It's Peanut Butter Time!
The ooey gooey goodness of blended peanuts ends up in our breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. And sometimes straight out of the jar or pouch. So we figured it’s time to stop stirring things up and set the record straight on peanut butter!
The Current Pickle
The Pickle posits that you probably know someone with a peanut allergy. The peanut allergy among children rose more than threefold from 1997 to 2010 (and 25-40% of those with a peanut allergy are also allergic to tree nuts). We’re getting quizzical looks from researchers: no one can quite explain the increase though hypotheses range from our immune systems looking for something to do to the protein in the peanut changing when it’s roasted (and thus making it more allergenic).
If you or a loved one has the allergy, be aware that food companies are legally obligated to state that their products contain peanuts, but it’s optional for them to state that their products are made in a facility that also processes nuts. Even so, help may soon be on the way! NC A&T is currently testing an allergy-free peanut on mice. If the trial goes well, human trials are up next! And a capsule and a patch to help folks with the allergy are also in the works. Peanut butter for everyone! 🎉
If peanut butter dines with you regularly, you’ve made a great choice! As we suggested for peanuts, find a peanut butter that is lower in sodium and also has no added sugar. A few other Pickle pointers on the nutritional side:
- Don’t be wary of the saturated fat in peanut butter—Harvard Professor of Nutrition Walter Willett tells that as long as we don’t eat too much saturated fat (think: less than a few grams per day—there are just over 3 in peanut butter) we’re doing ok!
- Peanut butter has way more of the good unsaturated fats, which “helps reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and lower the risk of heart disease.”
- Avoid any peanut butter that includes hydrogenated (or partially-hydrogenated) vegetable oils. This makes the peanut butter thicker and prevents oil from separating, which raises your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, upping your risk for heart disease. Like we said, avoid!!
- Don’t go overboard! Peanut butter can also pack on the calories. We like the 2 tablespoons per day guideline!
What’s the Dillio with Separation?
We’ve heard you wax poetic about your struggles with the peanut butter jar. Or is it better to describe what happens with the peanut butter jar as a sparring match between friends? Either way, let’s prevent separation anxiety! Separation occurs when you’ve bought the good stuff. 👍 The natural oils in your good peanut butter will separate at room temperature and float to the top. Do not despair!
- Stir well! Pouring it off saves only a gram or two of fat per serving, and makes the pb dense and dry rather than creamy and sticky, so just stir it in and enjoy!
- Store on its side to make stirring easier
- Get into the refrigerator—once cold, those oils will stabilize a bit and separation won’t be quite so bad
- OR store the jar upside down!
When you’re shopping, follow these guidelines:
- Look for organic or natural.
- Ingredients should just be peanuts and salt.
- If you see palm oil (used to prevent separation), you’re probably also now noticing that you bought peanut butter spread (FDA guidelines state food producers have to label any peanut butter with additional ingredients as a spread). Best to avoid those—remember that saturated fat number? Well, there is 7g of saturated fat in a tablespoon of palm oil! (Pickle soapbox: workers at non-sustainable palm plantations are often children, are paid unethical wages, and exposed to highly hazardous pesticides. Support companies that are committed to sourcing palm oil appropriately.)
- As mentioned above, avoid PBs with trans fats or hydrogenated oils.
- Don't worry about crunchy vs. creamy! They are nutritionally similar, though crunchy edges slightly over creamy with more fiber & less saturated fat: a bit surprising given nearly 60% of Americans prefer creamy over crunchy in the Great Peanut Butter Debate!
- We love this list of peanut butters to avoid and peanut butters to grab! TLDR: avoid added sugars, salts, and hydrogenated oils!
The Hot Pickle
It’s (FINALLY!!!) peanut butter jelly time! The American food landscape continues to be thrilled by the simple sandwich (have you ever thought about grilling it?). We’ve now got a Peanut Butter & Jelly Manifesto and a guy with plans for a Peanut Butter & Jelly Deli. Athletes at the top of their game swear by the sammie: Skippy’s creamy for Steph Curry from the Warriers–clearly he needs to read The Pickle!—and a young Bill Belichick prefers crunchy PB on both sides of the bread.