Best Sustainable Sources of Protein You Can Add to Your Diet

spirulina, sustainable protein powder

Key points

  • While eating healthy and nutritious food is essential for every human, we should also take steps to minimise our negative impact on the planet. Choosing alternative sustainable protein sources can help decrease the amount of greenhouse gas emissions the food you eat produces and reduce energy usage.
  • Spirulina is one of the best alternatives to conventional unsustainable sources of protein such as meat because it contains more than 60% of protein by weight. This blue algae is also rich in essential nutrients such as vitamins B1, B2, B3, and minerals, including copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
  • Other sustainable protein sources include legumes, soy products, seafood, eggs, chicken, nuts and seeds, Ezekiel bread, protein-rich vegetables, potatoes, milk, garden peas, and rice.

Food is an essential part of our daily lives. But unfortunately, many food production practices have a strong negative impact on our planet, with greenhouse gas emissions and increased energy use being the most dangerous factors. And while we can’t eliminate carbon emissions attributed to the food we eat entirely, we can choose more eco-friendly options. For example, protein is an essential part of any healthy diet, but the production of animal protein is very harmful to the environment since it requires a lot of resources such as land, animal feed, chemical fertilisers, and water. Plus, livestock produces a lot of methane, further exacerbating the impact of animal farming on our planet.

Most environmentally conscious people find themselves choosing between being environmentally friendly or catering to their taste buds every time they’re planning what meal to eat. However, there is a way to do both by finding delicious protein alternatives to meet our daily protein needs. So keep reading to discover the best sustainable protein sources!

Top Sustainable Protein Sources For Every Diet


#1 Spirulina

Spirulina is a superfood that contains over 60% of protein by weight, which is more than any other unprocessed food. Also, the protein in spirulina is easier for the body to break down than, for instance, meat protein or other plant-based based sources. The protein quality in spirulina is excellent and is often compared to that of egg protein or whey protein. It also contains all essential amino acids the human body needs, making it the top pick on our list of alternative protein sources (rare among vegan sources of protein)

While spirulina is usually sold in the form of power or pressed tablets, these can be inconvenient, as you need to mix the spirulina with other foods to mask its somewhat unpleasant flavour. This is where FUL® carbonated spirulina drinks come in. Our products provide a convenient way to get your daily dose of spirulina without spending any time in the kitchen and allow you to enjoy a delicious yet healthy carbonated drink guilt-free.

Spirulina can also be grown without using any arable land, limited fresh water and no fertilizers or pesticides – plus it actually captures 2x its weight in CO2 to grow (rather than producing CO2 emissions like other sources of protein). 


Try Sparkling Spirulina Drink



#2 Legumes

Legumes and lentils such as soybeans, peanuts, and chickpeas contain a lot of fibre and protein. They are gluten-free, loaded with potassium, high in antioxidants. They are also a natural source of sodium.

Lentils contain twice as much protein per serving as quinoa. They are also often the cheapest and one of the most sustainable protein sources. Lentils are also drought and frost-resistant, making them particularly valuable in areas where water supply is limited. However, since this protein source can cause digestive problems in some people, you have to be cautious and observe how your body reacts to legumes. 



#3 Soy Products

Soy products are considered to be among the richest protein sources available to people on plant-based diets. For instance, edamame beans contain 17 g of protein per cup, and tempeh contains about 30 g of protein per cup. Firm tofu, also known as soybean curds, has about 20 g of protein per cup, and it also serves as an excellent meat and milk substitute. While soy production inevitably has some negative impact on the environment, it’s nearly not as severe as that caused by meat production.



#4 Eggs

Eggs are an environmentally friendly product rich in healthy protein. On average, 12.6% of the edible part of an egg is comprised of protein. Eggs are also rich in iron, vitamins A, B12, D, E, lutein, choline, folate, selenium, zeaxanthin, and antioxidants. These nutrients promote bone and eye health, help with cell regeneration, and prevent tissue breakdown. It’s better to buy organic eggs to ensure that they don’t contain harmful chemicals and antibiotics.



#5 Chicken

Chicken is a lean protein low in fat and good both for your muscle strength and the environment. Consuming chicken can also help maintain and improve your heart health since this product is one of the best sources of essential nutrients, including selenium, phosphorus, vitamin A, B2, B6, and niacin. These nutrients help to boost metabolism and prevent bone loss. If you’re not ready to give up meat entirely but want to choose a more sustainable animal protein source, go with chicken since chicken feed is not as fossil fuel-intensive as that of other animals, and their waste can be used as farmland fertiliser.



#6 Seafood

Fish is packed with sustainable, high-quality protein. Plus, it’s also low in fat but full of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins, including vitamins D and B2. In addition, fish is rich in calcium and phosphorus and contains many other essential minerals such as iron, magnesium, zinc, iodine, and potassium. However, you should keep in mind that some fishing methods have a negative impact on the environment, so you should try to purchase only responsibly sourced fish. Still, fish protein is generally more environmentally friendly than beef and pork.



#7 Nuts & Seeds

Nuts and seeds are excellent healthy protein sources that are also friendly to the environment. They are rich in fibre, protein, and fat. Most of the fat content in nuts is attributed to monounsaturated fat, but they also contain healthy omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats.

Hemp seeds, peanuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, and cashews are all very high in protein and other nutrients, making them excellent additions to any healthy diet. In addition, both nuts and seeds are more eco-friendly than meat and other animal products. However, seeds are more sustainable of the two options.



#8 Ezekiel Bread

Ezekiel bread is a healthy alternative to traditional bread due to its higher nutritional value. It is made from wheat, millet, lentils, spelt, and barley, all of which are high in vital nutrients and vitamins. This type of bread is suitable for vegans and vegetarians since it doesn’t contain eggs, dairy, gelatin, or other added animal products. In addition, since the grains are sprouted before they are put into the dough, the bread has an exceptionally high fibre, protein, vitamin B, and essential amino acid content.



#9 Potatoes

It may be surprising, but a large baked potato contains 8 g of protein in each serving. Potatoes also have a lot of other vital nutrients, such as potassium, calcium, vitamin C, iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc, which aid in building and maintaining bone structure and strength. Potatoes are also more sustainable than other carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta and rice.



#10 Protein-Rich Vegetables

Even though vegetables are usually consumed for their fibre and vitamin content, many of them contain a high amount of protein as well. For example, dark-coloured leafy greens and other vegetables have significant amounts of healthy protein. Still, they need to be combined with other high-protein foods to help meet daily protein requirements.



#11 Milk

While mass-produced milk is generally not considered to be environmentally friendly or sustainable, organic milk and milk from grass-fed cows has a lower carbon footprint and, at the same time, raises standards for dairy farming. Organic milk is an excellent option for those who want to combine eco-friendliness with nutrient density.



#12 Oat Milk

Oat milk is a great plant-based eco-friendly alternative to dairy milk. It is loaded with vitamins D, A, and B12 and protein (one glass of oat milk contains 3 grams of protein).



#12 Garden Peas

Substituting garden peas over soybean plants is an effective way to eat a healthy and nutritious diet while helping the planet as well. Peas naturally enrich the soil where they grow with nitrogen, eliminating the need for synthetic fertiliser, which is incredibly beneficial for the environment. Peas are also very nutritious, as they are high in protein, fibre, vitamins, and minerals.



#13 Rice

A lot of people are convinced that rice is rich in carbohydrates. But in fact, this grain also contains a high amount of vegan protein that is gluten-free. In fact, rice is so rich in protein that it’s even used to produce plant-based protein powder. High-quality rice protein is produced by treating brown rice with enzymes that separate the carbohydrates and protein. The protein can then be isolated and transformed into protein powder.



What is the most sustainable protein source?

The top most sustainable alternative protein sources include spirulina, lentils, soy products, chicken, eggs, seafood, Ezekiel bread, nuts, and seeds.

What is meant by a sustainable source of protein?

Sustainable protein sources are less harmful to the environment than meat, which is the primary conventional protein source. They also have a much smaller impact on the planet since they require fewer resources (such as energy, water, land and others) for their production. Unlike animal sources of protein which serve as a major source of CO2 and methane emissions, Spirulina can actually help recycle CO2 emissions by converting 2x its weight in CO2 into oxygen and nutrients.

Is plant protein sustainable?

Yes, plant protein is sustainable since it has a lower environmental impact than meat and offers a sustainable solution to our food needs with lower energy consumption, land usage, emissions, and water consumption compared to meat protein.

What is the most sustainable meat protein?

Turkey and chicken are the best options if you’re looking for a sustainable meat protein source. But you should also consider trying plant proteins, as these can be very delicious, and some of them have the same amount of protein as meat.

Is vegan protein powder sustainable?

Yes, vegan protein powder is sustainable since it has a lower overall environmental impact than most other protein sources.

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