Wednesday, September 23, 2015

WELLNESS WEDNESDAYS: Watering the Almond Trees: The Hidden Cost of Food

“California is basically all over your market basket,” says Penn State Professor James Dunn who studies how weather affects food prices.

Almond trees in California

Image result for picture of almond trees
Almonds ready for harvest

I love almonds.  Almonds, like other nuts, are a perfect source for the good fats (unsaturated fats) that most of our fats should be and our bodies need for good health.  A handful of almonds is frequently my afternoon snack because it is so darn easy to pack and carry with me.  Almond milk is always in our fridge at home.  Almond butter on gluten-free crackers is one of my favorite evening snacks. 

Almonds, and most other nuts, are grown in California.  In fact, California produces nearly half of the nuts, fruits, and vegetables grown in the United States.  Unless you have been living on Mars, you know that California is experiencing a drought of epic proportions.  Its agricultural products “consume 80% of the water tapped for humans in California.”

So a recent Sierra magazine article (September/October 2015 issue) caught my attention.  The article was about how much water goes into producing foods Americans love.   Did you know…it takes 97.2 gallons of water to produce one ounce of almonds (shelled)?  One ounce? 

Here’s how many gallons of water are needed to produce one ounce of foods:
  1. Beef:  106.28*
  2. Almonds:  97.2
  3. Chickpeas:  76.07
  4. Lentils:  71.28
  5. Pork:  41.25
  6. Rice:  16.26
  7. Asparagus:  20.32
  8. Artichokes: 5.92
  9. Peaches:  4.69
  10. Raspberries:  4.22
  11. Orange juice:  4.11
  12. Wine: 3.48
  13. Kale:  2.26
  14. Eggplant: 1.69
  15. Strawberries:  1.24
  16. Tomatoes:  0.95

As stewards of our natural resources, we must use water responsibly.  We owe it to our children to also teach them to conserve our water supplies.  By not wasting water we can help ensure that we have enough water for growing the foods that promote good health.  Can you imagine a world without fruits and vegetables?  A world without almonds?  When America’s farmers have to restrict their water use, our food supply may be on the line.  So next time you leave the water running while you brush your teeth or you run a load of dishes in half-full dishwasher, rethink your actions. 

Conserving our water use is a good thing.  A very good thing.  Your next bag of almonds may depend on it! 

In gratitude,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.

*Look for more on the topic of eating lower on the food chain in a future issue of Wellness Wednesdays.  Consider this: to produce a 6 ounce steak, more than 600 gallons of water are needed.