, Japan, Argentina, New Zealand, California and France.

Cacti 

When most people think of cacti they think of an unusual plant that looks good on their office shelf, not something that can be eaten. However, what most people don’t know is that cacti contain huge amounts of vitamins C and E. 

 

In Mexico, they have been eating edible cacti for centuries. The young stems called nopales are the most commonly used part. Both the leaves and flowers can be eaten either raw or cooked. Some people make jam from nopales.

Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

As most people know cacti and succulents store water which makes them grow easily in arid climates and don’t require much water. Not only are they good for humans but they could also potentially be used as a more sustainable alternative for traditional animal feed.

Insects 

Now before you freak out here me out on this one. Insects are actually a great source of protein and can be farmed sustainably. Insects are already eaten in many places around the world and are slowly making their way into the UK market. Up to 2 billion people in the world eat insects as part of their daily diet. Most commonly in countries such as South America, Africa and Asia.

Photo by Jairo Alzate on Unsplash

Why are they sustainable? To produce 1kg of protein from a cow requires 30,000 litres of water whereas it only requires 15 litres of water to produce the same amount of protein from a cricket. The environmental impacts don’t just stop at water either. It requires 24kg of feed to produce 1kg of protein from a cow whereas it takes only 2kg of feed for a cricket. As an added bonus crickets can be fed on organic waste too. Less land is also required for farming.

 

Related Post: Insect Eco Treats For Dogs

Pumpkin Flowers

You already know that you can eat pumpkin but did you know that their leaves are also edible? As an added bonus they’re also very nutritious with good levels of vitamin C. You can add them raw to salads or cook them into soups and other dishes like pasta. It’s recommended to remove the stamen (centre of the flower) before using. 

 

Pumpkins tend to grow best in hotter, humid climates but they also grow well in the UK. They are relatively easy to grow and require minimal maintenance. In the right conditions, cool and dry, they can be stored for up to a month or longer.

Photo by Steffi Pereira on Unsplash

As well as the flesh and flowers you can also eat the seeds. Meaning the only waste is the outer shell which can be composted or left out in a woods for animals to eat. 

 

Fun Fact: Pumpkins are technically a fruit, not a vegetable. 


Related Post: How To Roast Pumpkin Seeds

If you’re looking for some slightly less adventurous sustainable foods to eat here’s a list of some to get you started…

 

  • Beans & Pulses
  • Cereals & Grains 
  • Locally Grown Fruit & Vegetables 
  • Mushrooms 
  • Nuts & Seeds

About Gina Caro

Gina is a content creator and award-winning blogger. Her aim is to help you live a more sustainable & simple life.  Her blog covers zero waste, minimalism, wellbeing & thrift. She currently lives in Cornwall with her partner, two kids and Charles the dog. 

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