Thursday, October 6, 2011

Peanut Butter...'nuff said

Being a protein-seeking vegetarian, peanut butter is one of my main food groups. It's great as a snack, as a flavoring agent for curries and stir fries, on a sandwich, and spread onto fruits and veggies. This delicious treat is high in protein and, if you use the right kind, it's an optimal source of "good fat". This brings two questions: "What is the 'right kind?" and "What kind of fat is actually 'good'?"

Let's look at the fat question first. Fat is actually very important to the diet, and certain types - what I call the "natural ones - are vital to our health. These types include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, which among other things actually help to lower cholesterol. Fats to avoid include saturated fats and trans fats - anything with the word "hydrogenated". 
Guess what types of fat are found in peanuts? The good kinds, of course!

Knowing what we do about fat, the second question, asking which type of peanut butter is best, can be easily answered. My rule is, always opt for the least processed option. This holds true for peanut butter as well. Natural peanut butters are made from just peanuts and a touch of salt. By limiting the ingredients to just these two natural items, all of the extra sugar and oils (sources of hydrogenated fats) are cut out. 
Thus, all you have to do when shopping for peanut butter next time is to find a label that says "Natural", double check that the ingredients include only peanuts and salt, and you're good to go.

My favorite brand is Smucker's, just because you can find it everywhere. Here are some other common brands:

One other thing to remember: you should have to stir. Some brands market "No need to stir" natural peanuts butters. I may be incorrect, but that seems like an oxymoron...If you look at the ingredients, these types usually have a little something extra added. Go for the jars that say "stir and enjoy", because after you stir them once and incorporate all of the oils, just pop it in the fridge and it will stay mixed anyway.

I have been looking into making my own peanut butter, and it actually looks really easy if you've got some peanuts and a food processor. Here is a link to homemade peanut butter. I've looked at a lot of websites, but this is the simplest recipe I could find. I always go for simple, but feel free to look around for some others.

Try it out...I'm going to!

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