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To Save the Planet, Eat These 50 Foods

Author: Sandy Abram   Date Posted:30 April 2019 

To Save the Planet, Eat These 50 Foods To Save the Planet, Eat These 50 Foods

It’s wonderful how so many of us are now turning to environmentally friendly household and beauty products, and choosing plastic free over single use. We’re all doing all we can to make our own impact a little lower and our personal carbon footprint as light as possible. If you’re looking for more ways to green your life, then including more of these foods in your diet could be the answer...

Leaving the car at home and choosing not to fly long haul has a significantly positive impact on the planet. One that most of us would believe to one of the biggest eco changes we could make.


But surprisingly, one of the most impactful ways we can make a difference to the health of our planet is by making more conscious decisions surrounding our food choices.


The World Wide Fund for Nature, or WWF, (which used to be called the World Wildlife Fund) and food manufacturer Knorr, have teamed up with the Director of the Centre for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington, Dr Adam Drewnowski. Together, they’ve compiled a list of the 50 foods we should all be eating to help save the planet.

So what are these foods and how can they have so much power?


Diversifying Our Diet, Diversifies Nature

According to the 50 Future Foods - 50 foods for healthier people and a healthier planet report, what we’re eating compared to what we could be eating is pretty shocking.


Three quarters of the food we eat globally, comes from just 12 different plants and five animals.


60% of the calories the world’s population gets from plants comes from only three different crops - wheat, corn and rice.

Whilst most of us are getting all the calories we need from these foods, following such a narrow diet in parts of the world such as the UK, America and here in Australia when so much variety is available to us sounds pretty bland, doesn’t it?

But not only that, relying on so few resources for the majority of our food signals bad news for the security of our food, and the survival of the planet.


Relying on Only a Few Crops Places Strain on Our Food Systems

Monoculture farming, where the same land is used repeatedly, year after year to grow the same crop, leads to a loss of biodiversity of plant and animal species. It strips the soil of valuable nutrients and allows pests to flourish, which then inevitably require chemical pesticides to deal with, further damaging the planet. 

Monocultures reduce the range of foods we can eat and also places huge strain on the resilience of the world’s food systems.

Globally, we’ve lost three quarters of the different plant species used in food production since 1900. Thailand used to grow 16,000 different types of rice. Now, it’s only 37. 80% of the different varieties of cabbage, peas and tomatoes in the US have disappeared, in favour of just a few.

The WWF report warns that relying so heavily on such a small number of crops leaves what little variety is lett, “vulnerable to pests, diseases and the impact of climate change”.


More genetic diversity leaves much more of a disaster plan if one crop variety falls victim to a pest or disease.


Without a rich genetic mix, crops are much more at risk.

All of that said, in order to truly build a sustainable food system, it needs to include more plant based foods than animal based.


The Role of Animal Agriculture on Climate Change

In affluent countries such as Australia, the UK and the US, the dependence on animals for protein has always been high. Now, vegetarian and vegan diets in these countries are on the rise, but at the same time, as developing countries become richer, the demand for meat is rising.

Growing and cultivating plant based foods places less strain on the environment than animal agriculture. Long term, the amount of meat we’re eating globally simply isn’t sustainable.

All agriculture, both plant and animal, is responsible for 25% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Of that, 60% is down to the farming and slaughter of animals and the production of animal based food.

The WWF report says that animal agriculture (including the dairy and egg industries) is an intensive user of water and land (including the land given over to the monoculture of corn and soya for animal feed) and producer of greenhouse gases.

Animal based food producers are also helping to promote deforestation by having an innate lack of transparency and traceability in their supply chain. How many of them truly know where their meat for their meat products has come from and how much it’s been responsible for palm oil related deforestation for animal feed?

Slurry from farms (liquid animal waste) is washed off into nearby green spaces and waterways too, leading to environmental harm.

So it’s clear to see, the more we enrich our diet with a variety of plant based foods, the more diverse our currently fragile ecosystems.


Changing the Way We Eat

Taking into account climate change, wars, famine, natural disasters and fluctuating birth rates, the word is set to have 10 billion residents by the year 2050, all taking up space, using resources and needing to be fed.


The way we’re going, we’re going struggle to feed them all.


As it stands, the world’s population is currently around 7.7 billion, and we already have problems with hunger, both in Third World countries, and more affluent nations.

Whatever the reasons for this (famine, dictatorships, political unrest, war, poor harvests, climate change, poverty, zero hour contracts, the ‘trickle down’ economy) continuing to eat the way we do, with such a reliance on animal protein and monocrops, is only going to make the problem worse.

So that’s why the WWF and Knorr have produced their 50 Future Foods Report.


Which Foods Make the Grade?

The report makes the case for nutritious, plant based foods that are “affordable, accessible and taste good” and have a lower environmental impact than both animal based foods and plant based monocrops.

At the moment, not all of the 50 foods are readily available, but like with everything, the more public demand, the more food producers will listen and take action. Plus, it’ll help small, traditional family run, and innovative start up food businesses have a chance on the world stage.

For example, many of the these 50 foods are native to Africa, which also happens to have 60% of the world's arable land - and a big problem with poverty and hunger.

If more affluent countries like our own demand their nutritious heritage grains that have a low impact on the environment, can withstand more extreme weather patterns and the farmers, pickers and producers are paid a fair wage, then it’s a win for everyone. (Here’s a Wholesome Hub hope that Big Food doesn’t move in and ruin that idealistic simplicity.)

Here’s the top 40 foods. To get the full rundown on the nutritional benefits of each food, and the full list of 50 you can read 50 Future Foods report.



# 1 – Laver seaweed

# 2 – Wakame seaweed


Beans & Pulses

# 3 – Adzuki Beans

# 4 – Black turtle beans

# 5 – Broad beans (fava beans)

# 6 – Bambara groundnuts

# 7 – Cowpeas

# 8 – Lentils

# 9 – Marama beans

# 10 – Mung beans

# 11 – Soy beans



# 12 – Nopales


Cereals & Grains

# 13 – Amaranth

# 14 – Buckwheat

# 15 – Finger millet

# 16 – Fonio

# 17 – Khorasan wheat

# 18 – Quinoa

# 19 – Spelt

# 20 – Teff

# 21 – Wild rice


Fruit & Vegetables

# 22 – Pumpkin Flowers

# 23 – Okra

# 24 – Orange Tomatoes


Leafy Greens

# 25 – Beet greans

# 26 – Broccoli rabe

# 27 – Kale

# 28 – Moringa

# 29 – Pak-choi or bok-choy (Chinese cabbage)

# 30 – Pumpkin leaves

# 31 – Red cabbage

# 32 – Spinach

# 33 – Watercress



# 34 – Enoki mushrooms

# 35 – Maitake mushrooms

# 36 – Saffron milk cap mushrooms


Nuts & Seeds

# 37 – Flax seeds

# 38 – Hemp seeds

# 39 – Sesame seeds

# 40 – Walnuts


Eating for the Planet

So if you truly wish to do your bit, see how many of these foods you could introduce into your diet. And congratulate yourself for the ones you already do!

It doesn’t matter if you’re a meat eater, pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan. Plant based foods can either make up a whole diet, or complement one that also includes meat, fish, eggs and dairy.

We don’t know about you, but we’re so excited to get menu planning!

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