A few of my previous questions have mentioned that the colonists to this world will be scrambling to get whatever foods they can grow, because the planet's fauna is largely nonexistent (There's sea life, but not much else) and the flora offers little to no nutrition due to different biology.

With that in mind, I want to make sure the foods I do provide my people don't have them dieing of malnutrition.

Keep the following assumptions in mind. They are firm and any changes to them are outside of the scope of this question:

  • Growing sufficient quantity is not an issue.
  • Genetic Diversity is not an issue.
  • Sustainability is not an issue.
  • Native flora/fauna can provide calories, but no nutrition.
  • The list of items is complete and embodies the entirety of the food types available.
  • Source is not an isssue.
  • Foods not listed are not available (See below, though).

Now, for the list of foods available, and some uses I've found for them. In no particular order:

  • Barley: Can be ground into a gluten-containing flour to make breads and similar items. Also can be used for some alcoholic brewing such as beer, and is used in some soups and stews.
  • Flax: Flax is a super-useful plant, capable of being used to make Flax Milk, a milk substitute, and can replace eggs in many recipes. It can also be used for making vegetable oil, and flaxseed sprouts can be eaten and are slightly spicy. Linseed Meal (The byproduct of making oil) is also a good food for rabbits. Flax is also useful for a variety of non-food products. Flax flour can also be used to compliment barley flour and/or corn flour, but isn't gluten-containing.
  • Corn: Aside from regular corn and, potentially, popcorn, Corn can be used to make cornmeal, corn flour, corn starch, corn syrup, and corn sugar. On this world, there will be breeds of corn selected for sugar content, as sugarcane or sugar beets are not available.
  • Lemons: Lemons are used in turning Flax Milk (And, in reality, other non-dairy "Milks") into cream, butter, and the like. Lemons have also been used with baking soda, before baking powder was invented.
  • Coffee: Coffee can be cooked into things, but I'm really not sure what.
  • Green, Red, some spicy peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Radishes
  • Green Beans
  • Lettuce
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Sesame
  • Rabbit meat
  • Snake Meat
  • Mouse meat (Although, admittedly, mice do not provide much meat...)
  • Various types of yeast (Bread yeast, beer yeast, etc)

Can these foods provide enough nutrition to sustain people appropriately? If the answer is "No" I would like to know what is missing, and if you're feeling inspired, a food that would fix the deficiency while still being able to be easily grown from a seed that is stored and would possibly be on a space vessel. As a few of these items wouldn't be common items, I'm not terribly worried about realism as that can be explained by "A crewmember had a plant/seeds" etc. Any additional animals will not be considered due to other plot constraints.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, why not. This list would limit the cuisine quite a bit, but is definitely sustainable. Many ancient cultures lived on less. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Jan 16, 2018 at 1:01
  • $\begingroup$ Our bodies typically need: calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin b12s, iron, and folate. Beans typically cover a few of these. If most of your foods have an overlap in providing nutrition, the list is potentially workable. I haven't seen your other questions but since it's an imagined world, have you considered how this world (atmosphere, radiation, soil, water, etc) affects how nutrition is absorbed in humans? $\endgroup$ Jan 16, 2018 at 1:37
  • $\begingroup$ @doctordonna I have not. That's not even something I knew needed consideration. $\endgroup$
    – Andon
    Jan 16, 2018 at 1:44
  • $\begingroup$ I don't have background on the world you're creating (how much is fiction, how much real life biology you're applying to this world). My current assumption is that nutrition could be an issue if your world is just like earth only lacking in flora. How do other life forms survive in this world? Is the sea life sustainable for people to consume? Is grafting an option? $\endgroup$ Jan 16, 2018 at 2:01
  • $\begingroup$ I'm making assumptions (Whether they're accurate or not): That the flora/fauna is non-toxic to humans but not nutritious, that the world has a biosphere that humans won't completely ruin (Humans stick to coastal areas, due to lack of draft animals among other things), and that earth plants can pull proper stuff from the soil. The native live is pretty similar to Earth life... a few million years ago, before large land animals. Small, insect-size creatures exist, and plants exist. $\endgroup$
    – Andon
    Jan 16, 2018 at 2:11

1 Answer 1


Lets run down the list of nutrients

Here is a link to nutritiondata.self.com, which has nice color graphics of all the data available from the USA. That link is for hulled barley. We can check all the major vitamins and minerals and such to make sure you are getting enough of what you need; and preferably from multiple sources. You don't want single crop failure to endanger the community.


There is plenty of meat, and barley is a decent source as well; less so corn. A significant gap in this diet is actually vegetable protein sources. Specifically, there are no legumes, like beans, chick peas, or the like. However, you mention green beans. These are the same species as common beans like kidney, pinto, and navy. The difference is, the green bean is the immature seed pod, while the mature dessicated seed pod provides the latter beans. Those beans are a very good protein (and many vitamins and minerals) source; so if green beans are available, common beans will be to.


Beans and barley are both great sources. Sesame seeds and various certain lettuces can contribute as well.

Dietary fat

You actually only have two sources of fats. There isn't a lot of nutrition data available on snakes and mice, but I believe they are both pretty mean. Fat is a necessary part of the diet, so you will have to press sesame and flaxseed oil, and use it. Flaxseed oil is one of the few good vegetable sources of Omega-3 fats, so that is good as well. Again, depending on how fatty snakes and mice are, this might not be a problem at all.

Vitamins A, C, E, K

Vitamin A comes from vegetables that are orange, as a general rule. You don't have any really strong sources, so your people will need to eat a good quantity of tomatoes and peppers to keep up with this requirement. Another option is red-leaf lettuce; the reddish pigment is partially made up of vitamin A. Peppers and lemons are a very strong Vitamin C sources, with tomatoes, radishes and peaches also useful. Vitamin E in the $\gamma$-tocopherol form is covered by corn and vegetable oils, although both your oils are not great sources. Vitamin K is plentiful in anything green, so fennel, cucumber, green beans, and especially lettuce. Leafy greens are more nutritious the more bitter they are so kale/mustard greens > romain/butter lettuce > iceberg. Iceberg lettuces is basically fancy water.

Vitamin B-series

This series is Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), B6, Folate (B9), and B12. Grains and legumes cover this well, so barley, corn and beans here. Barley is particularly good at Thiamin, Corn at B6, and beans at folate. B12 is harder to come by, but plentiful in red meat, so your people should be fine.


Calcium is something of a problem. There are a bunch of mediocre sources, but good sources like milk and milk products, tree nuts, and fish don't seem to be available. Women at all life stages, pregnant, nursing, and during menopause need a good supply of calcium. Making it worse, lettuce is a pretty poor source of calcium compared to spinach or kale. An option here is to grind up rabbit/mouse/snake bones and use them as a dietary supplement.

Iron is available from beans, greens, and red meat. The rest of minerals are available in high quantities in barley and corn. If those are your stable crops, you will have a good base of minerals.


Calcium seems like the thing that would most likely be in demand, for women especially. As mentioned, grinding up bones would be a reasonable source of it, or just mining it from chalk formations. It shouldn't be that hard to supplement.

For all the other vitamins and minerals, there are one or two food products that are excellent sources, and several reasonable sources. I would not foresee any dietary problems.

  • $\begingroup$ A fantastic answer. I'll probably adjust some things on the final list, and this answer gives me a good starting point to go off of. $\endgroup$
    – Andon
    Jan 16, 2018 at 2:35
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ How would the snakes, rabbits, and mice get their calcium requirements? $\endgroup$ Jan 16, 2018 at 4:43
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Also missing are minerals. Salt, carbon, potassium, nitrogen for example. These would have to be available from the soil of the planet. $\endgroup$ Jan 16, 2018 at 4:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Justin Thyme Rabbits and Mice are modified to be able to digest local flora. Snakes would get it from mice. I had also counted on strictly mineral (IE, salt) items being able to be either found in the world or refined from the world. $\endgroup$
    – Andon
    Jan 16, 2018 at 10:08
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    $\begingroup$ @JustinThyme Salt I did not mention, but worth noting that it has always been a dietary supplement from mining, even here on Earth. Potassium is in the 'rest of the minerals' plentiful category. Carbon are not dietary nutrients; they are the elements that dietary nutrients are made of. $\endgroup$
    – kingledion
    Jan 16, 2018 at 13:13

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