On Peanut Butter


I was recently at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health for Nutrition and Cooking Immersion—a five day workshop. I attended the program to observe it as I will be teaching NCI this July with the amazing Kathie Swift, MS, RD, LDN.

I spend so much of my time educating others (and raising two kids!) that no matter how hard I try to stay up on all the food and nutrition research, inevitably it is impossible. So when I get an opportunity spend time with and learn from other experts in the field, I feel so incredibly blessed and oftentimes, more informed.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing John Bagnulo, MPH, PhD, a naturalist and nutritionist, talk the talk. And there was plenty to take away but one thing stuck (no pun intended)—the problems with peanuts.

I love peanut butter. And so do my kids. Who doesn't love it? Whether Skippy, Jif or Peter Pan—though that's not peanut butter rather a sugary excuse for the creamy, nutty American delicacy—or Smucker's Naturals, Maranatha, Santa Cruz or Arrowhead Mills (all simply made with peanuts and salt) there are some serious concerns with peanuts:

•  They are heavily sprayed with herbicides and pesticides (I didn't know this as it is not listed on the Dirty Dozen—I know, shame on me!)

• They typically grow in humid climates thus are highly susceptible to mold that produces aflatoxins, a toxic metabolite, that can lead to serious health problems if consumed in high quantity.

• They are one of the top noted allergens causing serious allergic reactions (often anaphylaxis) in many.

• Valencia peanuts, because grown in arid climates, have less mold thus less aflatoxins.

I know, pretty gnarly information! I am not into freaking people out without offering a solution—and most times that advice is based on what I do for me and my family. We are all peanut butter lovers and have no plans of giving them up so this is what we do:

• Stick with organic peanut butter to avoid the herbicide and pesticide residues

• Try to buy Valencia peanut butter if possible (it should say on packaging)

• Don't eat it everyday; perhaps 2-3 times per week

• Mix it up with almond butter; kids often love this as it tends to be a bit sweet

And one last thing, we call them nuts, but peanuts are actually legumes. What a confusing food world we live in!

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