Food Swap: Peanut Butter
This: for That:
Peanut butter was my gateway food into healthier eating. Until I made this switch, I was still making many food choices under the low-fat, high-carb health food lie I’d fallen prey to. It was hard not to pay attention to ingredient labels after realizing what I’d been blindly buying for so long.
This is one of the simplest swaps – trading your traditional peanut or nut butter for a “natural” one. Somehow even the most simple food can become complicated due to food labeling. What is important here is not the brand, don’t be led astray by words on the front of the jar like “organic” and “natural”. To find the right peanut butter, you have to turn the jar over and READ THE INGREDIENTS. Peanut butter is a processed product. If it’s a processed product you want to go anywhere near, it will have only (literally) one or two ingredients: peanuts and sometimes salt. THAT’S ALL! You can apply this to any nut butter. If it has more than two ingredients, put it back on the shelf. There may be a slight adjustment in the beginning, because your peanut butter will taste like peanuts rather than sugars and hydrogenated oils. If you need to transition, add a little raw honey or real, maple syrup to your serving. Your taste will adjust pretty quickly, and you’ll wonder how you ever endured the other stuff.
The jar above on the right happens to be the one we use in our house. It’s readily available in my rural area, comes in a large jar (we use a lot), and has a decent price. Here is its ingredient label:
If it happened to be “organic” too, that would be great. However, don’t think that because it says “organic” or “natural” on the front, that you don’t have to check the ingredients on the back. Here is a typical ingredient list for peanut butter:
Here is an almond butter label by a very popular (and expensive) brand many people consider healthy: (Can you see that it says “palm fruit oil”?)
Why should you care? The natural fats in peanuts, almonds, cashews, etc. are healthy fats, meaning they’re good for your brain and body. Because they’re high in fat, they’re also quite satiating when you’re hungry. Their balance of protein and carbohydrates helps maintain steady blood sugar, meaning they won’t cause inflammation in your body. When you add hydrogenated oils and sugars (often times corn syrup), you’re negating all that is good about nut butters by adding oils that will cause inflammation and sugars that will cause blood sugar spikes (also causing…you got it! – inflammation). Why do that to your body, when you have a great choice you don’t have to feel bad about eating and won’t make you sick?
Here is a list of words that should have you putting that jar right back on the shelf:
- syrup, sugar, solids or any combination of those words with others
- hydrogenated _________
- any added oil
- palm kernal ________
- soy, wheat, milk (Why would you need or want those in your nut butter?)
Here is what you want to see after the word INGREDIENTS:
- peanuts (or almonds, cashews, sunflowers, any nut or seed)
- salt (only if you like it salted)
*Looking for a sweet treat to use your peanut butter in? Try these Three Ingredient Pancakes.
Make your own nut butter! It’s so simple, if you have a good blender or food processor. Here is a video showing you how.