Sustainable Foods for a Vegan Diet

It is rather fashionable to be vegan at the moment. Recent films like Land of Hope and Glory (2017) and What the Health (2017), which show footage of animals suffering or focus on the damaging effects on the environment caused by agricultural farming, have played influential roles in popularising this trend. Some people are on vegan diets primarily because they care about sustainability and the environment. However, it is important to note that not all vegan foods are as environmentally friendly as thought to be. Here is a list of some foods that are amongst the most sustainable:

Peas are highly sustainable and have great nutritional value and numerous health benefits. Peas are pulse crops, which are the seeds of a legume. Pulse crops are one of the key components in efforts to lower the environmental impact of food consumption and production. As a pulse crop, peas have a low footprint in both carbon and water. Pea plants have the ability to lock in nitrogen from the atmosphere and store it in their roots, allowing producers to use less fertiliser and replenish the soil with nitrogen. Peas are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, thiamine (B1), and iron and phosphorous. They are also rich in protein, carbohydrates and fibre. Peas, however regularly crop up on food intolerance lists, so it’s important to check that they are not inadvertently causing a problem before you include them as a staple part to the diet. 

Lentils, being another pulse crop, also do not require chemical fertilisers and pull nitrogen from the air and return it to the soil. This low carbon and water footprint makes them another sustainable crop that is high in nutrition and has numerous health benefits. Lentils are high in fibre, carbohydrates and protein, and are a great source of folate, magnesium and iron. Because of the soluble fibre found in them, they can help to lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease, and prevent constipation and other digestive disorders. Lentils also increase steady, slow-burning energy from the fibre and carbohydrates.

Dates are an environmentally-friendly fruit great for their tastiness and health benefits. They are loaded with potassium and a variety of B-complex vitamins. They are also high in vitamin C, carbohydrates, fibre, calcium, iron, and protein. Dates are considered sustainable because almost all parts of a date and date palm are useable; the date palm can be used as a sugar substitute, date leaves can be used for weaving baskets and mats, date buds can be eaten, and date seeds can be ground and roasted.

Berries, like blackberries, raspberries and blueberries, are more fruits that are very sustainable in addition to dates. Generally speaking, the more organically they are farmed, the more environmentally beneficial. Organic crops help to maintain healthy soil and water sources and clean the air. Not to mention the less chemicals that are used on fruits to grow, the better they are for you as well. Berries are a great source of antioxidants, which help to fight inflammation, high in fibre and contain several vitamins and minerals. 

Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale are filled with nutritional components and grow fast in most climates, making them a healthy low-impact food. Spinach is high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, iron, and potassium. Kale is nutrient dense and loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Similar to fruits, the most organic a farmer can grow vegetables, the more sustainable the crop for the same reasons as listed above. 

Chloe Cunningham