Sunday, October 24, 2010

Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter.

We've all eaten it hundreds of times. Many of us grew up on it. It's a common staple food in America. It's cheap source of protein that requires no cooking and no refrigeration.

Peanut butter, is also, quite tasty. I miss peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I miss them because for the most part I try to avoid this food. I do eat it, but not regularly. I choose other nut butters such as almond or sunflower seed butter.

If you do choose to eat peanut butter it is very important to choose organic. Peanuts are often rotated with cotton crops to put the nitrates back in the soil that the cotton took out. Cotton crops are heavily sprayed with pesticides since we don't eat cotton. When the peanuts are planted the following year after cotton their oils pick up the pesticides making peanuts a heavily toxic food. In general foods that are oily absorb chemicals (which is way you should keep oils and oily foods in glass jars).

If you only ate one food that is organic it should be peanut butter. But peanuts have additional problems as well. Peanuts are easily subject to mold. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about it:

"The peanut plant is susceptible to the mold Aspergillus flavus which produces carcinogenic substance called aflatoxin.[10] Since it is impossible to completely remove every instance of aflatoxins, contamination of peanuts and peanut butter is monitored in many countries to ensure safe levels of this carcinogen. In 1990, a study showed that average American peanut butter contained an average of 5.7 parts per billion of aflatoxins, per the US Food and Drug Administration guidelines of 20 parts per billion"

Peanuts grown in the south are especially subject to this. Peanuts grown in drier climates have less issues with mold and aflatoxins.

Here is some info from wikipedia on aflatoxins:
"Aflatoxins are naturally occurring mycotoxins that are produced by many species of Aspergillus, a fungus, most notably Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. Aflatoxins are toxic and among the most carcinogenic substances known.[1] After entering the body, aflatoxins may be metabolized by the liver to a reactive epoxide intermediate or be hydroxylated and become the less harmful aflatoxin."

Above are some great reasons not to eat peanuts. However, peanuts have been used as a food source for many years. What other benefits to peanuts offer?

According to Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition

"Peanut: Warming thermal nature; sweet flavor; affects lungs and spleen-pancreas; lubricates the intestines; harmonizes the stomach. Used to increase the milk supply of nursing mothers (add roasted peanuts to rice or millet soup),  to stop bleeding including hemophilia and blood in the urine (eat raw peanuts), to treat deafness (eat raw peanuts), and to lower blood pressure (drink tea of shells). Note: in the above remedies, use the whole peanut, including the thin brown skin. Caution: Peanuts can cause skin outbreaks. They also greatly slow the metabolic rate of the liver. Therefore they should be avoided by overweight, damp, sluggish, yeast-infected, or cancerous persons. If eaten moderately, peanuts can benefit the person with fast metabolism such as the thin, nervous person who digests food quickly"

This explains why we are so attracted to feeding peanut butter to children. It slows down their fast metabolism and acts as a nourishing food. But is peanut butter safe to feed to children? That is for you to decide on your own. I have yet to give any peanut butter to my 17 month old and if I can help it I would like to keep it from him for another year or so. Peanuts can also be highly allergenic, which is not surprising considering the amounts of toxins they can potentially hold.

I still eat peanut butter. But I do not eat it often. I keep my jar of peanut butter in the fridge to help it last a long time. Peanut butter, even organic peanut butter, is pretty affordable compared to other nut butters. Nut butters can be an expensive food but they are worth the extra money. If you buy them recognize them for being a strong food and use them wisely to help stretch your dollar.  Even better you can also make your own nut butters with a food processor.

Artisana Organic Raw Almond Butter 16oz

Make your own nut butter by placing nuts in a food processor and adding a bit of oil as needed to help it turn to butter. Coconut or palm oil is a good choice, but you can use any oil. Try to avoid soy oil and canola oil.

And last here is some more information about peanut butter from Nourishing Traditions
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats

"The Peanut is a legume that is particularly rich in protein and fat. It is an excellent source of niacin, pantothenic acid and biotin as well as other B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, calcium and potassium. Peanuts are also rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes a healthy nervous system. As peanuts are often grown as a rotation crop with cotton, a heavily sprayed commodity, it is important to buy only organic peanuts and peanut butter. The carcinogenic mold aflatoxin that sometimes develops in peanuts, especially those grown in moist climates, is virtually neutralized by cooking or soaking. Peanuts should never be eaten raw. Buy freshly ground peanut butter made from roasted organic peanuts or make your own peanut butter."

Sally Fallon holds a more positive view of peanut butter than I do, saying it holds no problems if cooked and organic. What do you think about peanut butter? Does it have a place in every fridge? Do you think it's a safe food for children?

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