Unless you are an unfortunate soul who is allergic to peanuts, to paraphrase Sarah Lee, nobody doesn't like peanut butter. In spite of this love affair, peanut butter suffers much the same opprobrium as milk butter. For too many years, peanut butter has been the recipient of bad press: Beware: PB sandwiches are not heart healthy!
Nobody knows where or how the first peanut was cultivated. We do know that early Africans and Chinese have incorporated peanuts into their cuisines for eons. Our own Civil War soldiers threw peanuts into a mixture they called "peanut porridge." But it was the Kellogg brothers in the late 1890s (known for their prescient views on healthy lifestyles and vegetarian cooking as well as their cereal creations), who turned peanuts into a pasty substance to serve as a protein substitute for meat. Since then, peanut butter has been a staple in just about every American kitchen, day care and kid's restaurant menu. In fact, Americans eat 3 pounds of peanut butter per person per year, enough to coat the floor of the Grand Canyon.
Objections to peanut butter's health claims arose as Americans became more and more conscious of high-fat foods and their link to heart disease. What got confusing and what needs clarification is: 1) while the amount of total fat per serving in a tablespoon of peanut butter may be high compared to other foods, the truth of the matter is that there is no cholesterol in peanut butter. Cholesterol is found only in animal products. 2) 80 percent of the fat in peanut butter is unsaturated, both poly- and mono-unsaturated. Unsaturated fats are better for us. 3) Unsaturated fats that are hydrogenated (e.g. margarines) become Trans fatty acids, which are definitely bad.
Even though peanut butter is 80 percent unsaturated, it is less than 1 percent hydrogenated, in other words almost undetectable levels of Trans fatty acids. These facts are based on the average serving size of two tablespoons. So, if you still harbor misgivings about peanut butter, there is always the option of decreasing the serving size to one tablespoon or less.
Other positives about peanut butter are that it is an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Research is currently under way looking into the benefits of peanuts and peanut butter to actually lower "bad" cholesterol in blood, to lower blood pressure, to inhibit growth of some cancers, and as a snack to help control hunger in a weight loss program.
So what's arachibutyrophobia? Just ask any dog.
Agnes Oblas is a nurse practitioner with a private practice and residence in Ahwatukee Foothills. For questions, or if there is a topic you would like her to address, call her at (602) 405-6320 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her Web site is www.newpathshealth.com.