The Nutrient Richness of Blue Foods: A Solution to Global Health and Sustainability?


Global Health

The Nutrient Richness of Blue Foods: A Solution to Global Health and Sustainability?

Aquatic animals, plants, and microorganisms are a diverse range of foods. They offer more nutrients than land-based crops and livestock.

By Mark Zuleger-Thyss


Try looking at the hydrologic cycle of the earth and approach it holistically. Gazing upon the planet from orbit is a privilege few people get. What you will see is a majestic blue marble, of which 71% is water. The oceans hold 97% of this water, and there you will find an abundance of sea creatures – the so-called blue foods.

The hydrosphere is water found on the planet's surface, underground, and in the air. Water is a symbol of life, and it represents divine generosity. In all its glory, water is considered the purifier of the Soul. Water personifies healing, suffering, change, and constancy.

The changing nature of water is a celebration of fluidity. We must be like water – fluid – if we are to grow and address the evolving needs of our planet. The most critical problems today are global population growth and how to feed all those hungry mouths.


Big Pond, Blue Water - The Richness of Aquatic Foods

It's time to recognize what aquatic foods can bring to the table. We must transform our food systems to meet the Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the United Nations. Low-impact, blue foods could help tackle world hunger and provide critical nutrition for human health.



Inside of 200 years, the world population has gone from 1 billion to 7.9 billion as of 2021. By 2025 – 8.5 billion. And yes, we can end world hunger.

An agreement to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030 was signed by 193 countries. One goal of The United Nations Division for Sustainable Development is to "End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture."

There is a cost to this, of course. An investment of $7 billion per year in targeted nutrition and nutrition-sensitive interventions. We must address staple food fortification and pro-breastfeeding policies, too.


It's Time for Blue Food – this is its moment

The sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth is called the "blue economy." The Blue Food Movement is putting the spotlight on food security, nutrition, and livelihoods. Edible aquatic organisms, including fish, shellfish, and algae from marine and freshwater production systems, are considered "blue foods."

Almost 700 million people go underfed each year. 250 million of them are on the brink of starvation. Our food systems need transforming. Climate variability and economic slowdowns are increasing in frequency and intensity. This contributes to food and nutrition insecurity.



Our waters sustain us with every second breath, and we will thrive or suffer together. The oceans deserve our attention and greater appreciation. There are great opportunities to bring aquatic foods into the center of global food dialogues both financially and nutritively.

Seafood has a critical role in boosting human health. The intake of nutritious food is essential to address major global health issues. Fish, shellfish, and marine mammals are rich in micronutrients needed to combat the most common deficiencies.


The Blue Food Revolution - Tackling Climate Change and Malnutrition

By 2050 the global demand for aquatic foods will double. The Blue Food Assessment was created to help. It is a set of scientific analyses that outline challenges and opportunities for fisheries and aquaculture. Over 100 researchers came together to investigate the role of aquatic foods in building equitable foods systems that are sustainable and healthy. It is a collaboration between the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Stanford University in partnership with EAT.

"The global food system is failing billions of people," said assessment co-chair Rosamond Naylor, the William Wrigley Professor of Earth System Science at Stanford. "Blue foods can play a critical role in improving nutrition, livelihoods, and ecosystems."



Promising Innovations - Ensuring Blue Foods Reach Those Who Need Them Most

Imagine fish powder baby food and fish chutney for pregnant and lactating women. In a country where people suffer from calcium deficiencies, governments might promote increased production of calcium-rich fish, such as herrings and sardines.

These and other water-sourced blue foods are especially important for women. They benefit more than men from increased consumption in nearly three times the number of countries studied. Aquatic food species are rich in essential nutrients. Compared to chicken, oysters and mussels have 76 times more vitamin B-12 and five times more iron. 

Micronutrients and Omega-3s play a critical role in fetal and child growth and development. Children and other demographics are at higher risk for adverse health outcomes. The elderly, children, and women stand to benefit the most from access to aquatic foods. Older people are at the most risk for morbidity and mortality, and blue foods can lower these outcomes. 

Blue foods can and should be a vital part of a healthier, more equitable global food system. You can find more information here: The Blue Food Assessment.



© 2021 Mark Zuleger-Thyss, Garden of Healing. All rights reserved.

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