So today is Peanut Butter Day. (National Peanut Butter Day again, in fact, but you know… there really seems to be so few International days in January…)
Anyway, let’s go with peanut butter, and peanuts, for that matter, for today. Certainly an interesting snack. For starters, it’s made from the peanut (Arachis hypogaea) which, despite being called a nut is in fact a member of the legume or bean family. So they’re called nuts (and you sometimes even get them when you buy mixed nuts), but they’re not nuts. That’s just nuts!
Peanuts are used in many ways (eaten raw, roasted, made into peanut oil or flour, used in medicines), but none more rich and indulgent than good old peanut butter – a comfort food if ever there was one. Peanut butter is a rich source of protein, dietary fibre, vitamins B3 and E, magnesium, potassium and folic acid. It is also high in antioxidants and, though fatty, It has high levels of good, monounsaturated fat. The peanut oil in peanut butter has been reported to lower LDL (‘bad’) cholesterol without reducing HDL (‘good’) cholesterol.
And it contains high levels of niacin – a nutrient found to play an important role in the prevention of cognitive decline.
Not a bad mouthful, as such.
Aside from the obvious issue of peanut allergy, the downsides of peanut butter are not generic to peanuts, but rather concern the processing and additives involved in some brands. Some peanut butter brands, for example, contain added hydrogenated vegetable oils that are high in bad trans fatty acids, but this can be avoided by making sure you get freshly ground peanut butter made from peanuts, and peanuts only. Peanut butter is also said to have the potential to harbor Salmonella, but again I believe this is really only applicable to product that has not been properly handled during production, so it isn’t a generic problem either.
Thus, as long as you source responsibly produced, pure peanut butter, it seems you can pretty much snack worry-free (in moderation, of course).
Talking about worry-free snacking – people are always worried that peanut butter will make you fat. And sure enough, eating it by the tubfull certainly is likely to add up, but there are arguments that, eaten in moderation, it can actually help in weight management, as it’s rich taste and texture has been found to keep you fuller for longer than many other snacks.
Convinced? Then why not celebrate Peanut Butter Day with a chocolate-peanut butter-banana smoothie – if you can restrain yourself to a small serving (not easy!) it’s probably the simplest, most indulgent “good snack” you will taste in a while!