I hear many questions about peanut butter, “Is it fattening?” being one of the most common. An individual food itself isn’t fattening; eating too much of anything can cause you to gain weight. Peanut butter happens to be rich in healthy fats, as are most nuts and seeds– and I recommend including them in your diet in moderation. Peanuts are actually technically a legume, however they have a similar nutrient profile to tree nuts due to their high fat content and are frequently included in the nut category.
Peanut butter is one of my favorite staple foods. It’s hard to believe there was a time when I considered any food that had fat in it off-limits. I sadly admit that I was a victim of Susan Powter’s brainwashing as a gullible college student. Twenty years ago my fear of fats was up there with the horror of public speaking and death, but a lot has changed since then. I now know that peanuts and peanut butter provide healthy nutrients for my body. That, along with the fact that they taste amazing and make me feel good. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t eat a handful of peanuts, an apple or celery with peanut butter, peanut butter and jelly on sprouted grain bread, a homemade dessert containing peanut butter or spicy peanut sauce on steamed vegetables.
There is a lot of confusion around peanut butter. Is it good? Is it bad? The answer is, it depends. All peanut butters are not created equal.
What kind to buy?
Read the ingredients on the jar. I know that is what I always say about everything but it honestly is as simple as that. If you want to know if what you are eating is good for you then you have to know what exactly has gone into it. The less that has been added, the better. Turn the jar around and look for the word “ingredients.” You should just see “peanuts” or “peanuts and salt.” Words to watch out for: sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils or fully hydrogenated oils.
If you see oil floating at the top of your jar when you first open it, this is a good thing! That is not added oil, that is the healthy, naturally occurring oil that separated from the peanuts after they were blended. If you open your peanut butter jar and it’s ready to spread– let this be a red flag– it most likely has trans fats added to it to keep it emulsified for convenience. Take a minute to stir up your peanut butter. Convenience or your health? Well, it’s up to you. Give the oil a good stir into the peanut butter with a knife or spoon and store it in the fridge where the cool temperature will keep it that way. Stir once, refrigerate and it’s ready to spread every time after that.
Reduced-fat peanut butters? Don’t bother. The calories are just about the same and the fat is reduced by a few grams– but remember that these are good-for-your fats-- and would you rather eat what they replaced some of the fat with: corn syrup solids and sugar?
Another option is to make your own. Your peanut butter will only be as good as the peanuts that it is made from. So (once again) read the ingredients on your container of peanuts.
These dry roasted peanuts by Planters are just “peanuts.”
(Find them at BJ’s!)
Be very careful. Some peanuts that LOOK like they should be just peanuts are actually: “peanuts, contains 2% or less of: sea salt, sugar, cornstarch, monosodium glutamate (flavor enhancer), gelatin, torula yeast, corn syrup solids, paprika, onion and garlic powders, spices (contains celery), natural flavor.” That is the actual ingredient list from a bag of dry roasted peanuts.
Yikes. I don’t want MSG, torula yeast (a byproduct of paper production?–what the heck?) or gelatin in my food thank you.
Place your peanuts in a food processor. Make as much or as little as you want.
If you like your peanut butter salted, add a pinch or two of salt before (or during) blending. There is nothing wrong with adding a little good quality salt for flavor enhancement when making food.
Let them blend. At first it will look like this:
Starting to get crumbly.
Keep processing. The peanut oils begin to break down and it will start to clump up:
Be patient and keep processing! You can use a spoon to break up the clump to help it along. After a few minutes you have nice, creamy smooth peanut butter:
If you like chunky, this is the time to add in some more dry roasted peanuts and pulse your food processor a few times. Use a spatula to remove your peanut butter from the processor and into a glass container. Store in the fridge.
Did you know peanut butter has almost 200 calories per 2 tablespoon serving? While a nutritious and delicious addition to your diet, bear this in mind and be conscious of how much you eat! Pair it up in small amounts with fresh produce like a sliced apple, a banana, carrot or celery sticks, bell peppers or spread on a sweet ooey-gooey medjool date.
Recipes to try that call for peanut butter:
- Homemade Cinnamon Almond Raisin Granola
- Homemade Peanut Butter Cookie Lara Bars
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip
- Easy 4-Ingredient Peanut Butter Fudge
- Quinoa Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting
- Peanut Butter Fudge Squares
- Banana Soft-Serve
- No-Bake Granola Bars
- Nutterbutter N’Jam Cookies
- Peanut Sauce
- Kicker Bars
- PB&J Kale Chips
- Peruvian Peanut Potato Soup
- Apple Raisin Peanut Butter Quinoa
A few fun facts from the National Peanut Board:
- Peanut butter is the leading use of peanuts in the USA
- The world’s largest peanut butter factory churns out 250,000 jars of the tasty treat every day
- Two peanut farmers have been elected president of the USA – Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter
- There are six cities in the U.S. named Peanut: Peanut, CA; Lower Peanut, PA; Upper Peanut, PA; Peanut, PA, Peanut, TN; and Peanut WV
- Peanuts have more protein, niacin, folate and phytosterols than any nut