Insects, seaweed, microalgae and cultured meat are seen as tomorrow’s food. Research published in Nature Sustainability by Wageningen University & Research confirms that these so-called future foods can be nutritional and sustainable elements in our future diets.
In search for a planet-friendly diet, the main focus has been on eating more plant-source foods, and eating no or less animal-source foods. The potential of future foods like insects, seaweed, micro-algae and cultured meat has been underexplored so far. Animal-source foods, however, are nutrient-dense, and provide us with a mix of high quality proteins, essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamins, that plant-source foods do not always contain. Researchers from Wageningen University & Research, together with experts from other national and international institutions researched if future foods can provide these essential nutrients in a sustainable way. They conclude that future foods are indeed nutritional and sustainable compared to the main animal-based foods that are currently on our menus.
Environmentally friendly, same nutritional value
The researchers used Life Cycle Assessments (LCA’s), which are used to calculate the total environmental impact of a product. Additionally, they combined LCA-data with the nutritional value of different future foods, and compared it with those of the main animal-based foods (such as chicken and pork) and plant-based foods (such as wheat, rice and beans).
The research results confirm that a mix of future foods contains the complete array of essential nutrients provided by animal-based foods. They are also more sustainable: the production of future foods does not require as much land and emits fewer greenhouse gases. The latter, however, depends on how much sustainable energy is used. It appears that future foods are indeed future-proof.