In my Nutrition Response Testing practice, people occasionally ask me, “Is peanut butter bad for you?” They are typically looking at food intolerances and what to avoid.
When we start to look at peanut butter, first we need to look at what is in the peanut butter in your pantry. If you’re using a natural, organic peanut butter, made of nothing but nuts, then you’re in good shape. If yours reads something like this on the ingredient label, then we need to talk:
Roasted peanuts, Corn syrup solids, Sugar, Soy protein, Salt, Hydrogenated vegetable oils (cottonseed, soybean and rapeseed) to prevent separation and Mono and Diglycerides, Palm Oil, Minerals (Magnesium Oxide, Zinc Oxide, Ferric Orthophosphate, Copper Sulfate), Vitamins (Niacinimide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid)
This is the ingredient list for Skippy peanut butter.
The issue, of course, is what are all of these ingredients and why does peanut butter “need” them? Corn syrup solids and sugar are added to sweeten the nut butter. If you need it sweet, then sure, add some honey or natural jam (check the ingredients there too!). I don’t think soy is so great, but it’s the least of my concerns with these ingredients.
Watch Out for Hydrogenated Oils
The ingredient we need to understand is hydrogenated oils.
Hydrogenated oils are oils that are manmade and are normally liquid at room temperature. They have been altered to avoid rancidity. If it doesn’t go rancid then it can sit on the shelf longer and ultimately saves food manufacturers money.
The trans fats are a result of the hydrogenation process and trans fats are detrimental to our health. If a food label says either of these: hydrogenated oils or partially hydrogenated oils, then the food contains trans fats. Trans fats promote hyperactivity of the immune system and because of the inflammation it causes, is linked to several chronic diseases. Another concern is the effect it has on cholesterol. There are two kinds of cholesterol: the “good” (HDL) kind and the “bad”(LDL) kind. Trans fats actually raise our “bad” cholesterol and lowers our “good” cholesterol.
Trans fats and hyrogenated oils are often found in commercial baked goods such as crackers, cookies, and in shortening, margarine, and other processed foods.
In order to avoid these altered chemicals in our food, we need to be wise about what we choose to put in our bodies.
When it comes to nut butter, the easiest step to take is to purchase a natural, organic peanut butter made of nothing but peanuts.
What About Mold in Peanut Butter?
One other thing to be aware of: peanut butter is known to contain molds, specifically aflatoxins. Exposure to aflatoxins is linked to liver damage and cancer — obviously something no one wants. People who are sensitive to mold would especially benefit from avoiding peanuts, which can stimulate an inflammatory reaction.
From the National Cancer Institute, “Aflatoxins are a family of toxins produced by certain fungi that are found on agricultural crops such as maize (corn), peanuts, cottonseed, and tree nuts. The main fungi that produce aflatoxins are Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus, which are abundant in warm and humid regions of the world. Aflatoxin-producing fungi can contaminate crops in the field, at harvest, and during storage.”
The amount of aflatoxins in peanut butter varies by brand and source. In general, peanuts grown in the U.S. have less than peanuts gown in more humid climates.
A natural next step is to replace or add variety by swapping in other nut butters.
4 Nut Butters to Use in Place of Peanut Butter
1. Almond butter is pretty popular and for good reason. You get fat, protein, and fiber in a delicious spread.
2. Walnut butter is slightly lower in protein and fat than almond or peanut butter, but it supplies a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids. We’ve blended it at home when out of other nuts and seeds to make a tasty spread.
3. Cashew butter is lower in protein than almond or peanut butter, but it offers a smooth and slightly sweet taste that many enjoy.
4. Sunbutter, made from sunflower seeds, is a great choice for those who have allergies and for those in nut-free schools. I find it’s an easier switch to go from peanut butter to sunbutter than it is to transition to almond, walnut, or cashew. It has a sweet taste and smooth texture.
Nut Butter Recipes to Try
Try out these recipes and feel free to swap in your favorite nut or seed butter.
- Oatmeal Peanut Butter Bites
- High-Protein Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
- Peanut Butter Power Bites
- Peanut Butter Balls
- How to Make a Smoothie
If you suspect nuts might be causing issues for you, book a free discovery call to learn how Nutrition Response Testing can help you uncover and handle your sensitivities.