I’ve confessed in the past to being a “peanut butter addict.” I’ve tried abstaining from it, allowing myself one serving a day, and even replacing it with other nut butters. Nothing has worked. I’m hopelessly addicted and I’m ok with that. However, given that I refuse to cut off my relationship with my PB, I decided to do a little research on the subject.
What’s in your peanut butter?
If you look at nutrition labels when shopping, (which I hope everyone wants to know what they are actually eating) you will realize there are MANY peanut butter products loaded with junk ingredients such as, high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oil. Take a look at the ingredients in SKIPPY ; do you really want to eat that??
2nd ingredient is SUGAR, 3rd ingredient listed- HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OILS
And look at PETER PAN, which I have to admit taste amazing:
The SECOND ingredient is sugar and the THIRD is hydrogenated oil. Needless to say, these are not healthy options.
Even the brands that claim to be “natural” still may have unhealthy ingredients such as hydrogenated oils and sweeteners, myfitnesspal.com reports,
Be wary of “natural” peanut butter There is no specific regulation around the term “natural” . In fact, any food can carry this label as long as it doesn’t contain artificial flavors or synthetic substances. Generally, “natural” peanut butter means it is made with only 2 ingredients: peanuts and salt. But, when it comes to “natural” peanut butter, you have to watch out for the ingredients. Manufacturers can add sweeteners and partially hydrogenated oils and still call it “natural.”
In addition to the unhealthy ingredients in many brands, there is the issue of Aflatoxins which are toxins produced by molds that grow in soil. Peanut crops are particularly susceptible to these molds due to their soft shell. There is controversy regarding how harmful the Aflatoxins in Peanut Butter are when ingested.
Dr. Weil, a well-known holistic physician and author, reports in Perplexed About Peanuts– “The carcinogen you’re referring to is aflatoxin, a natural toxin produced by certain strains of the mold Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus that grow on peanuts stored in warm, humid silos. Peanuts aren’t the only affected crops. Aflatoxins have been found in pecans, pistachios and walnuts, as well as milk, grains, soybeans and spices. Aflatoxin is a potent carcinogen, known to cause liver cancer in laboratory animals and may contribute to liver cancer in Africa where peanuts are a dietary staple.”
THE GOOD AND NOT SO GOOD NEWS:
Per Authority Nutrition … according to one source, the processing of peanuts into peanut butter reduces the aflatoxins by 89% (12). Additionally, the USDA monitors the amounts of aflatoxins in foods and makes sure that they don’t go over recommended limits. However, I’m not sure I really trust these people very much as they have a track record of getting things wrong. I’m not sure if the amount of aflatoxins in peanut butter is something to be worried about. It seems plausible, especially if you eat it regularly.
Therefore, if you still don’t want to give up your peanut butter, here are tips to reduce your exposure to potential dangers from aflatoxins:
- Buy Organic Peanut butter– which will reduce your exposure to harmful toxins and pesticides.
- Always store your peanut butter in the refrigerator–To reduce aflatoxin exposure and fungal growth, always refrigerate your peanut butter. By placing your peanut butter in the refrigerator, you are stopping any fungus which may be present from multiplying
- Reduce the amount you consume or switch to another nut butter such as almond or cashew butter.
That being said, given the controversy, I will continue to eat peanut butter but I always buy organic and store it in the refrigerator. I’ve also started experimenting with nut butters such as sunflower seed butter and almond butter.