Ten Low Emission, High Protein Foods


Image: Noel Zia Lee via flickr

6) Nuts


Nuts contain less than 10% protein typically. The reason these protein-packing energy packets only calculate out to 10% protein based on calories is because of the high amount of fat in nuts and the fact that fat contains approximately 9 calories per gram while protein has only 3 calories per gram. Of course, those are the healthy fats! So go nuts, eat nuts. Eat pistachios all the time, or try some Ginger nut brittle to add the healthy kick of ginger to your nutty treats. And get serious about organic nuts: pesticides and fertilizers are fat soluble so eating high fat nuts with residuals makes it easier for your body to absorb the contaminants.


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7) Chicken


We simply must admit that not everyone can make their peace with a meat-free lifestyle. Chicken has long ranked high in the healthy diet quest, and it is also the low-emissions solution to having some meat on your plate. Same study which illuminated the superiority of herring as a source of aquatic protein highlights chicken in the land-based meats. Again, in total CO2 equivalents (including methane):
  • Chicken: 4.86 gCO2/Kcal protein
  • Pork: 22.57 gCO2/Kcal protein
  • Grain-fed beef: 31.79 gCO2/Kcal protein
  • Lamb: 59.73 gCO2/Kcal protein.

Note: similar emissions for aquatic animal proteins are given at item 3 in this list.

Image: Laurel Fan via flickr

8) Spinach


Green leafy vegetables are not a grreat source of protein. But calorie for calorie, there is more protein in spinach than in most vegetables, at 3 g in 20 Calories of cooked spinach. But more importantly, don’t forget the iron. When you are eating less meat, you must put a bit of extra effort into getting iron in your diet.


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9) Any food that is not packaged


Some packaging is necessary to protect food during distribution. But an awful lot of waste is created by packaging that at its best masquerades as a convenience and at worst is an unnecessary marketing gimmick. Furthermore, almost 10% of your food budget is hidden in packaging costs. The low emission strategy: buy in bulk whenever possible, look for reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging and pack your shopping home in reusable bags.


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10) Any food you already bought


Statistics show that 3774 calories of food per person per day is produced in the United States. Since the average person needs only about 2100 calories to maintain a healthy weight with moderate exercise, that figure represents 44% of produced food going to waste (or maybe to waist). Since the protein derived from this wasted food = 0, even food with low emissions has an infinite amount of emissions per calorie of protein (you remember that math class on dividing by zero?). The bottom line: the first step to lowering the emissions of your diet is to reduce the waste of food.

More on a Low Emission Diet:

On Moving Toward Vegetarianism: Getting the Protein You Need 3 Green Foods to Keep Your Digestive System Running Eat these 5 Lean, Green Proteins Going Vegan? Keep These 5 Protein Rich Foods in the Kitchen TreeHugger Forums: Soy vs. Meat Go Green, Lose Weight Vegan Diets Healthier for Planet

Tags: Agriculture | Diet