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.
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.
#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.
#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.
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
– Alzheimer’s Disease
– Chronic Inflammation
#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).
#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.
#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?
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.”
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.
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 🙂
Oh ya, and guess what?!! There are even butters made from seeds!
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!
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!