New year’s is upcoming, and for 2021 I want to be in the best health. That includes diet, so I thought we could have a look at some of the foods astronauts eat. Living in space requires you to be in top health, so perhaps there is something from the ISS we can incorporate into our diet!
The Types of Food Astronauts Eat
Most food has had some kind of processing, in order to elongate the shelf life. We can separate them into 4 groups:
- Dehydrated (Freeze dried, heat dried) products – These include freeze dried coffee, tea or powder creamer. Things like ramen noodles are dehydrated, and only need some hot water to revive. Freeze dried fruit and veg such as strawberries can be enjoyed as they are, or can be hydrated with water. Freeze drying doesn’t change the taste that much, so it’s a good method of dehydrating food.
- Naturally long life products – nuts and some grains like oats are naturally long life and fairly healthy, but also products like sweets, wraps and biscuits (the British kind, innit) which don’t have much moisture and are usually full of preservatives anyway.
- Treated Products – Things that have gone through the retort process (i.e. flash cooking in a retort). This is used for things like red meat to sterilise it and keep it clean!
- Fresh Food – Eating dehydrated stuff is quite distressing, so fresh food is sent as a little treat. These must be eaten within 2 days.
What’s NOT Allowed?
Lemonade is sometimes drunk, but fizzy drinks in general are not ideal. The gas in the drink increases the pressure in your stomach, so when you burp you may also bring up your food.
Crumbs are an absolute NO! Crumbs can get into machinery, air, and the purification system. Any bread or biscuits must not make crumbs, so astronauts usually eat wraps instead of white bread. Many store bought cookies make crumbs, but the soft baked gooey ones usually don’t (and they’re waaay tastier!)
Typical Dishes from Different Countries
From the NASA website “An astronaut can choose from many types of foods such as fruits, nuts, peanut butter, chicken, beef, seafood, candy, brownies, etc. Available drinks include coffee, tea, orange juice, fruit punches and lemonade.” NASA astronauts have had many American/British favourites, from pudding to pizza.
The video below shows Shane Kimbrough (Expedition 50) making PB&J, using wraps as they don’t crumble like white bread.
JAXA astronauts (Japan) are living the life! They have been able to develop space friendly traditional dishes such as sushi, rice and ramen. Matcha, being a powder, is common drunk on the ISS, and as a treat astronauts are able to eat Wagashi (bean paste sweets) and preserved plums.
South Korea were able to create space-friendly kimchi. Kimchi is delicious and one of my favourite foods!
The most detailed account of space food I’ve come across comes from Russia. 4 meals a day, 300 meals to choose, all of which are quite healthy! Breakfast might be mashed potatoes or apple chips with nuts on the side. Lunch/dinner is often borscht (beetroot soup), rice, meat like beef, cheese and broccoli, and goulash which is historically known to be a very portable dish.
Fresh peaches, curds, nuts and bread accompany a lot of meals or are enjoyed as snacks.
How Could Your Day of Eating Look Like?
Personally, I’d start the day off with freeze dried coffee. I like Beanies hazelnut coffee, but I’ll have whatever my University gives me for free.
Throughout the day I’d be drinking more coffee and herbal teas, as they’re what I enjoy to have while I work.
For supper, astronaut kimchi would definitely be on my plate, alongside rehydrated veggies and sweet potato (based off of Russia’s meals). I don’t regularly eat bread, grains or refined carbs, so my options are quite limited. If I wanted dessert, freeze-dried raspberries are the best! You can pick them out of a cereal box, as I used to do before my little sister realised my crime and served justice!
I’m interested in knowing what you’d eat in space, and what you would have to give up! Let me know, and in the mean time I’ll find a way of freeze-drying my raspberries!