Almonds are one of the most studied foods in the world, but the facts about the nutrient-dense nut can be misunderstood due to the amount of complex information available. So we want to set the record straight. Let’s crack that nut (well, seed, technically).
Question #1: Are almonds high in calories and fat?
“There are approximately 175 calories in a 30g serving of almonds. [about 20 nuts]», explains Juliette Kellow RD, consultant for the California Almond Council. “It may seem like a lot, but almonds contain plant-based protein, fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.”
About fat, research showed that eating almonds as a mid-morning snack instead of a high-carb snack can help limit the number of calories consumed throughout the day. “Protein and healthy fats have been linked to keeping us full longer,” says Kellow. “Almonds are also packed with energizing B vitamins,” she continues. “They make a great pre- and post-workout snack.” If you stick to a handful or two a day, the benefits outweigh the calories and fat.
Question #2: Is growing almond trees bad for bees?
Almond trees naturally provide bees with their first major food source of the growing season. The flowers contain nutritious pollen containing the 10 essential amino acids that bees need to survive.
A recent study showed that almond blossom nectar contains a compound called amygdalin, which may reduce the incidence of certain viral diseases in bees and promote their gut health. “Thanks to these factors, bees generally leave almond orchards stronger than when they arrived,” says Josette Lewis, Ph.D, scientific director of the California Almond Council.
And almond growers recognize the importance of bees. Many are improving their sustainability efforts in conjunction with nonprofit green organizations such as Pollinator Partnership, the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to the protection and promotion of pollinators and their ecosystems. Currently, the Pollinator Partnership has recognized 110,000 acres of almond orchards as bee-friendly, representing 85% of all U.S. certified bee-friendly farms.
Question #3: Are almond farms a monoculture?
Many California almond farms have introduced cover crops (plants that cover the ground rather than for the purpose of being harvested), which act as another form of support for bees. “Cover crops are a great way to support pollinators because they provide additional forage,” says Lewis. “Just like people, bees need a diverse diet, and the cover crop seeds we use provide that and benefit farms.”
“We certainly grow a primary crop (almonds), but with cover crops we add an incredible amount of diversity to that system,” says Rory Crowley, director of habitat programs at Apis project m., which is in charge of the Seeds for Bees program, which creates and distributes these diverse cover crop seed mixes that establish biodiversity on these farms. “We do this through crucifers like daikon radishes, which are good for water penetration and put a lot of organic matter in the soil, and legumes, which add nitrogen back into the soil.”
And it’s not just the bees that this extra forage helps. “Cover crops benefit a lot of wildlife,” says Crowley. “They support other pollinators like native bees, moths and butterflies, as well as good bugs eating bad bugs. Density, duration and diversity of forage available… that’s what we try to achieve with our seed mixes.
Question #4: Does growing almond trees consume a lot of water?
This is one of the most important and difficult questions for the almond community. Water is needed to grow just about everything, but in California (where 80% of the world’s almonds are grown) and many other places with drought-prone Mediterranean-style climates, it’s a precious commodity. .
“Water efficiency is extremely important to us,” says Danielle Veenstra, a third-generation California almond grower. “We have reduced the amount we use to grow each almond by 33% since the 1990s, and we aim to reduce it by another 20% by 2025.”
In a way they are use water more efficiently is done using micro-sprinklers or ultra-precise drippers. In fact, 82% of California almond farms use this method when irrigating. Another is to chop up old almond trees and put them back on the ground in a quasi “circle of life”. “When an almond tree is at the end of its life, we can process it into wood chips and put them in the ground to improve its quality,” says Veenstra. “Less water is needed because it improves the water-holding capacity of the soil. Research shows it can also boost our yields.
Cutting-edge technologies are also being explored in water conservation, including the installation of smart technology around the trunks of almond trees, which lets farmers know when and how much they need watering, which avoid unnecessary waste.
Almond growers have other sustainability goals they are working towards, including carbon sequestration by recycling old trees and becoming Zero waste, the latter making use of almond by-products. “A lot of almond shells go into dairy feed and the shells are used for livestock bedding, but we’ve recently been experimenting with other ways to make better use of these things,” says Veenstra. “One way was to extract the sugars from the husks and create a delicious beer out of them.”
Question #5: Isn’t the cultivation of almond trees managed by large companies?
No way. In fact, according to the latest USDA Agricultural Census, more than 90% of almond farms are family owned. Veenstra’s grandfather, for example, planted his first orchard in 1965, and his family continues to grow on the same land today. Family is one of the main reasons I work so hard to make almond farming sustainable,” she explains. “I want to pass my farm on to future generations in the best possible conditions. That’s what motivates me. »
Learn more about California almond growers sustainability initiatives