Though humble in appearance, peanuts (and peanut butter) are one of nature’s yummiest treats. Whether blended up into a peanut butter banana shake, spread on sprouted grain bread, or eaten right out of the jar with a spoon, peanut butter is a childhood favorite that never gets old. High in protein and healthy fats, peanut butter has to be one of the cleanest, healthiest foods out there, right? Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but peanuts are a pesticide disaster. In fact, there’s evidence that consumption of conventionally grown peanuts can even contain carcinogens. How? Let’s delve into how these little beans are grown…
Peanuts mature in pods under the soil, and unlike walnuts and other tough nuts, their shells are semi-porous and can let in whatever yucky stuff is being sprayed on the dirt. This means that all the chemicals used to keep pests away are getting right into your yummy peanut. Think that’s bad? It gets worse. Most peanuts are grown in wet, humid environments and these conditions promote the growth of a fungus. On its own, this fungus isn’t an issue for humans, but the poison or “aflatoxin” it produces is. Aflatoxin is a cancer-causing agent that attacks the liver and is one of the most deadly food borne toxins known to man. That PB&J isn’t looking so good now, is it?
So what’s a peanut lover to do? ”Shell” out (pun intended) the extra cash to upgrade to peanut butter that is USDA certified organic, 100% natural (no added sugars or stabilizers) and grown in a region with dry soil. As with all matters related to your health, it’s important to become a real label junkie. Get up close and personal with the nutritional information, origin, and ingredients on all the prepared food you purchase. And keep in mind that peanuts, when grown properly and safely, can be incredibly beneficial to your body. A Harvard study even showed that when dieters swapped out saturated fats and refined carbs for peanuts and other nuts, their risk for heart disease decreased by as much as 45 percent!
If you’re still extra concerned about the safety of your peanut butter, try switching to organic almond butter or, if you really prefer that silky smooth taste of creamy peanut butter, try cashew butter. You can purchase it at a health food store or even make your own at home using your juicer. And don’t forget about all the amazing smoothie recipes you can conjure up using just your blender, some fruit and a bit of nut butter.
Photo credit: Krzysztof Kutzmann