Whoa, you got a lot of nuts in your diet. That can’t be good for the environment

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nuts no so good for the environment

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A diet heavy in nuts can have a negative impact on the environment, according to a new study.

The research, published in the journal “Science of the Total Environment,” looked at the carbon footprints of three different diets — a vegan diet, a Mediterranean diet with occasional meat consumption, and a Western diet with high levels of meat and nuts.

The study found that the diet with the highest levels of nuts had the largest carbon footprint.

Nuts are high in calories and require a lot of energy to produce, which can lead to increased emissions from farming and food production. In addition, the packaging and transportation of nuts also contribute to their large carbon footprint.

So, while a diet with lots of nuts may be good for your health, it’s not so good for the environment.


Downsides of a nuts-heavy diet

assorted nuts

Nuts are a popular snack, and many people enjoy incorporating them into their diets. However, what few people know is that nuts are actually terrible for the environment. Here’s why:


1. Nuts require a lot of water to grow

Nuts are a water-intensive crop and require a lot of water to grow. In fact, it takes around 1,000 liters of water to produce just one kilogram of almonds.

That’s a lot of water, especially when you consider that California – the state with the largest almond production – is currently experiencing a severe drought.

Nuts, especially pistachios and almonds, are some of the most wasteful foods you can eat. A single pistachio requires 34 gallons (130 liters) of water to grow, while an almond takes 1,030 gallons (3,900 liters). That’s a lot of water that could be going to other crops or people who need it.


2. Nuts produce a lot of CO2

In addition to consuming a lot of water, nuts also produce a lot of CO2. Almonds, for example, emit around 2.5 kilograms of CO2 per kilogram consumed.

This is significantly more than other crops, such as grains or fruits. All of this CO2 contributes to climate change, which is already causing major environmental problems.


3. Nuts can take a long time to grow

Another issue with nuts is that they take a long time to grow. Almonds, for example, take around seven months to mature, but 2-4 years till the first harvest.

This means that more land needs to be set aside for growing nuts, leading to deforestation and other forms of habitat destruction.

If you’re wondering, here’s the typical maturity period for a variety of nut plants:

  • Pecan trees (from seedling): 10+years
  • Hickory nut trees: 8-10 years
  • English walnut trees: 4-7 years
  • Butternut trees: 2-3 years
  • Black walnut seedlings: 4-7 years
  • Heartnut trees: 3-5+ years
  • Chestnut trees: 3-5 years


4. Nuts also have a significant carbon footprint

nuts carbon footprint

Nuts also have a big carbon footprint. Almonds generate more than twice the greenhouse gas emissions as potatoes do, for example. All those gallons of water needed for growing nuts also require a lot of energy to move and process.

And then there’s the packaging: Even if you buy your nuts in bulk, they usually come in a plastic bag or container.


5. Nuts can be harmful to local wildlife

Nuts can be harmful to local wildlife. For example, acorns are a favorite food of deer, and large amounts of acorns can deplete the deer population.

Similarly, English walnuts are poisonous to dogs. So if you’re going to include nuts in your diet, it’s important to be aware of how they might impact your local environment.


6. Nuts are expensive to transport

Nuts are expensive to transport, and the fuel needed in transporting them adds carbon to the environment.

This not only increases the costs to you but can have a significant environmental impact. Some also need to be refrigerated during transportation adding to the ecological impact.

They tend to go bad quickly; therefore, they must be transported in a way that minimizes the risk of spoilage. It also means that they can’t be stored for very long, which limits their shelf life and increases the chance of waste.


To eat or not?

As a food group, nuts have both pros and cons when it comes to the environment. On the one hand, they’re a good source of protein and other nutrients, and they can be part of a healthy diet. On the other hand, they can contribute to deforestation.

That’s because most nuts come from trees that are grown on plantations. And those plantations need lots of land – which can lead to deforestation. In fact, it takes about two acres of forest to produce just one acre of nut trees.

So if you’re looking to go green, it’s probably a good idea to eat fewer nuts than you currently do. That way, you can enjoy their nutritional benefits without harming the environment. Nuts may be good for your health, but they’re not so good for the environment.

  • Luke Rooks

    Luke is a passionate environmental advocate based in upstate New York. When he's not sharing tips on sustainability and wellness, you can find him hiking with his dog, Max.

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