What’s the deal with peanut butter?

Do you have your affairs in order?
Do you have your affairs in order?

Let’s check out peanut butter as a case study.  This discussion will talk about toxins found in peanuts, hidden trans fat in 0% trans fat foods, and healthy and unhealthy oils.

Peanut butter is great.  It’s one of my favorite foods, but it’s a food I will only eat healthy versions of.

This first issue is toxins.  Peanuts are known to be susceptible to aflatoxins, which are produced by various types of fungus in food and are linked to liver problems and cancer.  The law requires low aflatoxin levels, but peanut butter always contains at least a small amount.  In 2004 the Food Standards Agency in the UK found that 5% of nut-based products had unacceptable levels of aflatoxins. Standards are improving, but the bottom line is this.  We don’t know what long term exposure to low levels of aflatoxins will result in.

While I’m not sure how much I should worry about aflatoxins, this next topic really pisses me off.  According to the FDA, the average American consumes 5.8 grams of trans fat DAILY.  Trans fat looks like plastic under a microscope and may cause cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, liver dysfunction, and cancer.  More on trans fat here.

Anyway, food corporations pulled a fast one on your food label.  The government made an exception wherein products may contain up to .5 grams of trans fat, and still claim there are zero grams of trans fat.  Given that there is no regulation of serving sizes, these small amounts can add up. If you look at the nutrition label for Skippy peanut butter, there are clearly partially hydrogenated oils listed.  These ARE trans fats.  Trans fats are listed as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (fully hydrogenated should contain no trans fats).

Let’s look at the evil marketing involved here.  They not only list 0% trans fat on the nutrition label, but shout it on the front as well.  This tactic can be seen with any number of snack foods, like potato chips.

One final point; you don’t want any hydrogenated oils, so what oils are healthy?  Cold pressed olive oil as well as coconut oil are great; they have lots of omega 3 fats, which promote cardiovascular health.  For high temperature cooking, use coconut oil or palm oil, which both have lots of healthy saturated fats that don’t break down under fire.  Butter, flax seed oil, pumpkin seed oil, caster oil, and cod liver oil are all fine.  That’s about it.

The bad oils.  Vegetable oils like soy bean, corn, safflower, sesame, and canola contain polyunsaturated fats, lots of omega 6’s, few omega 3’s, are often from genetically modified plants, and sometimes aren’t even real food (like cotton seed oil).

You always hear about omega 3 fatty acids; instead of these healthy fats, the American diet is loaded with omega 6 fatty acids.  This imbalance in our diet causes inflammation, arthritis, and heart disease, and a whole lot of it comes from vegetable oils.  Of all the plaque that clogs your arteries, only 27% is saturated fat; the rest is mostly polyunsaturated fat. If you look at our Skippy label again, you’ll see that it has three of these bad oils.

In conclusion, look for peanut butter with palm oil and as few strange sounding ingredients as possible and you should be alright.  We can’t resolve the aflatoxin problem, so eat at your own risk and if you’re worried about it consider limiting peanut intake.  I think Skippy’s natural peanut butter with palm oil isn’t bad, but there’s a range of organic and other peanut butters you can check out.  Many have nothing but peanuts and salt.

I’m out, you may now resume making fluffernutters and drinking RC Cola.

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12 responses to “What’s the deal with peanut butter?

  1. i love peanut butter. especially in my reese’s pieces peanut butter cups.

  2. sam, great blog. just finished reading all the articles written so far… haha, honestly: i am righ now sitting in the kitchen and somehow dont want to drink my soda anymore 🙂 go on with your research, i am gonna link you to my blog.

  3. I’d have to agree with Mr. Young. I’m a huge peanutbutter fan, so I read this article first. actually i’m eating peanut butter as we speak. I feel safer now, I just finished reading the label and there are no hydrogenated oils! (Of course, it’s in korean) 😉

  4. Great information. Keep up the great work!!

  5. interesting stuff… but i’m going to disagree with you on the palm oil. palm oil is a saturated, fully hydrogenated fat that is bad for you- it’s solid at room temperature and can raise your hdl/ldl levels.
    the best kind of PB to eat is one that’s all natural and is made up of peanuts and maybe a little salt.

  6. Sherry – that’s a good point. All natural peanut butters with no oils at all are great. But I disagree about palm oil. Palm oil is NOT fully hydrogenated; recently it’s been used as a replacement for hydrogenated oils. You can feel free to be scared of it because of the saturated fat, but I’m not. The only negative point I’ve read about palm oil is that it’s production contributes to deforestation. I’m going to talk about vegetable oils in the future, so we can duke it out later.


  7. okie dokie sam. you can enlighten me further when you get home.. but i have my doubts 🙂

  8. btw- i am VERY impressed with your site. great job.. and keep up the good work.

  9. Pingback: Making the case for Food Kills: examining the food industry « The New Food View

  10. Well sam,
    first of all aflatoxicosis is caused fungi that may be present on contaminated food products and its them which secrete toxins which we term as aflatoxins.these are not present in uncontaminated fresh nuts. so its safe to have peanut butter until there are no signs of fungul contamination. and secondly, safflower oil, soyabean oil and all others are very much safe because they are polyunsaturated fatty acids, in other words more reactive and acidic than fully saturated compounds because of presence of double and triple bonds and greater the reactivity the greater the ease of removing them from the system(body),secondly in terms of density it inscreases from unsaturated to saturated compounds and they are more solid at standard ambient temprature and pressure and let me remind you again fully hygrogenated and saturated are one and the same thing just that hydrogenation is synthetically done by additn of catalysed hydrogen (in presence of Ni,Cu(catlys.), & sfa’s r mjr cause of angina pectoris


  12. Pingback: So…what DO you eat?

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