50 best foods for your body and the planet, sustainable foods list

50 Sustainable Foods to Help You Follow an Eco-Friendly Diet

This remarkable study covers all aspects of food sustainability, providing food options for a healthy body and planet.

This spring (2019), The World Wildlife Foundation and Knorr (a German food brand) released a stunning report about healthy, sustainable foods.

Why? I can’t speak for either WWF or Knorr, but sustainable food and recipes is a worldwide trend growing like it’s the last summer on Earth. More people want to learn how they can live and eat in a way that will improve their health and the health of this planet. Furthermore, more people are making lifestyle and purchasing decisions to reflect that.

So, let’s talk about this report and why it’s a huge step toward a greener future.

How much CO2 emissions come from your favorite foods? See the stats in the free ebook.

1. Experts developed this report – not a giant food corporation.

Knorr and WWF worked with experts in food sustainability, food security, nutrition, human rights, and agriculture. In order to understand how to eat for long-term health, a healthier planet, and a food system future that supported everyone, all these fields come into play.

Personally, I think this coming together of experts from across specialties is a remarkable achievement in of itself.

What this tells me about the report: it’s trustworthy. It’s expert-approved. And, it can help make a difference, one sustainable meal at a time.

2. It addresses the biggest factor of a sustainable future: our food systems.

Dr. Tony Juniper from WWF writes in the opening, “Most of us might believe it’s our energy or transport choices that cause the most serious environmental damage. In fact, it’s out food system that creates the biggest impact.”

Our current food system relies heavily on a small range of produce – corn, rice, wheat, and soy – and an exceeding amount of meat. In fact, 75% of what we eat comes from only 12 plant sources and 5 animal sources.

This monoculture farming and heavy reliance on meat and dairy produces depletes the soil of nutrients and requires massive amounts of land to produce, which has led to deforesting and animal endangerment.

If we want to change our food system, we must start by making different, more sustainable food choices.

Criteria for the Future 50 Foods – sustainable foods for you and the planet

How did these experts come up with a list of the 50-supposed healthiest, most-sustainable foods?

The criteria for the Future 50 Foods came from United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) definition of sustainable diets:

“Sustainable diets are those diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations. Sustainable diets are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources.” – FAO, 2011

Nutritional value, relative environmental impact, flavor, accessibility, acceptability, and affordability all factor into a sustainable diet. Each food item listed met the report’s 5-step methodology, which was developed and endorsed by the diverse group of experts.

Because of this, I have also adopted this methodology when I make food choices, and I encourage you to do the same.

      1. Focus on plant-based foods.
      2. Optimize nutrient density.
      3. Evaluate environmental impact: climate change and land use.
      4. Consider culture and flavor.
      5. Deliver diversity.

The 50 sustainable foods you should eat more often

My challenge for you is this: In the next 7 days, incorporate 10 items from this list into your meals. Diversify what you eat, source your food from local farmers when possible, and follow this list of sustainable foods.

Not only will this help heal our planet but it will also nourish our bodies and allow us to live a healthier, happier life. As written in the report: “Future 50 Food is the beginning of a journey and a way for people to make a change, one delicious dish at a time.”

50 sustainable foods infographic

In case that infographic doesn’t load for you, here they are again:

Cereals, Grains, & Tubers

      • Red Indonesian (Cilembu) sweet potatoes
      • Jicama (yam bean root)
      • Purple yam (ube)
      • Lotus root
      • Wild rice
      • Teff
      • Spelt
      • Quinoa
      • Khorasan wheat
      • Fonio
      • Finger millet
      • Buckwheat
      • Amaranth

Beans, Legumes, & Sprouts

      • Sprouted chickpeas
      • Sprouted kidney beans
      • Alfalfa sprouts
      • Soy beans
      • Mung beans
      • Marama beans
      • Lentils
      • Cowpeas
      • Bambara beans (Bambara groundnuts)
      • Fava beans
      • Black turtle beans
      • Adzuki beans


      • Winter radish (white icicle radish)
      • Parsley root (Dutch parsley)
      • Black salsify
      • Watercress
      • Spinach
      • Red cabbage
      • Pumpkin leaves
      • Bok-choy (pak-choi or Chinese cabbage)
      • Moringa
      • Kale
      • Broccoli rabe
      • Beet greens
      • Orange tomatoes
      • Okra
      • Pumpkin flowers
      • Prickly pear cactus (nopales)
      • Wakame seaweed
      • Laver seaweed


      • Saffron milk cap mushrooms
      • Maitake mushrooms
      • Enoki mushrooms

Nuts & Seeds

      • Walnuts
      • Sesame seeds
      • Hemp seeds
      • Flax seeds

For more information about what makes each of these food items sustainable and eco-friendly, check out the report. And as always, please subscribe to my monthly newsletter for more stories and sustainable recipes.

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Food & CO2: stats and graphs of food CO2 emissions | Food & Knife


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