Sprat, shellfish and algae: what the diet of the future might look like

Food production is now one of the main culprits in climate change. Therefore, the search for new food sources that can saturate, and, at the same time, not overload the planet, is so important. In a new meta-study, Professor Mouritsen and PhD student Charlotte Winter present alternative sources of protein for humans. Their findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

More and more people are choosing to become vegetarians or, even more radically, vegans.

However, according to Professor Ole G. Mouritsen of the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Food Science, the vast majority of people find it difficult to completely remove meat from the shelf in the name of preventing climate change.

“A lot of people just crave the umami flavor, which is found in meat, for example. Therefore, it is perhaps more realistic to consider a flexible diet where a person consumes small amounts of animal products such as meat, eggs and milk, along with vegetables. Nevertheless, you can already start thinking about alternatives to a juicy steak, of which there are actually many, ”explains the professor.

In a new meta-study, Professor Mouritsen and Ph.D. Student Charlotte Winter, his fellow in the Faculty of Nutritional Sciences, presents alternative sources of protein and healthy fatty acids, as well as their vision of what a sustainable diet of the future might look like.

Among other things, the researchers recommend looking for “products of the future” in the sea.



In particular, we need to find species that live on the bottom and focus on by-catch fish (which accidentally fall into the nets), scientists are sure. They emit much less CO2 than beef, pork and chicken.

“The environmentally friendly by-catch fish that are currently used to feed pigs or obtain fish oil live on the ocean floor. These include: gerbils – fish that dig in the sandy bottom to lay eggs; The sprat is a relative of the widespread herring and the blackmouth gobi, another small but tasty and forgotten fish, ”explains Mouritsen.

Sprat alone can meet 20% of Denmark’s protein needs. “And by catching sprat, we can avoid overexploiting the more well-known fish species such as cod, flounder and salmon,” the professor explains.

Seaweed is also an extremely climate-friendly food source. However, only 500 out of 10,000 species are currently used and recognized for food, despite the fact that seaweed is rich in incredibly beneficial nutrients and vitamins.

Likewise, cephalopods are only marginally harvested: 30 out of about 800 species are used for food worldwide.

“Among other things, it has a lot to do with our culture and traditions. It will take time to change your eating habits. We have eaten and cooked meat for over a million years. So while seaweed, squid and shellfish contain important fatty acids and vitamins and taste great, we are still reluctant to consider these species as our food sources, ”explains Ole G. Mouritsen.

For example, fermenting vegetables or adding enzymes can bring out the flavor of sweet and umami, says Ole G. Mouritsen.

“It’s critical that we continue to communicate these new nutritional opportunities. In doing so, we will gradually make changes in our eating habits and traditions. We hope this study will play a role, ”the professor concludes.

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