Regenerative food is a term used to describe food produced using regenerative agriculture practices that aim to improve soil health, increase biodiversity, reduce carbon emissions, and increase nutritional values. Regenerative agriculture is a holistic approach to farming that focuses on restoring the health of the land, rather than depleting it, by incorporating practices such as crop rotations, cover cropping, and minimal tillage.
Regenerative food prioritizes surrounding ecosystems and soil quality, often producing a better quality crop with higher nutritional values.
The goal of regenerative agriculture is to create a system that is not only sustainable but actually regenerates the soil and surrounding environment.
Regenerative food practices have been shown to help minimize carbon emissions, increase soil fertility, and promote biodiversity.
Overall, regenerative foods are a win-win solution — benefiting the environment and improving nutritional status in people.
Let’s explore everything you need to know about regenerative farming and how you can access more nutritionally dense and sustainable foods in your local area.
What is regenerative food?
Regenerative food is produced using practices that prioritize the health of the soil and the surrounding ecosystem. Regenerative agriculture practices are centered on rebuilding and restoring soil health by promoting organic matter, reducing soil erosion, and increasing biodiversity. This is accomplished through techniques such as crop rotations, intercropping, cover cropping, reduced tillage, and the use of natural fertilizers and pest management strategies.
It's clear that a major change is needed in our current agriculture industrial model, and regenerative farming and food production could be the answer.
"Agriculture is in crisis. Soil health is collapsing. Biodiversity faces the sixth mass extinction. Crop yields are plateauing. Against this crisis, the narrative swells a clarion call for Regenerative Agriculture."SAGE Journals Outlook on Agriculture
Regenerative food production has many benefits and potential challenges. Overall, many believe it could be the next chapter in agriculture and food sustainability worldwide.
Benefits of regenerative foods
The benefits of regenerative foods are numerous.
One of the primary benefits is that regenerative agriculture practices help sequester carbon in the soil, reducing carbon emissions and helping to combat climate change. Regenerative farming practices can also increase soil fertility, reduce soil erosion, and improve water quality, all of which support both the surrounding ecosystems and humans alike.
Regenerative agriculture practices promote biodiversity and can provide a habitat for a variety of beneficial insects and wildlife. Increased biodiversity creates a more dynamic natural habit, reinforcing health across species. Certain bugs and animals have been shown to protect both humans and crops against invasive species and diseases.
Another significant benefit of regenerative food is its nutritional value. Research has shown that food grown using regenerative agriculture practices tends to be higher in nutrients than conventionally grown food. This is because regenerative farming practices focus on building soil health, which leads to healthier and more nutrient-dense crops. Additionally, regenerative farming practices can help to reduce the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers, which can have negative impacts on human health.
A study published in the Journal of Life & Environmental Sciences found that "regenerative soil-building farming practices can enhance the nutritional profile of conventionally grown plant and animal foods." Higher nutrient content in crops and livestock could mean consuming these regenerative foods can have massive impacts on nutrition and health in people. The study also found regenerative foods to contain:
- Higher levels of phytochemicals
- Higher density of mineral micronutrients
- Higher levels of omega-3 fats and a more health-beneficial ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats (in livestock raised on regenerative farms)
Soil health is a major influence on nutrient density, particularly for phytochemicals known to help prevent chronic diseases. Focusing on improving the environment the food grows in directly impacts the quality of the food being produced.
Despite the many benefits of regenerative food, there are also some challenges.
Cost of production
One of the primary challenges is the cost of production. Regenerative agriculture practices often require more time and labor, which can drive up the cost of production. Additionally, regenerative farmers may have limited access to markets and distribution channels, which can make it difficult for them to reach consumers who are interested in their products.
Lack of awareness
Another challenge to sourcing more regenerative food is the lack of awareness among consumers about the benefits of regenerative agriculture practices. Many consumers are not familiar with the concept of regenerative agriculture or the benefits of consuming regenerative food. This can make it difficult for regenerative farmers to build a customer base and sell their products.
Regardless of challenges, the current agricultural system in most industrialized countries is proving unsustainable.
"We have to create new solutions and find smarter ways to produce more with less input while keeping in mind that there are no healthy foods without a healthy environment."Dr. Qu Dongyu, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Director
When the environment is conducive to sustainability, biodiversity, and nutrition, everybody wins.
Buying regenerative foods
When buying food from regenerative farms, it's important to do your research and ask questions about the farm's practices to ensure that they align with your values. Consumers can also look for third-party certifications, such as the Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) or the Certified Regenerative by A Greener World (AGW), which provide standards for regenerative agriculture practices.
These certifications can help consumers identify products that are produced using regenerative practices and support farmers who are committed to sustainability and environmental stewardship. You can often find regenerative foods at the following places:
- Local farmers' markets
- Community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs
- Natural food stores
- Local farms themselves
Many regenerative farmers also sell directly to consumers through online marketplaces or their own websites. By purchasing food directly from regenerative farmers, consumers can support local agriculture and reduce their carbon footprint by avoiding the long supply chains typically associated with conventionally produced food.
Regenerative food is produced using regenerative agriculture practices that aim to improve soil health, increase biodiversity, reduce carbon emissions, and grow higher nutritional value foods. If you’re curious to try regenerative foods, a great place to start could be your local farmer’s market or health food store. Regenerative farming is a win-win, supporting both the environment and your health.
- Agriculture and Human Values. Regenerative food systems and the conservation of change.
- PeerJ – The Journal of Life & Environmental Sciences. Soil health and nutrient density: preliminary comparison of regenerative and conventional farming.
- PeerJ – The Journal of Life & Environmental Sciences. Regenerative agriculture: merging farming and natural resource conservation profitably.
- Outlook on Agriculture. Regenerative agriculture: an agronomic perspective.
- Agriculture and Human Values. Transforming landscapes and mindscapes through regenerative agriculture.