Blue foods can help the food scarcity problem. Food is one of the most basic human needs, but ensuring access to healthy and sustainable food for everyone is a complex challenge. With a growing population, changing diets, and increasing environmental pressures, the world faces a range of interconnected issues related to nutrition, health, environment, and livelihoods. However, there is a group of foods that have been largely overlooked as a solution: blue foods.
Blue foods refer to food that comes from the ocean or freshwater sources, such as fish, shellfish, seaweed, and algae. These foods have a unique potential to address some of the most pressing global issues we face today, according to the experts at the Blue Food Assessment, an international team of scientists dedicated to investigating the role of aquatic foods in the global food system.
In a recent paper published in the journal Nature, the scientists highlight the many benefits of adding more blue food to the world’s diet. The paper synthesizes the assessment’s findings and translates them across four policy objectives related to nutrition, health environment, and livelihoods.
One of the most significant benefits of blue foods is their nutritional value. Aquatic foods are rich in many essential nutrients, particularly vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids, deficiencies of which are relatively high globally, especially in African and South American nations. Increasing the intake of blue foods in those areas could diminish malnutrition, particularly for vulnerable populations such as young children and elders, pregnant women, and women of childbearing age.
Moreover, blue foods have the potential to improve human health in other ways. High incidences of cardiovascular disease, a condition associated with excessive red meat consumption, are mostly found in the rich, developed countries in North America and Europe. Promoting more freshwater or marine seafood in these areas could displace some red and processed meat consumption and lower the risks and rates of developing heart disease.
In addition to the nutritional benefits, blue foods can also contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly food system. Aquatic food production exerts relatively lower environmental pressures than terrestrial meat production, and a shift toward more blue foods could lower the toll that producing terrestrial livestock takes on the Earth. Furthermore, carefully developed aquaculture, mariculture, and fishing also present opportunities for employment and can ensure the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
However, the potential benefits of blue foods will not be realized without careful policies and strategies. The Blue Food Assessment team offers an online tool that policymakers and decision-makers can use to explore the relevance of blue food policies around the world in the realms of nutrition, heart disease, environment, and climate resilience. As the study’s lead author, Beatrice Crona, notes, “Our goal is for policymakers to fully understand the diverse contributions that blue foods can make, but also for them to consider the tradeoffs that need to be negotiated to really make the most of the opportunities that blue foods provide.”
In conclusion, blue foods have the potential to help solve multiple global issues related to nutrition, health, the environment, and livelihoods. By carefully implementing policies that make use of these foods, countries can make strides in mitigating nutritional shortcomings, lowering the risk of diseases, decreasing emissions of greenhouse gases, and enhancing their resilience in the face of a changing climate. However, the benefits of blue foods will require careful consideration of local contexts and trade-offs. With the help of the Blue Food Assessment team’s research and online tool, decision-makers can explore the blue food policies most relevant for their national setting and use them to inspire a more sustainable and healthier future.