The 10 Best Foods to Eat for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The 10 Best Foods to Eat for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

We’re all trying to do everything we can to lower our individual carbon footprints and greenhouse gas emissions. You may be walking or cycling to work, limiting your food waste or shopping more sustainably. However, you’re also likely keeping an eye on the foods you eat. Last September, we wrote an article on “The 10 Worst Food to Eat for Greenhouse Gas Emissions” to share with you those foods that throughout their production have a huge carbon footprint. This time, we are looking at it from the opposite angle. Therefore, the following list contains the 10 best foods to eat for greenhouse gas emissions.

Number 10: Peas – 0.98kg

The food with the 10th lowest greenhouse gas emissions is peas. Per kilogram of peas that’s grown, 0.98kg of carbon dioxide equivalents is produced. This is significantly lower than the 10th worst food for greenhouse gas emissions – poultry meat. In fact, peas use in the kitchen is very beneficial. For example, a recent study has shown pasta made from pea flour produces 31% less greenhouse gas emissions than pastas made from egg. It’s something to definitely consider in your weekly shop!

Number 9: Bananas – 0.86kg

At number 9 is the most popular fruit in the US, the banana. Bananas produce 0.86kg of carbon dioxide equivalents per kilogram grown. This is equates roughly to 0.11kg carbon dioxide equivalent per individual banana. Therefore, the banana is a great food to eat from a greenhouse gas emissions perspective as well as all of the other benefits they bring to your diet. However, don’t forget to compost the banana peels. They act as a great soil fertiliser adding calcium, magnesium, sulfur, phosphates, potassium and sodium to the soil.

Image of a Banana Tree in a forest

Number 8: Other Vegetables – 0.53kg

The next item on the list is other vegetables which produce almost half of the greenhouse gas emissions as bananas. The specific amount is 0.53kg. As to what ‘other vegetables’ constitutes, your guess is as good as ours! It’s clear from other items in the dataset that it doesn’t include brassicas, onions, leeks, potatoes or root vegetables. However, with the inclusion of those vegetables also mentioned on this list, it’s clear that vegetables in general produce low greenhouse gas emissions.

Number 7: Brassicas – 0.51kg

The 7th food item on the list in brassicas. They produce 0.51kg of greenhouse gas emissions per 1kg grown. Brassicas include plants such as cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli and mustard. Interestingly, a New Zealand study has shown that the use of brassicas as a livestock feed also reduces the enteric methane emitted per kilogram of moisture dry feed a cow consumes by 30%.

Number 6: Onions and Leeks – 0.50kg

Two other types of vegetables make up number 6 on the list. Onions and leeks produce 0.50kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram produced. However, like many items on this list, both onions and leeks are incredibly easy to grow yourself. Therefore, you may wish to attempt growing them yourselves. Doing so can be a great activity and will likely result in lower greenhouse gas emissions produced than shop-bought items.

Onions growing in a dusty soil

Number 5: Potatoes – 0.46kg

Coming in at number 5 is the extremely popular vegetable that is the potato. Per kilogram of potatoes produced, 0.46kg of greenhouse gas emissions is released. As a staple crop to many in the world, the potato has been suggested as a potential staple food replacement for rice in China. This is because rice produces 4.45kg greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram grown. In fact, there are estimates that suggest if China were to shift from a rice staple diet to a potato staple diet, crop emissions could drop by 25%.

Number 4: Apples – 0.43kg

At number 4 is the second best type of fruit to have for greenhouse gas emissions – the apple. Apples produce 0.43kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram grown. Fortunately, this makes apples a great food item to have especially compared to its technological namesake who produced 22.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases in it’s 2020 financial year. Apples are another great fruit to grow at home. An acre of apple orchard sequesters roughly 20 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and releases 15 tons of oxygen each season.

Number 3: Nuts – 0.43kg

The third food item on the list is nuts. They produce 0.43kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram produced. The data doesn’t specify what type of nuts have been studied but groundnuts also feature on the wider list at 3.23kg per kilogram produced. Also, it’s important to note that when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, not all nuts are created equal. For example, net emissions for almonds, pistachios and hazelnut have been calculated at 1.92kg, 0.52kg, and 1.74kg per kilogram produced respectively. This shows the varying impact of each nut.

A mixture of nuts cut on chopping boards

Number 2: Root Vegetables – 0.43kg

Runner up in the list of the 10 best foods to eat for greenhouse gas emissions are root vegetables. Root vegetables, excluding potatoes, produce 0.43kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram produced. This is a very low amount for foods that typically provide you with an abundance of carbohydrates and vitamins. Root vegetables, like carrots, are also extremely versatile. Ongoing studies are investigating the use of carrot in the production of cement as it’s been shown to make the substance stronger and electricity producing.

Number 1: Citrus Fruit – 0.39kg

Coming in as winner and top of the list are citrus fruits. Fruits including lemons, oranges and limes produce just 0.39kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram produced. This is great for a popular fruit used in many countries around the world. However, it’s important to note that this figure is not the same for juice concentrates. For example, while lemons produce a tiny amount of greenhouse gas emissions, lemon juice concentrate produces 1.5kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram produced. A staggering difference!

Lemons on a Lemon Tree to signify citrus fruits as the best of the 10 best foods to eat for greenhouse gas emissions.

The 10 Best Foods to Eat for Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Analysis

Of course, these figures are specific to the study they come from. There are many variables. An apple grown in your back garden will have a tiny greenhouse gas emission compared to one imported from another country. However, the figures still make for interest reading. And, in comparison to the 10 worst foods to eat for greenhouse gas emissions, you can’t go wrong with any of the above.

Graph of the 10 Best Foods to eat for greenhouse gas emissions

An interesting point to note in the difference between the foods on this list and those that produce high greenhouse gas emissions is that all of those on this list are considered vegan. However, perhaps more importantly, it does not mean that these foods are completely problem free.

For example, nuts are extremely water-intensive. So while they produce the third lowest greenhouse gas emissions, they also use the second highest amount of freshwater (4134 litres per kilogram produced). Across the full dataset, only cheese uses more (5606 litres per kilogram produced). Similarly, both nuts (again!) and peas feature in the top 15 items for land use per kilogram produced. Therefore, showing that areas beyond greenhouse gas emissions need to be considered as well.

Final Thoughts on the 10 Best Foods to Eat for Greenhouse Gas Emissions

If you’re a fan of fruits and vegetables then you’ll surely be happy with the list of the 10 best foods to eat for greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the lack of meat and dairy, there’s still lots of options to be had if you’re looking to lower your individual carbon footprint. Just don’t forget to take into consideration other aspects of food production!

We hope you’re able to use this list to lower your own greenhouse gas emissions. Also, don’t forget what foods have high emissions and while you’re at it, it’s worth learning how to limit your food waste as this impacts carbon footprints as well!

What do you think of the list? Is there anything you wish was on there? We’d love to know what you think. Let us know in the comments below or by connecting with us on social media.

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