Did you know that peanut butter has a day of its own?
I didn’t, but it turns out that it was just last week — Jan. 24.
It’s such a staple in my house that every day is peanut butter day.
Peanut butter has so much to recommend it.
It’s budget-friendly, shelf-stable, and a healthy plant food to include in your diet.
It’s true that its health benefits have been questioned at times given its fat content, but let’s take a look at its entire nutritional profile.
First of all, a peanut is technically a legume being that it grows in the ground; however, the dictionary definition classifies it as a nut.
It also is nutritionally similar to other nuts and is therefore categorized as such.
Peanuts are a plant-based protein that also supply healthy unsaturated fats in our diet. According to the American Heart Association, when it comes to fat, peanut butter is rich in monounsaturated fats, which help reduce your blood cholesterol and contain antioxidant properties.
When comparing the nutrition label of several brands, a standard jar of creamy peanut butter contains, in a 2 Tbsp serving of peanut butter, roughly:
- 180 calories
- 8 grams of protein, the equivalent of 2 ounces (most of us should get 5-6 ounces of protein a day)
- 16 grams of fat
- 5 grams of carbohydrates, with 2 grams coming from naturally occurring sugar
These numbers can vary slightly, depending on the brand.
Choose a brand of peanut butter that fits your taste and budget preferences.
Pay attention to the nutrition label and ingredients list, however.
Natural peanut butter must be at least 90% peanuts, with the only other allowable ingredients being salt, sweeteners, and hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Anything else, such as palm oil (a big clue), flavorings, or other ingredients, would make it a peanut butter spread, even if it does have at least 90% peanuts, according to the National Peanut Board.
While similar nutritionally, they technically don’t meet the FDA’s (Food and Drug Administration’s) definition of peanut butter.
What’s the difference between the peanut butters with the oil on top and those without?
The hydrogenated oil, such as cottonseed, rapeseed, soybean, or palm oil, prevents the natural oils in peanuts from separating and rising to the top of the jar, and extends the shelf life.
If you prefer the type of peanut butter with the oil on top, then it won’t have this hydrogenated oil (and therefore, has less ingredients, usually only peanuts and a dash of salt).
One tip to reduce the stirring: store the jar upside down in the refrigerator.
Peanut butter has countless recipe options from breakfast to dinner, sweet to savory.
- Pairing peanut butter with apples, pears, whole wheat crackers or celery, creates great snack combinations that include plant-based protein and complex carbohydrates.
- You can boost this nutritional combo with additional antioxidants and other micronutrients by sprinkling flax, chia or pumpkin seeds on top of your nut butter for an added crunch.
- Adding peanut butter to granola bar recipes provide a sweet and salty combination while giving your snack bars a chewy yet crunchy texture.
- Peanut soup, sauces and dressings are a great swap for your traditional cream or milk-based staples, which typically contain high amounts of fat with little nutritional value.
- Peanut butter cookies are a quick and easy treat to satisfy a sweet-tooth craving.
Of course, not everyone enjoys, or is able to eat, peanut butter.
If you prefer nut butter with a lighter taste, you can use cashew or walnut butter; walnuts are actually a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which supports brain health.
For those with a nut allergy, some suitable alternatives to nut butter include sunflower seed butter, flax seed butter or even tahini, which has grown in popularity and is nutritionally similar to peanut butter.
Just be cautious, as the tastes of these substitutes are very different.
If you have the time and own a high-powered blender or food processor, you can even make your own nut butter.
Just choose your favorite type of nut, such as peanut, almond or pistachio (or combine them for a fun flavor combination!)
It’s easy but can take a bit of time; some nuts blend up easier than others.
If you make it yourself, you can even flavor your nut butters with cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon, salt and/or sweetener of choice to suit your taste.
Toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes for deeper flavor prior to processing.
Shari Bresin is the Family & Consumer Science Agent for the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension Pasco County.
Pasco County Extension Intern, Syreeta McDonald, contributed to this column.
Homemade Nut Butter, courtesy of University of Illinois Extension:
2 ½ cups nuts
Yield: 1 ½ cup nut butter
In a 7-cup food processor with the chopping blade attached, pour nuts into work bowl.
Press the on button to process continuously.
Process until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes to 3 minutes.
Transfer to bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Published February 08, 2023