The Perfect Space Meal: Seeds, Nuts, Salad

As manned space missions get longer and more extreme, with planned flights to Mars and the Moon, one of the difficulties will be keeping astronauts healthy. One key factor is diet. New research suggests the perfect meal for space travelers is a vegetarian salad.

Space stresses the body

Space travel has a huge impact on the body. You burn more calories, muscles weaken, bone mass decreases, and you’re exposed to high levels of radiation. You can suffer from stress and fatigue because of confinement and isolation. Some struggle with motion sickness.

Astronauts’ food needs to be calorie-dense, nutritious, and long-lasting. For longer missions, astronauts will need to grow food in space.

This salad made up of soybeans, poppy seeds, barley, kale, peanuts, sweet potato and sunflower seeds could be the optimal meal for men on long-term space missions.

The space salad. Photo: American Chemical Society


A recent study analyzed the nutritional needs of male astronauts. Then they factored in what could be grown on a spacecraft.

The space salad

It turns out that the perfect meal is a vegetarian salad with soybeans, poppy seeds, barley, kale, peanuts, sweet potato, and sunflower seeds. It is the most balanced meal possible when astronauts will need to grow the various ingredients.

Researchers landed on this salad by assessing food combinations that met the daily nutritional needs of an astronaut. They considered 102 crops and 36 nutrients. Then they factored in growth times, requirements for water and fertilizer, how much space the plants would need, and how much of the food items could be eaten. You don’t want huge quantities of inedible leaves or roots from the food.

With this meal, astronauts would also take supplements for some of the missing micronutrients.

At present, astronauts rely on dehydrated, prepackaged meals. With the space salad, they will be able to eat fresh food. Next up, the research team will attempt to create the perfect nutritional meal for a female astronaut.

No word on how to keep all those salad ingredients on the plate without drifting away in zero gravity.

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca McPhee is a freelance writer for ExplorersWeb.

Rebecca has been writing about open water sports, adventure travel, and marine science for three years. Prior to that, Rebecca worked as an Editorial Assistant at Taylor and Francis, and a Wildlife Officer for ORCA.

Based in the UK Rebecca is a science teacher and volunteers for a number of marine charities. She enjoys open water swimming, hiking, diving, and traveling.