Q: Is it sustainable to buy produce grown in a greenhouse?
A: Increased fruit and vegetable consumption is recommended for optimal health, but during the winter finding an abundance of local produce can be a challenge. Greenhouses, which support the cultivation of produce during the off-season, can help meet year-round demand. Yet there are concerns that greenhouses aren’t so “green” on the energy-conservation front due to heating demands. Size, construction materials, lighting, and type of crops all affect the greenhouse’s carbon footprint. The good news is that well-designed greenhouses can be more sustainable operations; many organizations are improving facilities, and upgrading lighting and environmental controls. However, greenhouses still can leave a large impact on the planet. Eating seasonally, growing your own produce, or sourcing fruits and vegetable from local farmers can be great ways to reduce your carbon footprint. And fresh farm produce tends to taste better and has a higher nutritional profile than produce that travels many miles and sits on grocery store shelves for an extended period of time. During winter months, dried, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables are an acceptable substitute for fresh produce.
—Kaley Todd, MS, RDN
Q: Are there benefits in consuming nuts in their raw form?
A: Nuts are healthful, nutrient-dense foods that contain good amounts of fiber, protein, potassium, magnesium, antioxidants, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. They also are extremely versatile and can be used to make nut butter, ice cream, sauces, and savory meals like pad Thai.
Raw or roasted nuts have a very similar nutritional makeup, and the oil used to roast nuts adds a negligible number of calories per serving. Steaming or roasting nuts may be required to kill harmful bacteria or mold. In California, where 80 percent of the world’s almonds are grown, steaming or fumigating the nuts is required by law, due to previous salmonella outbreaks. Therefore there are no truly raw almonds. Aflatoxin, a potentially cancerous mold found in very small amounts in some foods, may be reduced by roasting peanuts, which are technically a legume, but often categorized as a nut. Some raw versions of nuts and nut butters can be more expensive, as well.
Nuts—raw, roasted or steamed—can add variety and good nutrition to any healthy diet. They are nutrient-dense, but also calorically dense, so monitoring serving sizes is paramount when enjoying them.
—Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RD