By Maria Bennici
As the world becomes increasingly connected, it gets easier to try foods from around the world, many of which have a plethora of health benefits and provide a ton of variety for your palate. However, the rise of the popularity of superfoods, especially with regards to quinoa, has wreaked havoc on the original ecosystems that produced the foods. As an example, quinoa, which was standard fare for poor Bolivian farmers, now costs more per pound than chicken, in part due to skyrocketing demand around the globe.
Eating local has started to take off as a trend as well, but there’s no reason why your meals can’t take inspiration from around the world while using local produce with less food miles. Check out this list for healthy and local alternatives to popular superfoods as well as recipes to try!
- Instead of quinoa, try millet, lentils, or oatmeal.
Millet is native to the Great Plains territory in the United States and boasts being gluten-free and high in protein, according to NPR. Lentils are popular around the world, and they are full of dietary fiber and lean protein. Finally, oatmeal doesn’t have to just be for breakfast for kids—considering its fiber content, oats are well worth an appearance in bread, cake and cookies.
Recipe to try: you can use lentils to make mujaddara, an easy and popular dish in the Middle East.
- Go nuts with peanuts rather than almonds.
It takes a gallon of water to grow a single almond, according to Mother Jones, and although there are certainly arguments to be made about the high value of almond production despite high water consumption, there are other alternatives. Try using peanuts, which are certainly cheaper and provide a lot of Vitamin E.
Recipe to try: You can use peanut butter outside of sandwiches—try this South American Peanut Pork recipe!
- Eat your greens by avoiding asparagus and going for broccoli or green beans.
Peru is a major asparagus producer, but unfortunately, water resources in the country’s Ica Valley have become extremely depleted due to the industry, according to The Guardian. Broccoli (rich in Vitamins K and C) and green beans (full of Vitamin K and copper) can typically be used as a substitute in recipes.
Recipe to try: Toss some green beans with this Asian-inspired stir fry!
- Use blueberries instead of acai berries.
Acai berries, grown in the Amazon rainforest, have become very popular through health smoothies and snacks; however, harvesting the berries can be dangerous since workers have to climb trees and chop the berries off with machetes, and the cost can be prohibitive to consumers as well. Try blueberries instead, and even out of season, frozen blueberries have the advantage of having fewer pesticides.
Recipe to try: These mini galettes are the perfect addition to your next garden party (or breakfast, if we’re being completely honest).
Of course, no food is entirely perfect in its production, marketing and harvesting, which is why it is essential to research the foods that you are interested in and determine what you are willing to support with your dollar. Furthermore, it is possible to enjoy the superfoods as well—just take some time to look up providers of the product that do it through environmentally and economically sustainable ways. Bon appétit!