Peanut Butter, Health, and the Planet

written by James May 18, 2017

Peanut butter is one of the most delicious things in the world, but it’s obnoxiously not often sold as simply as it should be. Great peanut butter should contain only one ingredient… peanuts. All that should happen is a bunch of peanuts are smashed/crushed/ground, put in a jar, and then I eat half of it straight from the jar before falling asleep in front of the TV watching last week’s Jeopardy I recorded.

But look at the ingredients in most peanut butter jars. Almost all of them have added sugar! Not surprising since about 70% of pre-packaged foods have added sugar. It’s added to freaking everything because it is delicious and literally addictive. But we of course want to avoid added sugar when following just about any type of sensible diet, and especially one that works to cultivate a healthy gut microbiome and manage digestive issues like IBD, Crohn’s, colitis, celiac, whatever.

So check that your peanut butter does not have added sugar. You’ll be surprised that even expensive organic hippy dippy looking brands will still have added sugar. I’m talking about you Whole Foods Organic Peanut Butter.

Additionally, you’ll see that some peanut butters also contain palm oil. What the hell is palm oil?!? Well I can tell you that palm oil is just about one of the worst things you can purchase if you care about the planet. Ridiculous quantities of rain forest are cleared out in order to cultivate palm oil which simply serves as a cheaper oil for food manufacturers. So if you like trees, or orangutans, or the future, then please look to avoid foods with palm oil.

So look for peanut butter without sugar or palm oil. It should only contain peanuts, roasted peanuts, and salt is okay too. Then you’re left with a delicious jar of magic high in protein and fat.

Some diets, such as paleo, avoid peanuts since they are legumes that contain phytates. Phytates or phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that inhibits your bodies ability to ingest other nutrients eaten at the same time. Personally, I have not seen compelling evidence that they phtic acid content of peanuts is significantly different from other seeds, nuts, or whole grains that also contain phytate. Additionally, it only inhibits nutrient digestion in that meal, so what you eat a few hours later should be unaffected. But to be fair, this is a topic I’d like to learn more about and am open to being persuaded by a paleo expert.

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