The good in peanut butter

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What you need to know:

  • It is good to incorporate peanut butter into a healthy diet. However, while the butter contains good fats, it has a high calorie content and should be eaten in moderation.

Peanut butter is made from ground, dry-roasted peanuts. It commonly contains additional ingredients that modify the taste or texture, such as salt, sweeteners, or emulsifiers, especially for commercial purposes.

Peanut butter is consumed in many countries and is a healthier and cheaper alternative source of protein.
Commonly known as Odi (West Nile), the butter may be eaten on its own, spread on bread or added to other foods. For example, it can be swirled into vanilla yoghurt, ice cream, or blended into a smoothie or peanut butter milkshake. 

According to Lydia Aisu Pedun, a dietician, the butter contains minerals and nutrients such as sodium, iron, calcium, fat, carbohydrates, fibre, protein, folate, potassium, vitamin E, and B vitamins. In addition to fulfilling one’s daily nutritional demands, peanut butter also comes with plenty of benefits which include:

Healthy fats

Pedun says peanut butter contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, which maintain good cholesterol levels, blood sugar and blood pressure. The healthy fats prevent heart and vascular diseases by promoting good blood vessel function. 

The omega-6 fatty acid in the peanut butter also reduces the body’s insulin resistance, which would otherwise raise blood sugar and cause diabetes. However, while the butter contains good fats, it has a high calorie content and should be eaten in moderation.

Bone strength

The iron and calcium contained in peanut butter promotes bone strength. It is also important to note that the butter has good fibre content, which eases bowel movements and relieves constipation.

Anticancer properties
“The magnesium contained in peanut butter is a crucial nutrient in muscle management and power building. Also, protein is essential in muscle-building, and peanut butter provides that too,” Pedun says.

Also, peanuts, from which the peanut butter is made, are a great source of antioxidants such as manganese, B vitamins and vitamin E, which are essential in the prevention and repair of damaged cells, thereby reducing the risk of cancer.

Storage and safety
The average shelf life of peanut butter is four months inside the pantry and three to six months if refrigerated. Pedun, however, says peanut butter should be stored away from light because the fat in it can get rancid. This will change the colour of the peanut, causing it to develop a stale smell and become oxidised. it will also increase inflammation effects in your body over time.

“Do not consume any peanut butter that looks darker, feels drier, smells different from the original aroma or has gone past its expiry date,” she warns, adding that mouldy peanut butter exposes you to aflatoxins, a type of carcinogen that increases the risk of liver cancer.

To avoid rancidity, the butter should be stored in a cool dark place in an opaque glass instead of clear plastic, away from heat and light. Only purchase that which you can consume in three months, and always check the expiry dates.

Caution
Commercial peanut butter brands often have additives such as sugar, oils and fats. If you want to be sure of quality, Pedun advises that you make your own butter. 

“If you buy the ground nuts, ensure they do not have any mould. If you eat the nuts and they have a bitter taste or irritate the throat, this is a sign that they could have aflatoxins. Throw away such peanuts,” she warns.
Roast the peanuts well enough and ensure they are not raw or burnt. This will give your butter a good nutty flavour and aroma. Remember to remove all the husks in order to give your butter an even texture.

Healthier alternatives

Many nuts have a similar nutrient profile to peanuts, but some offer a better source of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. These alternatives may also be suitable for people with peanut allergies, although you should talk to your doctor to make sure a nut butter is safe for you. 

Nut butters that may be healthier alternatives to peanut butter include:

Almond butter 
Almonds have the highest concentration of nutrients. They also contain omega-3s, which peanuts lack. 

Macadamia nut butter 
While they contain more calories than peanuts, macadamias have the highest amount of healthy fats of any nut. One study found that its nutrients may help prevent coronary artery disease. 

Walnut butter 
Walnuts are a great source of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and contain less fat and calories than peanuts.

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