Our obsession with health means our consumption of nut milks, including almond milk, is soaring.
According to The Guardian Waitrose, a massive chain of British supermarkets, almond milk has overtaken soy as its customers’ preferred alternative to dairy.
The problem is not the almonds, but the water they take to be grown.
More than 80% of the world’s almond crop is grown in the US state of California, which has been experiencing its worst drought on record. The Californian governor declared a state of emergency in January.
It takes five litres of water to grow one almond but owing to massive demand almond orchards continue to be planted.
Almond milk is only a small percentage almond – the rest is water, sugar, and other additives such as stabilisers and emulsifiers – and almond milk lacks the protein provided by dairy milk (about 0.5g compared with 3.5g).
There is benefits in almond milk – the amount of sugar is less than the natural sugars found in cow’s milk and the vitamins and minerals in almonds are extremely beneficial.
But, like quinoa, another health food obsession, production of almond milk also appears to have a hefty environmental impact.
There are more sustainable ways however to consume almond milk. We suggest sourcing almonds from places where water isn’t scare, and bearing their carbon footprint in mind; the more local, the better.