WHAT? How dare I insult that creamy, delectable spread that brings back fond memories of childhood? After all, it has protein (whatever that means), so its healthier than cream cheese on my bagel, right?
Unfortunately, what most of us associate with the phrase “peanut butter” is bad for us on so many levels:
Many brands contain high fructose corn syrup or table sugar. Over time, frequent consumption of these sweeteners strips the body of certain minerals, like chromium, and inhibits our cells’ receptivity to insulin (which can ultimately lead to diabetes).
But even in the short term, putting all that sugar in your body in the morning may cause you to crash before lunch. Not part of a healthy breakfast.
Most peanut butter brands contain hydrogenated oils. These products are created by bubbling up hydrogen through a vat of hot, poly-unsaturated oil, like canola. This process allows a liquid fat to become a solid, giving peanut butter its creamy texture.
But the trouble with this chemical reaction is that it frequently creates fat molecules called Trans-Fats, which get easily wedged within our arteries due to their unnatural shape. The result is a chemical that scientists eventually realized was far more harmful to cardiac health than the saturated fats they intended to replace them with. (which weren’t all that harmful to begin with).
Now, some of you might be saying,
“Yeah, well, I buy the natural stuff that doesn’t have any sugar in it. Just 100% crushed nuts.”
And that’s great. It’s certainly light-years better than the chemical-laden brands that most of us recognize. But even the natural peanut butters contain phytic acid–a naturally occurring “anti-nutrient” that prevents the body from absorbing essential minerals. In fact, you can develop significant nutrient deficiencies if you consume enough phytates.
Scientists believe that these chemicals are a defense mechanism that plants developed in order to prevent their seeds from being crushed and consumed. You see, most plants don’t mind having their seeds eaten, because the animals will presumably not digest the seeds, and they will pass through the animal’s digestive tract unharmed. The result is a great boon for the plant, because its genetic material gets spread long distances.
However, plants don’t want their seeds to be crushed, because it kills their progeny. So scientists believe that many plants like wheat, almonds, and peanuts, developed phytic acid as a way to deter animals from munching on seeds.
So What About My Sammich?
Thankfully, there is hope for peanut butter lovers like myself. You can make your own at home by soaking and roasting the nuts, then blending them with a little coconut oil. The resulting concoction won’t contain many phytates, as the soaking and roasting process deactivates these chemicals. Furthermore, natural, healthy coconut oil (a saturated fat) will make the texture rich and creamy.
You may think that’s a lot of work for a product that’s normally so cheap and easy, but keep in mind that maintaining a healthy lifestyle isn’t for the faint of heart. Also, remember that even these natural, homemade nut-butters are highly caloric. You only want to consume them every once and a while, and in small quantities.
Hopefully that will get you thinking a little more about replacing some of the staple items in your pantry with healthy alternatives. Have a particularly tasty recipe for soaked, roasted, sprouted, or fermented nut butter? Post it below!