THE TRUTH ABOUT PEANUT BUTTER: The good, the bad and the ugly about jelly’s other half By Lindy Ford, RD, LDN
Peanut Butter is a staple in most American homes. There are pros and cons to our spreadable sandwich “go to,” which we will call the “good, bad and ugly.”
Just to clarify, a peanut actually is not a nut, but a legume. So it puts it in a whole different category then, say, almonds or walnuts.
Peanut butter is a great source of protein and provides 18 grams per half cup. The fat story is good and bad: Half the fat is monounsaturated (the good heart healthy kind), about a fourth is saturated, and the other fourth is polyunsaturated.
Peanut butter is loaded with nutrients like biotin, niacin, folate, and vitamin E. It contains CoEnzyme Q10, a key nutrient for heart health. CoQ10 decreases as we age and gets decimated by statin drugs like Lipitor and Crestor. Peanut butter also contains a good amount of dietary fiber—both soluble and insoluble.
Our favorite American spread has a dark side (yes, it’s true) as well. Fat is the first, and believe it or not, it’s not the saturated kind that is problematic. Saturated fat in study after study is not the evil we once thought it was. The bad comes in the form of the omega 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. These are commonly found in soybean, vegetable, corn, safflower, and sunflower oils. We get an inordinate amount of inflammatory, artery-clogging fats, and they crowd out the heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids. We should be getting them in the ratio of 1:1, but the American diet is more like 20-30:1 omega 6 to omega 3. Paired with a high grain intake, it is disastrous to our health.
Another potential bad for peanut butter is,along with dairy, wheat and soy, peanuts are one of the most allergy-causing foods we consume. It may or may not be because the peanut plant is grown close to the ground and is susceptible to molds and fungal attacks. One particular fungus, Aspergillus flavus, produces a toxin called aflatoxin. Cooking and roasting reduces aflatoxin about 90 percent, but many individuals remain sensitive to the fungus, even if they don’t present with an acute reaction. I almost put this in the “ugly” category and in the future I may.
The primary reason people (mainly children) have an acute reaction to peanuts is the agglutinins or peanut lectins. They are sugar-binding proteins that adhere to cell membranes. People with GI issues, like intestinal permeability (leaky gut), are more susceptible to the negative effects of lectins.
Commercial peanut butter contains a massive ugly and that is in the form of hydrogenated oil or trans fat. Such fats are man-made and are more deadly, inflammatory and disease-producing than omega 6’s. In fact the FDA deemed them so undesirable (after decades of research), they will be taken completely out of our food supply by 2018. Please, be diligent in checking ingredients’ lists for partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils. Popular products include Cool Whip, canned icing, Crisco, most commercial cookies, crackers, margarine, and, yep, peanut butter.
Another big ugly is added sugar. Sugar is inflammatory because it causes insulin spikes. Pair it with inflammatory oils like omega 6’s and hydrogenated oils, and it’s the perfect storm of most of major diseases. I am not going to mince words on this.
Before considering to ban peanut butter completely, there are good versions that merit mentioning. Of course, healthy versions are still going to have the natural lectins, but the plants are grown higher up and are less susceptible to molds. I think organic peanut butter eaten in moderation is a good choice for most of the population except the most sensitive. Many folks may hate the thought of oil on the top (like my husband), but I’m happy to report I’ve found a great no-stir product (which can be found on my YouTube channel). I like my peanut butter salted (it comes salted and unsalted). It does have a tiny bit of sugar in it, but not as much as commercial brands.
Other good alternatives are true nut butters, like almond or cashew butter. LOL
“I came to see Lindy for help with sluggish adrenal glands and improve my eating. I am in good health, with no significant medical history, but Lindy identified a few areas of concern. I was already eating fairly healthy. After making some small changes to my diet and adding in gut health supplements, I began to notice significant changes within two weeks. I had severe inflammation that reduced, to the tune of losing 6 lbs in two weeks. Weight loss was not on my “to-do” list, but was an appreciated side effect of my new regimen. I was not deprived of food, nor did I go hungry, though avoiding processed sugar was the most difficult part- I have quite a sweet tooth! I feel “lighter” all over, stronger and have more energy. I plan to continue with Lindy’s suggestions and guidance for the long haul- there is not a chance that I will go back to my “before”. It’s simply not worth it! Do yourself the biggest favor and see Lindy Ford. She will change your life!” —Pilar W.
Want to learn more about peanut butter? Check out “The Skinny on Fats: Saturated Fats,” on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTpUVi7Xtb4&t=213s, or go here for more on PB, www.youtube.com/watch?v=upytoecOc3A.Lindy Ford, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist with Lindy Ford Nutrition & Wellness, LLC, Wilmington, NC. lindyfordwellness.com or 910.899.7954. Subscribe to her YouTube Channel for more gut health info: www.youtube.com/channel/UC_2NxGqQpr2r0VBp221LM7w/featured. Like her Facebook nutrition page at Lindy Ford Nutrition & Wellness. Follow her on Twitter @lindywellness.