Feast Your Eyes

7 sustainable "future foods" you need to eat

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Sustainable foods are the new must-have edible. Recently, the food website Epicurious removed beef recipes from its pages to fight climate change. And the menu at acclaimed Manhattan restaurant Eleven Madison Park will soon be meat-free.

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“The shifts toward meatless options are really exciting — and promising — for the sustainability movement.”

Kate Bratskeir, author of "A Pocket Guide to Sustainable Food Shopping".
Here are 7 eco-friendly and future-forward foods you need to try asap.
1. Alternative “meat”

There is perhaps no greater testament to a food’s universal appeal than when it becomes fast food. From Burger King’s Impossible Whopper to McDonald’s faux chicken nuggets, meat-free “meat” is a must-try for die-hard burger fans and the eco-conscious alike.


“These kinds of options on fast food menus can help propel meat-free foods into a category that's considered ‘normal’ by the masses. When these types of food start becoming accepted as mainstream, then more people are comfortable eating them,” Bratskeir tells Inverse.

A molecule called “heme” is what gives meat its hearty flavor, and in meat alternatives, it can help mimic the taste of meat. The heme in meat-free burgers comes from soy plants.

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Meatless alternatives, like the “Beyond Burger,” are commonplace on grocery-store shelves — so you don’t need to hit the Golden Arches for a fix.

2. Seaweed

Kelp is a type of seaweed that’s edible for both sea creatures and humans, with one Maine harvesting company calling it “the new kale.”

Monterey Bay Aquarium/Giphy

Seaweed farms are sustainable, requiring none of the polluting chemical fertilizers used in most land-based agriculture. Seaweed is an essential part of people’s diet in Japan and elsewhere around the world. Now, U.S. food companies like Cargill are looking to seaweed, too.

3. Legumes

Legumes, a food group that includes chickpeas, lentils, beans, and other pulses, are staple foods in India and many regions of Africa, as well as in other communities around the world.


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Legumes store carbon in the soil in which they grow, increasing soil sustainability and health. Analysts estimate the global legume market will grow to $75.8 billion by 2025.

4. Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts store large amounts of carbon dioxide, making them important “carbon sinks.”


These sweet, tasty nuts require less water than other nuts, making them great crops in times of drought. Farmers also use hazelnuts in a technique known as “alley cropping,” in which other year-round crops are planted between nut trees.

5. Grass protein

Although it’s not available on the market yet, this leafy protein poses an exciting new opportunity in the era of plentiful meatless options.

The Denmark National Food Institute and New Zealand food startup, Pavlova, are exploring how to develop protein from leaves and grass, which could replace animal-based proteins.

6. Cicadas

As Brood X descends upon large swaths of North America, why not feast on a few cicadas?


Although not a meatless option, cicadas are an excellent, low-fat protein that is also good for the environment. Insects are widely consumed around the world, so join the eco-friendly trend by frying them up with a little butter.

7. Hemp

Hemp isn’t just good for sustainable clothing or as a cannabis alternative — it also makes for delicious, carbon-neutral food. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp production, putting it on the market in the U.S.


Hemp seeds are great toppings for salads and smoothies. Hemp milk and cheese are also increasingly available, so you could use these alternatives to make favorite dairy-laden recipes vegan.

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