is peanut butter healthy?
Education, Food Truth, Go Green, Macronutrients, Nutrient Basics, Nutrition Tips, The Great Outdoors, Toxins

Is Peanut Butter Healthy?

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches may go down in history as one of the true comfort foods that brings you right back to your childhood. Back to the good ol’ days when nothing much mattered other than whose lunch you got to trade with or if you were going to be picked for a team at recess. Boy does time fly… sigh. Those ooey gooey, rich and creamy but oh so sweet and satisfying PB&Js. It really is no wonder they have become an all time American favorite, but is there something that we are missing? Is peanut butter healthy?

Now everyone hold onto your seat here because this is not going to be all that pleasant. Dad – if you are out there reading, listen up.

 

Mr Peanut


We have all grown up thinking that if we did not go into anaphylaxis shock from a peanut allergy then peanut butter and peanuts were a health food, Right?

Wrong. Mr. Peanut may have made a few big lies, because peanut butter is actually a toxic and not inherently healthy food.

 

Peter Pan Peanut Butter Ad

 

#1. Peanuts contain Aflatoxins – a Carcinogen

Yup, you heard it right here… peanuts contain aflatoxins, which are naturally occurring mycotoxins produced by a species of Aspergillus, a fungus. These mycotoxins have actually been shown to be one of the most carcinogenic (meaning they cause cancer) substances, and have been found to target the liver. This leads to damage of the liver tissue, reduced functioning of our detoxification pathways, and potentially (worst case scenario) cirrhosis and cancer.

While adults have a higher immune response against aflatoxins, making acute aflatoxicosis rare, chronic exposure to aflatoxins, say from eating peanut butter in larger amounts daily, leads to a high risk of developing liver cancer. Not to mention, aflatoxins actually cause mutations in our genes. Yowza!

The even worst part is that children are much more susceptible to aflatoxin damage. Chronic exposure to these aflatoxins have actually shown to lead to stunted growth and delayed development. I don’t know if there is enough spinach they could eat to overcome that one.

*Update: the U.S. government tests crops for aflatoxin and doesn’t permit them to be used for human or animal food if they contain levels over 20 parts per billion. We don’t know much about the dangers of long-term exposure to low levels of aflatoxins or about the cumulative effect from eating various food sources of aflatoxins. Therefore, we cannot be sure that the levels of aflatoxins present in peanuts is completely harmless or not. By the way, preliminary research from Johns Hopkins University suggests that a chlorophyll compound in green vegetables like spinach may inhibit aflatoxin’s carcinogenic effects. So may phytochemicals in celery, carrots, parsnips and related vegetables, according to a study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology.

 

Peanut Butter

 

#2. Conventional Peanut Butter contains TRANS FATS (hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils)

As if the aflatoxins were not enough to deal with, now we are faced with Trans Fatty Acids, probably one of the most toxic food substances we are dealing with today. Trans-fatty acids are by far the worst fats on the market. These fats are highly toxic and cause you to get fat to say the least. These are the result of a highly toxic process to make them more stable and therefore have an extremely long shelf life. Hydrogenation is the process of taking a plant oil, adding a nickel catalyst to them, heating them, and then removing the nickel catalyst. The result is a highly toxic fat that causes a host of problems in the body.

The number one problem is that they are used to make our cell’s membranes (the cells protection shield), and they do a extremely poor job at it. As a result, our cells become highly permeable and weak, preventing them from being able to protect themselves against harmful invaders such as viruses, bacteria and even our friend the aflatoxin. As a result, you greatly increase your chances of disease, cancers and inflammation.

JIF label

Not to mention, Trans fatty acids are extremely harmful to the body, so much so that they have been banned from use in New York City. They have been found to cause:

–    Cardiovascular Disease

–    Heart Attacks

–    High Cholesterol

–    Type 2 Diabetes

–    Obesity

–    Alzheimer’s Disease

–    Chronic Inflammation

Peanut Butter

 

#3. Peanut Butter often contains ROASTED peanuts, which equals RANCID fats

Peanuts and all other nuts contain high levels of naturally occurring fats/oils. Fats and oils are heat sensitive, and when they get heated to high temperatures, they become rancid. So the problem is that ROASTING nuts actually causes their fat content to go rancid. As a result, we are ingesting rotten fats that act similarly to trans fatty acids in the body. Therefore, we only want to eat nuts RAW (soaked and sprouted is even better).

Peanut Butter Ad

 

#4. Peanut Butter often is made with WHITE SUGAR

Now what’s the harm in a little white sugar if we already are eating trans fatty acids, rancid fats and alfatoxins, right? Well, I think you know the answer. White sugar is never good no matter what form. White sugar acts like a drug in the body, causing cravings for more and more sugar and even carbohydrates. Not to mention, white sugar is literally FOOD for all those nasty guys in the body. Think bacteria, fungus (candida), cancer and parasites. So the more we eat, the more they feast. I could write a whole book on why white sugar is terrible for you, but just a few little highlights to drive the message home:

  • Sugar increases cholesterol
  • Sugar leads to diabetes
  • Sugar causes food allergies
  • Sugar can impair the structure of our DNA
  • Sugar can contribute to eczema and dandruff
  • Sugar causes fatigue and weight gain
  • Sugar feeds cancer cells
  • Sugar causes premature aging
  • Sugar causes low-level inflammation

*Not all sugars are created equal, so remember we are talking about white sugar here, also known as cane sugar and brown sugar.

White Sugar

#5. Peanut Butter often contains Palm Oil 

Palm oil is a type of vegetable oil that is highly processed causing it to loose much of its nutritional value. Furthermore, companies claim that palm oil is a good alternative to trans fatty acids, although its molecular structure is actually quite similar. In fact, studies have shown that it causes the same rise in bad “LDL” cholesterol levels as trans fats, proving it to be almost as detrimental to our health as trans fats. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, World Health Organization, and other health authorities have urged reduced consumption of oils like palm oil. I will also mention that there are papers out there claiming that palm oil is actually beneficial to our health, but those studies are almost exclusively done by the manufacturers of palm oil themselves… biased maybe?

Palm Seeds by Wodu Media

Unfortunately palm oil’s effects on health are not the only reasons to stay away from it, palm oil is actually a leading cause of environmental destruction.

The following was reported on the environmental impact of palm oil by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “The vast plantations that grow oil palm trees have contributed to the destruction of the rainforest and wildlife of Southeast Asia. Oil palm plantations, along with logging, fires, and other factors, destroy rainforest habitat, hinder migration patterns, and block travel corridors. Roads and plantations fragment the rainforest, facilitate encroaching settlements, and make animals accessible to illegal hunting and poaching. If they enter plantations while searching for food outside the rainforest, animals may be killed by workers. They are also at risk when plantation companies set forest fires to clear land for oil palm; some fires burn out of control, demolishing much larger areas than anticipated.

The demand for palm oil is forecast to double by 2020. To achieve that production increase, 1,160 new square miles will have to be planted every year for 20 years. Indonesia has 26,300 square miles more forest land officially allocated for new oil palm plantations; Malaysia has almost 3,000 square miles more. The expected thousands of square miles of new plantings on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo could kill off the remaining orangutans, rhinos, and tigers.”

Palm Oil deforestation from GreenPeace

 

The Good News: Raw Nut Butters are the PERFECT Alternative!

So in good Holy Kale fashion, I am not going to leave you high and dry without a awesome, yet healthy replacement. Ditch the peanut butter and get yourself some raw nut butter alternatives. Free of added sugars, palm oil, rancid oils, trans fats and those nasty aflatoxins, raw nut butters are the perfect alternative. PLUS they come in all shapes and sizes.

Artisana Nut Butters

We are no longer limited to just one kind of butter, that being from the peanut, but have many options to choose from. Just simply click the links below to get yourself some 🙂

Pistachio butter

Macadamia butter

Cashew butter

Walnut butter

Pecan butter

Almond butter

Brazil nut butter

Hazelnut butter

Oh ya, and guess what?!! There are even butters made from seeds!

Hemp butter

Chia seed butter

Pumpkin seed butter

Sesame seed butter (tahini)

Just remember to read the labels. Make sure that it is RAW, meaning it does not say “roasted,” and does not have added sugars. Or, you can always make your own!

Pistachio Butter by Arismenu.com

If you have any homemade nut butter recipes please share! We always are looking for more ways to incorporate these delicious butters and get our kids away from the bad stuff 🙂 Remember, we are looking at this as not something that we have to take away, but as a bunch of new exciting things we get to add!

 

References:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090502084827.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aflatoxin

http://www.cspinet.org/

http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food-safety/article/aflatoxin-peanuts

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36 Comments

  • Reply Kibby March 29, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Fantastic article, Lauren! I totally agree with you on this and tell it to many people myself. I will share this post/link on my Thoughtful Thursday post next week. I LOVE making my own nut/seed butters. So easy and economical! Here’s one recipe that breaks it down for you: http://kibbysblendedlife.com/diy-homemade-almond-nut-butter/ I am making some pecan nut butter tonight – fantastic. Same concept as the almond butter. Thanks for this great article! 🙂

  • Reply jo March 31, 2013 at 4:24 am

    But what does the natural peanut butter taste like? I’ve given up so much, but oh how I LOVE Jif. There is nothing else like it. The natural ones I have tried are so blah.

    • lauren
      Reply lauren March 31, 2013 at 3:01 pm

      Hi Jo – you are used to the high fructose corn syrup which is EXTREMELY sweet, plus it creates almost an addiction due to its chemical-like nature. This is the problem is that these foods are not real and great dependencies. PLUS they make us forget what real food tastes like! Try almond butter or cashew butter… so delicious!

      • Reply Carolian May 8, 2015 at 3:36 pm

        Hi all,

        Lauren.
        I think your article has very interesting points, however people should know that almond butter and cashew butter can never be raw! Selling raw almonds is illegal in US and cashews are only edible after taking them out of a shell by means of heat. I’d bet that all the other nuts in those butters are also put into hight temperatures to avoid spoiling while in storage and kill bacterias etc. So all those butters technically also contain RANID oils, just like peanut butter.
        AND one can find organic peanut butters free of any other added ingredient.

        • Lauren aka The Holy Kale
          Reply Lauren aka The Holy Kale May 12, 2015 at 3:37 pm

          Hi Carolian, there are many ways to pasteurize almonds, including blanching, oil roasting, steaming and using propylene oxide (PPO). PPO is a compound approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for use to pasteurize food products such as nuts, cocoa powder and spices. According to FDA, when raw almonds are pasteurized, if their composition does not fundamentally change they still may be labeled as raw. Pasteurized almonds have the same nutrient profile as unpasteurized almonds, which is why purchasing RAW is the best option. As for cashews, yes, most cashew nuts labeled “raw cashew nuts” are not truly “raw” in that they have been heat processed in order to remove the nut from the toxic shell. You may ask why they label it “raw” then? Most companies label it “raw” because raw Cashews are never pasteurized or steamed, leaving nutrients and enzymes intact, which is the basis for purchasing raw foods in the first place. Finally, peanut butter regardless of the additives contains the highest levels of aflatoxins, making other nut butters the preferred choice. Hope this helps!

  • Reply Daniela March 31, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    So the only unhealthy butter is peanut butter even if raw?aww.. So sad

    • lauren
      Reply lauren March 31, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      Try Almond… you will not be sad any longer! Or even pine nut butter.

      • Reply Nikki April 20, 2013 at 3:50 pm

        Who could afford to make enough pine nut butter to replace a PB habit?

        • lauren
          Reply lauren April 22, 2013 at 10:00 pm

          Hahaha Yes, very true. Fortunately the other butters are more affordable.

  • Reply Amanda March 31, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Love this article, when I started changing my diet I got over excited in the best way possible and started making EVERYTHING from scratch, including this almond butter http://www.healthfulpursuit.com/2011/08/vanilla-almond-flax-butter/ and it rocked my world. I since haven’t always been able to make my own but I try as often as possible. I have made cashew butter and coconut butter and it is super tasty to mix coconut butter with almond butter, yum, my favorite.I have never heard of chia seed butter though, very cool.

    • lauren
      Reply lauren March 31, 2013 at 2:59 pm

      Awesome Amanda! It is sooo great to make your own because you can even soak and sprout the nuts, dehydrate them and then make them into butter. The fresher the better!! I had never seen Chia Seed Butter either but definitely have to give it a try. So high in calcium, potassium, and omega 3 fatty acids.

  • Reply » Thoughtful Thursday Kibby's Blended Life April 4, 2013 at 4:34 pm

    […] ♥ Peanut Butter… It’s Healthy, Right? – Nope!  It’s not!  I was talking to someone just the other day about this issue regarding peanut butter and this article covers it all and more. Come learn why and check out my homemade almond butter recipe instead. […]

  • Reply Sarah Barendse May 28, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    While this is true of commercial peanut butters, your story is intended to scare people away from ALL peanut butter… That is just irresponsible. Natural peanut butter (I have watched it being made) is purely squished raw peanuts. It IS healthy for you. (though i agree no one needs to eat it every single day……….eating anything every single day is not healthy – moderation is key.

    • lauren
      Reply lauren May 28, 2013 at 1:41 pm

      Hi Sarah, I am sorry you thought my intention was to scare people, I simply provide the information and never try to scare people from doing anything they believe in. The problem is that I have seen so many cases in my clinic and with my colleagues where people deal with serious chronic conditions due to aflatoxins from consuming peanut butter – in fact there are actual studies being done in regards to aflatoxin posioning and human health that a company I work with is involved in. And while you may have access to peanut butter made from raw peanuts, unfortunately the majority of people do not. Thank you for your input!

  • Reply Jessica June 12, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    So does this mean that raw, organic peanut butter (without anything added) is also bad for you? Or is just commercial peanut butter bad? Are organic, raw peanuts bad for you too?

    • lauren
      Reply lauren June 19, 2013 at 1:39 pm

      Hi Jessica, unfortunately ALL peanuts contain aflatoxins. So yes, check out some other nut butters and nuts to snack on!

      • Reply Barbara August 12, 2013 at 10:54 pm

        I looked for almond butter today and couldn’t afford it! $20.00 for a small jar. I haven’t looked all over for it yet, I just found it in my grocery store in the organic food section. WHERE can I get it cheaper than that!???

        • lauren
          Reply lauren August 13, 2013 at 5:16 pm

          Hi Barbara – check on Vitacost.com – they have it for $10.00

          • Cooper August 13, 2014 at 12:41 am

            Do you know of the ‘jungle” variety? Free of the aflatoxins! So good. SO GOOD! Raw and heirloom.

            Essential Living Foods know their business!

          • Lauren aka The Holy Kale
            Lauren aka The Holy Kale August 19, 2014 at 1:33 pm

            Oh yes! Great suggestion… I love the ELF wild jungle peanut butter. You just have to make sure that you are not expecting it to taste like the regular kind. They have their own unique flavor.

  • Reply John P. Winant October 10, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Just found a 2013 nickel in the bottom of jar of kid I bought a week ago

  • Reply Tasha October 17, 2013 at 12:11 am

    Aren’t the almonds available in the U.S. all pasteurized? I had been buying them in bulk under a “raw” label but was informed by the buying agent that because of some health scare, all commercially available almonds were now being flash pasteurized. (I mentioned to him thay my almonds weren’t sprouting like they used to.) I would love to see info on this if you have the time! Thanks!

    • lauren
      Reply lauren October 27, 2013 at 6:18 pm

      Hi Tasha, yes the majority are pasteurized, but you can find them that are not.. I would suggest looking online. Raw, sprouted are best.

  • Reply connie October 23, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    It would sure be nice to be able to print out the article to be able to share it with others that don’t have a computer and I just found article by accident.

    • lauren
      Reply lauren October 27, 2013 at 5:44 pm

      Hi Connie, I have had a lot of problems with plagiarism, so I cannot allow people to copy the content. Sorry.

  • Reply Emil November 2, 2013 at 11:02 am

    hmm.. I dont really see the point. Of course the raw butter is more healthy, but your list could be cut in half, if you actually choose good quality natural pn butter, without added sugar or fats. Or even better, make your own.

    • lauren
      Reply lauren November 5, 2013 at 8:59 pm

      Hi Emil, yes if you get a high-quality butter that is true, but there are still aflatoxins. As a clinician I have seen a lot of health conditions, some quite severe, due to aflatoxin exposure. There are quite serious side effects, even just from small quantities but at long-term consumption.

  • Reply Karolyn February 10, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Superb website you have here but I was curious if you knew of any discussion boards that cover the same topics talked
    about here? I’d really love to be a part of group where
    I can get suggestions from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
    If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Many thanks!

    My web site; hcg diet x30 (Karolyn)

    • Lauren aka The Holy Kale
      Reply Lauren aka The Holy Kale February 13, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      Hi Karolyn, no we just all use the comment section to create a discussion. But the idea of a forum is interesting. I will think about that.

  • Reply Anna February 26, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Dear Lauren,

    Peanuts do not “naturally” contain Aflatoxins. They are very prone to get contaminated with the fungus aspergillus flavus or aspergillus parasiticus which produces the toxin. Aflatoxins are very spread in the nature due to the mold fungus that can also grow on badly stored grain of all sorts. As peanuts already grow under the earth, the fungus has an easy walk-over. But it is also often found on pistaccios or almonds that were not properly stored… I am just saying that Aflatoxins can also grow on other natural products, they are not part of the natural composition of a peanut..

    • Lauren aka The Holy Kale
      Reply Lauren aka The Holy Kale February 27, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      Hi Anna, yes you are correct. The verbiage I use is more for the fact that because the fungus is so prevalent, it is nearly impossible to find peanuts without the fungus (not known to my knowledge). The fungus can also grow on grains, seeds and other nuts, but peanuts due to how they grow, as you mentioned, are the worst offenders. I personally recommend taking an internal bentonite clay (clean source only) to bind to these toxins for clearance from the body since this toxin is so pervasive. Thanks for the input!

      • Reply Anna March 5, 2014 at 12:41 pm

        Dear Laura,

        thank you for your answer. Me and my familiy have stopped eating peanuts a while ago and switched over to almonds. Only the thought that almonds may also be contaminated with the fungus makes me nervous. Especially because I always thought that including nuts in my diet helps to avoid cancer. It is just strange that living an organic food-based life does not necessarily mean you are “safe”. We have to “think on”… So glad to read about the bentonite clay. I didn’t know it may help to bind these kind of toxins. Thank you for that information..

  • Reply Ryan January 13, 2015 at 1:28 am

    I was wondering if peanuts contain more aflotoxins than compared to the other foods that commonly contain it?
    From wikipedia: (The staple commodities regularly contaminated with aflatoxins include cassava, chillies, corn, cotton seed, millet, peanuts, rice, sorghum, sunflower seeds, tree nuts, wheat, and a variety of spices intended for human or animal consumption.)
    Can you sight data that can give us some perspective?

    • Lauren aka The Holy Kale
      Reply Lauren aka The Holy Kale February 1, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      Hi Ryan, if you look through countless reports from the FDA, USDA, growing and farming regulation boards and research studies centered around mycotoxins (the larger group that contains aflatoxin), you will see that peanuts always end up being more contaminated than other nuts such as almonds, macadamia, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, and
      hazelnuts. Even though these other nuts are susceptible to aflatoxin contamination, samples have been largely in compliance (less than 1% adversely affected) for the past several years.

  • Reply Joyful May 7, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    This blog post was very helpful and informative. Thank you so much for sharing. I heard in the wind that there was something wrong with peanut butter but I didn’t know what. You answered all my questions. Continue the Good work!

  • Reply Jennifer August 3, 2016 at 5:07 pm

    It’s interesting that, despite contamination, eating peanuts (not necessarily peanut butter, though some PB is just mashed peanuts) increases heart health and longevity: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/peanuts-linked-heart-longevity-benefits-pricey-nuts-201503057777

    I think that basically, when we isolate components in a food we may not be getting the big picture. But this article is so important because many people are eating the horribly unhealthy stuff with sugar, trans fats, etc.

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