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The 50 foods of the future (Future 50 foods)

  1. In 2050 it is estimated that nearly 10 billion people will live on earth and this will help to increase the demand for food. To ensure that this demand will have the lowest possible impact on our environment and climate, people are looking for solutions worldwide in 2019. For example, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has partnered with Knorr, the largest brand of food manufacturer Unilever, and with Dr. Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington. Together with a large number of leading scientists, nutritionists and agricultural specialists, they have conducted research into crops that have a high nutritional value and a low impact on the environment. This ultimately resulted in a list of 50 foods that were presented in a report in February 2019: The 50 future foods.

Search for sustainable foods

  1. It is expected that by 2050 almost ten billion people will live on earth and to be able to continue to provide all these people with food and at the same time protect the environment as much as possible, thorough measures are required. It is now clear what impact the food industry, and especially livestock farming and the unilateral cultivation of crops (monoculture) has on our environment and our climate. Worldwide, people are looking for sustainable measures to change the food system.

The future 50 foods

  1. Collaboration WWF and Knorr WWF, the largest independent animal and environmental organization on the planet, has partnered with Knorr, the largest brand of food manufacturer Unilever, and Dr. Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington.

Food selection

  1. Together with leading scientists, nutritionists and agricultural specialists they have researched and selected vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds and nuts all over the world based on their:

Three major shifts needed

  1. By offering consumers more choice in plant foods and convincing consumers of the high nutritional value and diversity of these crops, WWF and Knorr hope to bring about a change little by little in our food system. According to them, three major shifts are needed.

We need to use and grow more crops

  1. There are between 20,000 and 50,000 edible crops of which we use a maximum of only 200 regularly. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, our staple food consists of only 12 crops and 5 animal species. This one-sided food intake is bad for our health, more variation ensures greater intake of important nutrients. The cultivation of one-sided crops is also not good for the environment, it leads to a decrease in biodiversity and depletion of the soil.

We have to eat more vegetable proteins in order to largely replace the animal proteins

  1. Our current diet consists of the intake of too much animal protein. This is bad for our health and bad for the environment and the climate. The advantage of animal proteins is that they contain all the important amino acids, while vegetable proteins lack one or more amino acids. That is why it is important to vary with many different crops so that we get all the essential amino acids, among other things.

We need to vary our carbohydrate sources

  1. In 2019, the consumer mainly uses three carbohydrate sources: maize, wheat and rice, while there are plenty of alternative cereals and cereals. To prevent unilateral cultivation and to ensure that certain crops are not lost, we need to vary our carbohydrate intake more. Moreover, variety is good for our health, crops such as fonio and quinoa, for example, contain more essential amino acids than the three most consumed grains. Tubers are also good suppliers of carbohydrates and are good at replacing grains. Not only are they starchy, but they also contain many important nutrients.

The list of the 50 foods of the future

  1. Finally, the various scientists, nutritionists and agricultural specialists compiled a list of 50 mainly vegetable crops:

Seaweeds (macroalgae)

  1. Algae are nutritious, are full of vegetable proteins that can replace animal proteins and also contain many antioxidants, important minerals and vitamins. Growing algae and seaweed is sustainable because no agricultural land, fertilizer or extra fresh water is required. The seaweeds on the list are: Wakame / Source: Zuzyusa, Pixabay

Beans and legumes

  1. Beans and legumes belong to the legume family (Fabaceae) and are good nitrogen fixers. These plants are able to bind nitrogen to themselves by means of the rhizobium bacterium and to convert it and deliver it to the soil so that other crops can easily absorb it. Butterfly flowers can be used well as soil improvers and are very suitable for mixed cultivation and crop rotation with, for example, cereal crops. In this way, the soil is not depleted, but is supplemented with important nutrients. Healthy soil requires less fertilizer and fewer pesticides, because the crops are less susceptible to pests and diseases. In addition, beans and legumes contain a lot of good nutrients and are rich in fiber and protein. It is not without reason that the Health Council advises through the Wheel of Five to use beans or legumes at least once or twice a week. Worldwide, beans are already widely used in various dishes, both dry and fresh. There are nine different beans and legumes on the list:


  1. Cacti contain many healthy nutrients, including a lot of vitamin C and iron. The cactus is already widely used as a foodstuff in Central and South America, Africa and the Middle East, among others. Certain species, such as the nopales listed, have both fruit and leaf edible.

Cereals and cereals

  1. Grains provide a lot of energy and worldwide they often form the basis of many dishes. Grains are also frequently processed into other food products. Apart from large amounts of carbohydrates, grains also contain: fiber, proteins, minerals and vitamins. In addition to grains, there are also cereals (pseudocereals) such as quinoa, buckwheat and amaranth. They do not belong to the cereals, but are prepared in the same way. Both grains and pseudocereals are on the list:

Fruit vegetables

  1. Fruiting vegetables are grown and eaten worldwide. They contain a lot of water, but also often a lot of fiber and a high concentration of vitamin C. They often have a slightly sweeter taste, but still contain few calories. The list contains three flight vegetables:

Leafy vegetables

  1. Leafy vegetables are low in calories and fat and high in minerals and vitamins, fiber and protein. They are available worldwide and can be used raw and cooked in various dishes. Some crops in this list are grown for the crop itself such as spinach and kale, but broccoli leaves, beet leaves, and pumpkin leaves are crop by-products. In 2019, the foliage of these crops is still too often seen as waste and this is a shame, since they contain a lot of vegetable proteins and other important nutrients. Instead of leaving the leaf on the land, it can be used by humans as a vegetable or as animal feed. There are nine different leafy vegetables on the list:


  1. Worldwide there are more than two thousand edible mushrooms that also contain a lot of vegetable protein and fiber and are also good meat substitutes because of the umami flavor (strong and hearty taste). Mushrooms can grow in many places, partly on agricultural waste. By growing mushrooms, agricultural waste can be converted into raw materials. The mushrooms on the list are:

Nuts and seeds

  1. Nuts and seeds are small, but great in nutritional value. They are packed with healthy omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, among other things. All over the world, nuts and seeds are eaten as a snack or added to salads, desserts or breakfast cereals. Nuts and seeds can also be used to press healthy vegetable oil. The list contains three seeds and a nut.

Root vegetables

  1. The often colorful root vegetables are the thickened roots of a crop and contain many important nutrients. They also have a long shelf life after harvesting and can be used for all kinds of dishes. The root vegetables also often have foliage that is edible and can be used well as a vegetable or as animal feed. Root vegetables on the list are:


  1. Sprouts are young, just germinated plants and contain an extremely high amount of nutrients. Sprouts are delicious on a sandwich, or a baked potato, in soup or with fish or meat dishes. The list contains three sprouts:

Root vegetables

  1. Root vegetables are the thickened secondary roots of crops. These storage organs of plants contain a lot of starch and are a source of energy. Root vegetables have a long shelf life after they have been harvested and offer a wide variety of uses: boiled, baked or used in cakes or desserts. When the demand for these crops grows, this will lead to greater crop diversity, more variety in carbohydrate sources and, moreover, to an increase in the turnover of the local farmers who grow the crops. On the list are four root vegetables:

Availability and stimulate food choice

  1. Knorr will try, together with supermarket chains, to market the 50 well-known and less well-known future foods worldwide. Chefs around the world have experimented with these 50 foods and curated recipes available online to inspire people to use these foods of the future.

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