How Thirsty Are Your Almonds?


How thirsty are your almonds?

Almonds often get vilified for having a big water footprint. Some people are hesitant to chose almond milk, because they don’t want to contribute to the drought in California. It is a great idea to think about the ecological footprint of your diet, but don’t get too worried about almonds.

Almonds do require irrigation, and they do use water. About 20 gallons per oz of food. That seems like quite a lot! Until you realize that lentils use 71 gallons per oz and beef uses 106 gallons per oz!

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(Almonds are not even on this graphic! But, they would be somewhere around asparagus).

The reality is that some plant-based foods (I’m looking at you, chickpeas!) do use a lot of water, however a plant-based uses less water overall than an animal-based diet.

Do you know what really uses a lot of water? Alfalfa. Never heard of it? It is a crop mainly grown to feed cattle. When we grow crops and then feed them to animals, that water use gets embedded into the water footprint of the final meat product. It is an inefficient system, when we could use eat the plant-based crops ourselves, rather than feeding them to animals and then eating their meat.
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Department of Land Air and Water Resources at the University of California, Davis.

Forages and alfalfa are both fed to animals, and they use much more water than almonds do. Much of the alfalfa grown in California is actually exported to Japan, Korea, UAE and China to meet their increasing appetite for meat. In 2011 the Port of LA exported 2,398,113 metric tons of animal feed, and most of that was California-grown.

So, don’t let your worries about the drought in California stop you from putting almond milk in your smoothie. Almonds are delicious! And nutritious too. One oz of almonds (about 23 almonds) contains 6 g of protein and 3.5 grams of fibre. They are also a good, plant-based source of calcium and magnesium.

Try a handful of almonds with a banana or almond butter and apple for a snack. Or, try topping your morning oatmeal or lunchtime salad with almonds. They also make a fun and crunchy addition to a veggie stir-fry. Almonds help us feel fuller for longer, and so they make addition to a great snack or meal. Do watch your portions though, 20 almonds is about 150 kcal. That is great! But a cup of almonds is 529 kcal. That is quite a lot! Pay attention to your hunger cues and learn to recognize when you are full.
Figures from this article
Source: Dr. Pamela Fergusson, RD
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