While there are up to 50,000 edible plants, 60% of our plant-based calories come from just three – rice, wheat and maize. We continue to eat the same foods repeatedly, which is not only boring for our palates, but is detrimental for our health and the environment.

Future 50 Foods is all about foods we should all eat more of because they are naturally nutritious, have a lower impact on our planet than animal-based foods, and can help safeguard the future of our food.

Here are 10 food swaps that we love!

Spicy Red Lentil Balls

As VeggieVision TV is a vegan website we always advocate dairy free cheese, dairy free butters & plant based milks in all of our recipes….

  • Swap aubergine / eggplant for prickly pear (aka nopales): Cacti store water, which means they require little water to grow and are able to survive through heat and drought.  They also contain substantial amounts of vitamins C and E, carotenoids, fibre and amino acids. There are even studies suggesting that they can relieve the symptoms of alcohol-induced hangovers, likely due to their nutrients and high water content. Enjoy them raw, cooked/grilled or made into tasty juices or jams.

Recommended recipe: Grilled Nopales.

  • Swap white rice for quinoa, fonio or amaranth:

While these delicious grains might be difficult to pronounce, they are easy on the environment as they take significantly less resource to grow and can emit less greenhouse gases while providing far more nutrients than white rice.

Quinoa – One of the miracle ancient grains that may be new to us – it is hardy, requires only a little water to grow, has a high yield and is a plant-based complete protein (a rare find). It is gluten-free and contains an exceptional balance of protein, fat, minerals and vitamins. 

Fonio – Loved by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow, fonio is Africa’s oldest cultivated cereal. Renowned for its ease of growing and cooking, it is nicknamed the ‘lazy farmer’s crop’ and is said to ‘never embarrass the cook’. It needs little to no water to grow, is drought resistant, fast-growing, can grow in damaged soil and can help stop the spread of desertification. It is gluten free and highly nutritious containing iron, zinc, magnesium and phytonutrients.

Amaranth – This fibre rich grain can be grown at any elevation without needing a lot of water, making it an ideal crop in areas where water is scarce. Relative to other grains, amaranth’s sandy yellow seed is high in magnesium and protein and has a mild, nutty taste.

Recommended recipe: Veggie Parmesan Quinotto.

  • Swap potatoes for a scrumptious Cilembu sweet potato: By doing so, you will get three times more vitamin C and calcium than other potato varieties. Cilembu sweet potatoes have a sweet, honey-like flavour and are native to Indonesia. Eating more varieties of similar foods helps make the food system more resilient while providing more nutrients.

Recommended recipe: Roasted Hokkaido Pumpkin, Corn and Sweet Potato Salad with Alfalfa Sprouts.

Roasted Hokkaido Pumpkin, Corn and Sweet Potato Salad with Alfalfa Sprouts

  • Swap iceberg lettuce for seaweed salad (laver seaweed or wakame seaweed):  In addition to being delicious, algae are nutrient-rich and contain essential fatty acids and are a fabulous source of antioxidants. As they have a rich umami taste, they are also an excellent replacement for meat flavour.  Algae are critical to our existence on the planet. They are responsible for half of all oxygen production on Earth and all aquatic ecosystems depend on them. 

Laver seaweed – Called ‘nori’ in Japan, this seaweed is commonly used for wrapping sushi and is heralded for its exceptional nutrient content and its ability to bring out the umami flavour in foods.  Because it lives in the water, it can be easily grown and harvested year round and doesn’t require pesticides or fertilisers.

Wakame seaweed – In addition to containing a variety of vitamins and minerals, it is one of the few plant-based sources of the omega 3 fatty acid (good fat – EPA), which is found mainly in fatty fish.  It’s satin-like texture and savoury flavour make it ideal for adding to soups, salads and stir-fries.

Recommended recipe: Trio of Bulgur, Red Quinoa and Barley on a Wakame Salad.

  • Swap parsnips for black salsify: Not widely known, this parsnip-like root vegetable is part of the sunflower family. It is also known as the ‘oyster plant’ because of its sweet, slightly musky taste. The pale, creamy flesh beneath their thick, dark skin is great to cook with. Salsify is high in fibre and contains vitamin E and iron. It can be boiled, mashed or baked, and served in place of a potato. Similar to carrots and parsnips, black salsify is ideal roasted, and goes well with soups and stew.

Recommended recipe: Fresh Corn Polenta with Broad Beans and Kale Pesto.

  • Swap peanuts for hemp seeds: Hemp is fast-growing and thrives in a variety of soils and doesn’t require fertilisers or pesticides. They are from the same species as cannabis, but don’t contain THC. Hemp seeds have a soft, buttery texture, are rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids (good fats) and contain protein, fibre, and various vitamins and minerals. They are available in a variety of forms: as an oil, a milk substitute, flour and in many products (dips, sauces, soup, crackers, biscuits, breads and salads).

Recommended recipe: Falafel with Smoked Aubergine Mayonnaise.

  • Swap red tomatoes for orange tomatoes: Orange tomatoes are sweeter and less acidic than their red relatives and contain up to twice as much vitamin A and folate (B vitamin) than other varieties. Eating less common varieties of vegetables, such as orange tomatoes, drives demand thereby increasing the variety of types of crops grown, which, in turn, makes the food system more resilient.

Recommended recipe: Tofu Black Bean Tacos.

Tofu Black Bean Tacos

  • Swap beef for lentils: Lentils require little water to grow and have a carbon footprint 43 times lower than that of beef. They are packed with protein, fibre and carbohydrates and there are dozens of varieties. Puy lentils keep their shape and texture after cooking and are often served with fish or roasted vegetables. Red and yellow lentils dissolve into a rich purée and are delicious mixed into stews, curries and soups.

Recommended recipe: Spicy Red Lentil Balls.

  • Swap peas or green beans for mung beans: These tender beans are prized for their crisp, clean taste and ability to absorb flavours. Packed with protein, B vitamins and various minerals, these highly versatile beans are great with noodles, rice dishes, curries and stir-fries.  Scramble them like eggs or puree them to resemble ice cream – the options are endless! Their sprouts are also nutritious and delicious and add great crunch to salads and sandwiches. Besides being tasty, they naturally help nourish the soil, and are heat and drought tolerant (crucial for a volatile climate).

Recommended recipe: Spiced Mung Bean, Cilembu Sweet Potato and Kale Stew.

  • Swap lettuce for beet greens: The leafy green part of the beetroot is the most nutritious part of the plant yet is often overlooked and thrown away, ending up in landfill. It has a flavour profile similar to that of Swiss chard and is rich in vitamins K and A. Per serving, beet greens provide up to 25 percent of the recommended daily allowance of magnesium, which helps regulate a variety of biochemical reactions in the body, including muscle and nerve function, blood pressure and blood glucose control. Beet greens contain as much iron as spinach and contain lutein, which is great for eye health.  They thrive in cooler conditions, are tolerant of frost and grow quickly.

Recommended recipe: Follow any Future 50 Foods recipe for greens and swap in beet greens.

Future 50 Foods aims to inspire people around the world to Eat for Good by swapping at least one ingredient in their favourite meals to diversify their dishes, which not only helps to beat mealtime boredom it also increases the nutritional value and lowers the environmental impact of the meal.