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Are You Nuts to Keep Eating Almonds?

By Sustainability Office on October 27, 2017
-Maggie Dunn ’19

You’ve probably heard that almonds are one of the healthiest foods you can eat, and in many ways this is true. They lower your blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and facilitate weight loss. But do these health benefits outweigh the costs to the environment?

Each almond produced consumes 1.1 gallons of water across its lifespan. Americans now consume more than 10 times the amount of almonds they did in 1965. While the US is the world’s leading consumer of almonds by far, it is also the leading producer of almonds. 82% of almonds come from California, the only state in which they grow. However, California just experienced the worst drought in recent history–so bad that experts are considering expanding what is currently a 1-4 drought system to include a whole new level of drought which will be called D5. That is the state that California is in, yet it continues to produce millions of almonds each year.

For the sake of comparison, beef requires 1,847 gal/lb to produce, while almonds take 1,929 gal/lb. Cutting meat out of your diet is certainly good for health reasons as well as for the amount of water it saves. Given the even greater water demand for almond production, almonds also need to be considered as a food that is not environmentally friendly with regards to water consumption. There are plenty of other options that allow you to replace the almonds in your diet with more eco-friendly alternatives.

Photo courtesy of almondinsights.com

Using almond butter? Replace it with peanut butter. Sunflower seed butter, tahini, and soy nut butter are all nut-free alternatives, as well as coconut, hazelnut and so on. Using almond milk? Replace it with soy milk, coconut milk, hazelnut milk, flax milk, cashew milk, or rice milk. Replace almonds in your trail mix or granola with cashews and walnuts, which still use lots of water (1,260 gal/lb and 1,112 gal/lb, respectively) but are much better compared to their alternatives.

Thinking about the food you eat and the impacts it has on the place you live is often a difficult shift in thought, but ultimately an essential one to make. In the changing world in which we live, we can no longer afford to give no thought to where our food comes from and how it is made. So next time you go to Price Chopper, make a decision to save water and skip the almonds.

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