plate of honey and peanut butter milk chocolate oat bars

The 9 Most Sustainable Foods List

When it comes to sustainability in food, we're talking about products that have a low environmental impact throughout their life cycles, and whose production incorporates established sustainable practices. Looking for help on taking that first step to do good for your body while doing good for the environment? Hive can help make your journey easy with this list of some of the most sustainable foods on the market and a few suggestions to get you started.

1. Oats

Oats are an incredibly versatile food, used to make everything from sweet treats to savory dishes — and of course your classic bowl of delightful breakfast goodness. Its high nutritional value has been shown to lower cholesterol, boost your immune system, and even potentially prevent Type 2 diabetes, making it a healthy staple in your diet.

In recent years, oats have been used as the main ingredient in plant-based milk, an industry that’s helping reduce greenhouse gasses from the dairy industry. Oat plants require few resources to grow and also improve soil health when in a sustainable, diverse crop rotation.

Hive’s pick: Rise Brewing Co. Organic Oat Milk 

2. Lentils

Most commonly used in soups and pasta, lentils have anti-inflammatory qualities, aid in digestion, and help maintain gut health. Lentils share a similar nutritional makeup with beans but offer slightly more protein. 

Growing lentils sustainably feeds both humans and the land, building fertility in the soil by feeding its microbial life. They pull life-giving nitrogen from the air and return it to the soil, a process known as nitrogen fixation. They need no chemical fertilizers, making it easy to keep the plant-based protein organic. 

Hive pick: Farmer Direct Organic Dried Black Lentils

3. Mushrooms

person pouring four sigmatic mushroom cacao mix into cup

This friendly fungus is the “Swiss Army knife” of the food industry — it can be used for almost anything. Mushrooms make for a perfect meat alternative thanks to their hearty texture and are popular as a waste-preventing ingredient for many upcycled foods. 

Mushrooms consistently rank highly on food sustainability lists, producing only a small amount of CO2. They require less farmland than traditional crops, and one pound of mushrooms can be produced with the same amount of energy as brewing a cup of coffee and less than two gallons of water

Hive’s pick: Four Sigmatic Mushroom Cacao Mix With Reishi

4. Chia Seeds

If you grew up in the ’80s, you might associate chia seeds with silly commercials about growing chia plants in a sheep-shaped terracotta pot. Little did we know those seeds weren’t just a fun lesson in amateur gardening — they were actually sustainable superfoods offering incredible nutritional value. 

Chia seeds have a low water footprint and bring biodiversity to crop rotation. The chia plant acts as a pollinator crop, attracting bees and butterflies and strengthening their natural habitats. Most importantly, the essential oils in chia seeds repel invasive insects, so harmful pesticides aren’t needed.

Hive pick: Nutiva Chia Seeds

5. Seaweed and Algae

Seaweed and algae may not sound appetizing, but they’re experiencing a positive shift in how people think about them as ingredients in their favorite foods. In fact, seaweed and algae are some of the best foods for the environment and the benefits of these nutrient-rich proteins make them superfoods! 

Because they grow in the ocean, they use exactly 0% farmland, and seaweed can grow incredibly fast, up to three feet per day. They consume harmful CO2 and have a negative (yes, you read that right) carbon footprint.

Hive’s pick: Ocean’s Balance Organic Kombu Flakes

6. Beans

cans of black beans and spices on a cutting board

Beans didn’t get the nickname “the magical fruit” for nothing. They can be the star of a dish in a bean burrito or be the sidekick, adding color and texture to a spicy curry. These tiny proteins are packed with vitamins, iron, potassium, antioxidants, and more, making them one of the most nutrient-rich foods. 

The sustainability of beans begins at the root. Beans work together with bacteria in the soil replenishing nutrients and balancing or “fixing” nitrogen for the next crops to be planted. Because they don’t need as much fertilizer to grow, this contributes to lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

Hive’s pick: 8 Track Foods Organic Classic Black Beans

7. Mussels

Did you know mussels grow vertically by attaching themselves to lines that mussel farmers lower into the ocean? The mussels feed by filtering and purifying the seawater, consuming those impurities and organisms they filtered out. After two years the mussels are harvested, completing the sustainable farming process and leaving no damage to the ocean.

Mussels offer amazing health benefits, being high in Omega-3 fatty acids that help with memory functions and heart health. So, the next time you order a steaming plate of mussels at your local restaurant, you can feel great about how they were farmed and how good they are for you.

Hive pick: Scout PEI Mussels In A Smoked Paprika and Fennel Tomato Sauce

8. Local Organic Fruits and Veggies

It might feel more convenient to pick up some organic fruits and veggies from the grocery store, but it’s much more sustainable to buy from your local farmers. Not only does this help you contribute to your local economy, but it also reduces the carbon footprint of the produce you’re purchasing. 

Seasonal fruits and vegetables grown through sustainable agriculture practices are growing organically in the proper environmental conditions. When you buy seasonal produce, like strawberries in the summer, this yields a greater nutritional density, and can even result in better flavor. This shortens the supply chain, lowering the carbon footprint by reducing transportation and distribution miles. 

Hive pick: Crofter’s Just Fruit Apricot Spread

9. Upcycled Foods

upcycled foods fruits vegetables apples carrots pears crackers strawberries

Upcycling takes unused foods and scraps that would otherwise be wasted and gives them a new life as ingredients in other high-quality products. When you finish an apple, you toss the core, right? Not with upcycled goods. Several companies are taking those leftovers and repurposing them into sustainable snacks, candies, juices, and more.   

Preventing food waste is the single most effective factor in reducing the effect of global warming by more than 2 degrees Celsius and 6% GHG emissions. This practice is highly scalable and economically sustainable, and will continue to grow in the future.

Hive pick: Uglies BBQ Potato Chips

5 Tips for Eating More Sustainably 

The choices you make each time you grab a snack or sit down for a meal have a powerful impact on the environment. Here are a few tips to help you eat more sustainably.

  • Grow your own produce: Start a small garden in your backyard or community garden.
  • Try more plant-based foods: Simply swapping for more plant-based foods in your diet benefits the environment by conserving water, land, and reducing carbon emissions. 
  • Reduce food waste: Eat your leftovers and plan your meals to only buy what you need. This helps reduce overbuying which results in food waste.
  • Find transparent companies that “do good”: Become a loyal customer of companies that practice sustainable solutions
  • Shop smart: Get reusable shopping bags and buy products and produce with sustainable packaging or with less plastic. 

For more ideas on picking out your new favorite brands and products, Hive Brands has you covered. Our sustainable grocery store has a wealth of information on sustainable products and brands alike that will fill your cart with good vibes.

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