Peanut butter is liked by many for its rich creamy taste and powerful nutritional punch. Cooking with peanut butter is quick, easy, and inexpensive. But peanut butter also has a dark side. Here is information to help you decide whether peanut butter is for you and your family.
The creation of peanut butter does not involve the amalgamation of peanuts and butter made from milk, as its name might suggest. Instead, peanuts are ground in searing heat and cooled until they appear as peanut butter in commercially viable form. Peanuts are an excellent source of protein, containing 25 grams of protein per 100 grams of peanuts. Research has shown that peanuts have a high level of the antioxidant p-coumaric acid, an antioxidant that promotes cardiovascular health and reduces the growth rate of cancers.
For those worried about the oncoming creep of old age, peanuts may hold some relief. They are a great source of resveratrol, a compound emerging research shows has many anti-aging benefits. Scientists from the Institute of Biology and Molecular Cellular Biology in France have found evidence that resveratrol from peanuts can induce high energy levels.
These benefits, derived from just peanuts alone, are transferred to peanut butter and are not destroyed in the creation process.
Traditionally, people who wanted to consume peanut butter had to stir it, as the tendency was for the oil, which gives that creamy texture, to separate from the peanuts. Then food technology came to the rescue by creating hydrogenated vegetable oil that, when added to peanut butter, makes it stay blended on the shelf. Unfortunately, hydrogenated vegetable oil contains high levels of trans fat, which is now widely accepted as being one of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke. While some processors continue to use hydrogenated vegetable oil, others have transitioned to using less or none since the dangers of trans fat have been exposed to the public. To find out, you must read the label.
Some peanut butter has been found to contain trace amounts of a carcinogen. This is a result of the peanut plant being prone to attack by the mold Aspergillus flavus, and it is this very mold that produces the carcinogen, aflatoxin. Carcinogens are suspected of initiating some cancers. The presence of a small amount of aflatoxin in peanut butter is almost unavoidable, and health officials try to minimize the amount that is present.
When peanut butter has been manufactured and put into the jars seen on supermarket shelves, it is very likely that it has not been heated to the point where salmonella is completely killed. Thus, it is possible for it to contain salmonella. Salmonella is commonly found in all living creatures, including humans, and in this case, peanut butter that has been poorly handled or manufactured. In fact, there have been instances of deaths in the USA caused by ingesting salmonella-tainted peanut butter products in news reports of 2007 and 2009. Given the longevity and hardiness of the bacteria, perhaps there will be even more such cases to come if food is not handled appropriately.
In the USA alone, up to 15% of the population has been classified as having severe reaction to allergies. A good proportion of this group is susceptible to peanut butter allergy in its most severe form, anaphylactic shock. This reaction can cause cardiovascular failure, resulting in the victim being unable to breathe. If the victim is not quickly treated, it can lead to death within minutes.
A person who is allergic to peanut butter need not consume it to have severe reactions to it. The simple act of touching or breathing in the smell of peanut butter is enough to cause an anaphylactic shock. There is no single way of identifying whether someone is suffering from anaphylactic shock, for its symptoms are varied. Being alert to the situation of a potential victim can let you know they are having an allergic reaction.
Whether you consider peanut butter as a kitchen staple, or consume peanuts as a snack or garnish for your meals, knowing the benefits and the risks of peanut butter can help you make well-informed choices regarding your nutrition and overall health.