What is the Most Sustainable Food to Eat?
A diet of sustainably grown, local vegetables is a great place to start. Avoiding red meat (especially beef) and processed foods is also key to reducing your carbon footprint.
Other eco-friendly options include whole grains, legumes, nutrient-rich nuts and responsibly sourced fish. Sheep, for instance, take less land to raise than cows and generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
The most sustainable foods to eat out of all the vegetables and fruits are those that are locally grown and organic. They have lower carbon footprints and don’t use excessive fertilizers or pesticides. They also support healthy soil and water sources.
Mushrooms are one of the most sustainably grown vegetables out there – they’re low in calories and saturated fat, high in soluble fibre and B vitamins and contain protein, too (they’re a good option for veggie or vegan diets). They require just 2 gallons of water to produce a single pound.
The same goes for perennial vegetables like artichokes, asparagus and kale. They last a long time, leaving the soil undisturbed, and don’t require replanting each year.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of what foods are most sustainable. It depends on how the food is farmed or fished, as well as the human and environmental costs involved in production, transportation and storage. But generally, a diet based on more plants than meat and processed sugars is more eco-friendly.
Fruits like pears and peaches are among the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases, according to Our World in Data. They also tend to ripen on the tree, which reduces energy use and fuel consumption.
Other sustainable fruits include kiwis, oranges, and bananas. These produce the highest yields compared to their GHG emissions, and are often available at farmers markets. Bananas, for example, grow their own natural packaging, which cuts down on plastic consumption. Another good choice is mung beans, which are high in protein and nutrients, as well as B vitamins. They also require less water than other legumes. Avoiding waste by using food scraps and reducing cooking time are other simple ways to make your diet more eco-friendly.
A well-balanced diet is a key to good health, but it’s important to consider how your meals affect the planet too. Whether you go vegan, flexitarian or plant-based, choosing ingredients that are sustainable can help reduce your impact on the environment and support healthy living.
For meat, venison is a great option as it can be hunted by yourself or purchased from a farmer that follows regenerative farming techniques and rears livestock alongside growing crops in order to improve soil health. Beef, however, has a higher environmental impact as it is reared on land that can’t be used for growing vegetables and has a much greater methane emissions per pound than venison does.
Beans also make a strong case for themselves as they are a nutritious and cheap source of protein. They’re nitrogen-fixing, meaning they can source the nutrients needed from the soil which cuts down on fertilizer use and are more resilient to varying weather conditions compared with other crops.
Seafood is often considered to be a more sustainable food than meat, but that depends on the species and how it’s caught. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch database is a great resource for finding healthy and sustainable seafood options.
Arctic char (also known as sockeye salmon) isn’t a common fish choice, but it’s one of the most sustainable seafood you can find. It’s a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and is delicious grilled or broiled with your favorite herbs and spices.
Another great option is sardines, which are low on the food chain and can be fished without harming other marine life. They’re a good source of protein and vitamin B12.
Mussels are another highly underrated seafood option. They’re easy to cook, and they can be farmed sustainably using long lines that don’t destroy coral reefs or capture by-catch. They’re also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and are full of vitamins.