|Photo credit: Matt Black|
A nut farm in California
While local and seasonal foods can satisfy all the the nutritional requirements for most of the population, media has taught us to go to the store and buy the products that has been touted as the latest "miracle" or "super" food. It's as if we all need the same food du jour in order to stay healthy. These foods, we're told, should be consumed on a daily or weekly basis, despite the fact that they are sometimes not in season, have a hefty transportation cost as they don't grow in the region (or even in the country), and are often devastating to the environment.
Take almond milk, for example. It seems to be fast replacing cow's milk for breakfast. What many people don't know is that almonds, grown almost exclusively in California, take a tremendous amount of water to produce. Water that is in scarce supply in the West. In fact, the water situation in California is so bad that the state is experiencing the worst drought in centuries. Strike one for almond milk.
In addition to the water issue, these large groves of almond trees require that beehives be trucked in from other parts of the country for pollination. Since they're monocultures, the growers can't have permanent hives. Once the trees loose their blooms, the bees no longer have a source of food and would die. Strike two.
And then there's the issue of processing the almonds into "milk" and then transporting it nationwide. Strike three.
I'm not saying almond milk is bad per se. And I also understand there are individuals who want cereal or other grains for breakfast but cannot have dairy products. What I am saying is we need to stop blindly following what celebrity doctors, nutritionists, and chefs tell us to eat and to understand the consequences of our choices. When buying food, we should always keep in mind:
Season - Location - Environment
And we must ask the question: How can we feed ourselves in a healthful way that is also good for the world?
For more details on almond (and other nut) production in California, here's an article from Grist.