The World Wide Fund’s “50 Future Foods” report heralds the list of nutritious, eco-friendly foods can save the planet one meal at a time.
By Amy Pennington
Amy Pennington is a Seattle freelance writer and author, writing about food, health, agriculture, gardens & more. Visit her website at amy-pennington.com.
What we choose to eat impacts many things outside of our immediate health. We influence local economies (remember when Community Supported Agriculture produce subscriptions weren’t even a ‘thing’?), ecosystems on both small and large scales, and ultimately the flow of business.
Agricultural companies wouldn’t grow so much romaine if we all decided to eat only arugula, after all. Adding to that, current global demands for meat and agricultural land have been linked to a wide swath of negative outcomes from climate change and land degradation to the extinction of several animal species.
To begin to shift trends and cultures around food, many organizations are fast at work hoping to transform our current food system to address these issues. Some are offering plant-based ‘meats’ while others are focused on stackable farms. Earlier this year, Knorr, one of the world’s largest food brands, teamed up with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), an independent conservation organization known as the World Wildlife Fund in the U.S., to look at our global food system and the impact it has on the environment.
The results of this study, published in February 2019 in the Future 50 Foods report, identified dozens of diverse plant-based foods from around the world that are nutritionally dense and, through the simple act of cultivation, may reduce the environmental impact of our food supply.
By making a conscious choice to consume more of the Future 50 Foods, we take a crucial step towards improving the global food system.
Most of the foods on this list generally require less land or water to grow and may even benefit the environment in some way, like nitrogen-fixing legumes. Consisting of vegetables, grains, cereals, seeds, and nuts from across the globe, Future 50 Foods is also meant to inspire greater variety in what we cook and eat, an important recommendation nutritionist professionals already make. This group of foods takes it to the next level for clients who are interested in how foods are grown, plant-based diets, and the impact they have on the environment.
Ultimately, the intent of the list is to enable important dietary
shifts, offering a greater variety of vegetables and starches to increase an
individual’s intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants; and to provide
plant-based sources of protein to replace animal protein. The foods selected
also promote agrobiodiversity, the biological diversity found in the collection
of plants and animals that make up an agricultural ecosystem. Improving agrobiodiversity
is considered a more sustainable practice and helps foods withstand the impacts
of climate change.
This all sounds ideal, but here’s the catch: Not all 50 foods are currently easily accessible. Some thrive and are cultivated only in certain parts of the world. But consumer demand can drive supply—money goes where attention flows. In the meantime, some of these ingredients can be found at your everyday grocery store, and most are available at finer grocery stores, health food stores, or online at sites like the popular Thrive Market store.
“By joining together with our partners, we believe we can
shift the way food is grown and the foods people choose to eat, delivering
significant, positive impact on the food system,” states April Redmond, Global
Vice President of Knorr, in the report.
This is important to remember since we all make choices with what we put on our plates every day. Swapping water-dependent staples like corn and white rice for the drought-tolerant African grain fonio or spelt increases the nutrient content of a dish; Introducing plants that require less resources to grow, making our food supply more resilient. Added bonus? It preserves these ancient plant varieties for future generations. By making a conscious choice to consume more of the Future 50 Foods, we take a crucial step towards improving the global food system.
As Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International simply puts it, “Few people have the chance to be a part of truly historic transformations. This is ours.”
15 Common Future Foods
The WWF’s list of 50 Future Foods includes some items you likely have never heard of, whether you’re studying to be a nutritionist or not, and are often only available in parts of the world (Nopales, we’re looking at you.)
But the list also includes many familiar ingredients you may already be eating, so regardless of how much of these foods we eat, you can be assured they’re grown sustainably.