Friday, October 24, 2008

The Spotlight on Peanut Butter!

So I’ve decided to dedicate my first blog entry to my roommate and her passion for peanut butter! I also think it is under-praised for its long-standing history of being America’s favorite foods… and the fact that it is actually good for you!

Peanut butter today is pretty much like that made 100 years ago. By law it contains a minimum of 90% peanuts, with no artificial sweeteners, colors or preservatives. Some brands add about 7% natural sweeteners and 1% salt for taste, plus a stabilizer to keep the peanut butter fresh and the oil from separating. "Old-fashioned" or "natural" peanut butter does not have the stabilizer so the oil will separate and should be stirred back in before using. It does not need to be refrigerated.

"Peanut butter spreads," a relatively new category now allowed by FDA, contain only 60% peanuts, but are nutritionally equivalent to peanut butter (although they may contain more sugar or salt). Many companies introduced peanut butter spreads as a reduced-fat alternative to peanut butter. But today there also are real peanut butters on the market (look for Laura Scudder and Smuckers) which are 25% reduced-fat and still contain at least 90% peanuts.

Peanut butter and its benefits

Folic Acid

One ounce of roasted peanuts provides 10% (41 micrograms) of the daily value of folate, the naturally occurring form of the B vitamin folic acid, recommended for the reduction of birth defects and lowered heart disease risk. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich provides 18% (73 micrograms). Other good sources of folate are orange juice, green leafy vegetables, beans, broccoli, fortified breakfast cereals, and enriched grain products.

Research shows that folic acid/folate, a B vitamin, can prevent up to 70% of neural tube defects, which affect the brain and spinal cord, when women get sufficient amounts during the earliest weeks of pregnancy.

All women of child-bearing age should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid/folate every day because the neural tube is forming during the first month of pregnancy -- before many women even realize they are pregnant.

Heart Disease

There is growing evidence that suggests eating at least 400 micrograms of folic acid/folate per day will lower the risk of heart disease. Studies published in the February 4, 1998 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association and the April 9, 1998 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine support this link.

Folic acid/folate works with Vitamins B6 and B12 to remove homocysteine -- an amino acid -- from the body. Accumulation of homocysteine can cause a variety of heart-damaging effects such as damaged arteries and plaque build-up in the arteries.

The Skinny on Fat

Peanut butter, like most foods, contains some fat. Fortunately, 80% of the fat in peanut butter is unsaturated fat -- "the good fat" -- which may actually help lower LDL-cholesterol levels in your blood. In fact, because peanut butter is so versatile, good tasting and nutritious, it is included in many medically endorsed weight loss and diabetic diets.

Four healthy brands of peanut butter

These contain no trans fat, hydrogenated oils, or preservatives, and best of all, they taste delicious.

Skippy Natural Creamy

This is 100 percent natural peanut butter requires no stirring and no refrigeration. It has 180 milligram of sodium and 3.5 gram of saturated fat. Skippy Natural Creamy has 180 calories, 16 grams of fat, 150 mg of sodium, and 7 gram of protein per 2 tablespoons.

Naturally More

This peanut butter cost a bit more than others, but loaded with a combination of wheat germ, flaxseed, flaxseed oil, and egg whites for a protein and omega-3 boost. Naturally More has no trans fat and contain no cholesterol. It has 169 calories, 11 grams of fat, 10 gram of protein, 4 gram of dietary fiber per 2 tablespoons.

Smucker's Natural Chunky

Smucker's Natural Chunky has just enough salt and nutty nuggets for a satisfying crunch. It has 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 120 milligrams of sodium, 210 calories, and 16 grams of fat per 2 tablespoons. Smucker's Natural Chunky also comes in creamy.

MaraNatha Organic Creamy & Roasted Peanut Butter

It contains no trans fat, hydrogenated oils or preservatives. The MaraNatha also comes in other varieties such as almond, cashew, and macadamia. It is low in sodium at only 80 milligrams, 190 calories, 16 grams of fat, and has 2 grams of saturated fat per 2 tablespoons.

Peanut Butter Recipes

Easy Peanut Butter Oatmeal

Prepare any flavored instant oatmeal according to package directions. Add one tablespoon peanut butter before serving.

Makes 1 serving

Nutty Noodles


1/2 cup low fat, low sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon red pepper

6 cups cooked spaghetti noodles
3/4 cup chopped green onion
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1 1/2 cups broccoli flowerets, cut in thin slices
1 cup snow peas
1/2 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
4 tablespoons dry roasted, salted peanuts, chopped


In a large bowl, mix chicken broth, peanut butter, teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, garlic powder and red pepper. Place cooked noodles in the bowl and coat with the sauce. Remove noodles from the bowl, saving remaining sauce. Place noodles into a covered dish and put into a warm oven.

Pour the remaining sauce into a large skillet. Stir fry the onions, carrots, broccoli and snow peas for 1 to 2 minutes in the sauce. Add the red cabbage and stir fry for an additional 1 to 2 minutes until the vegetables are slightly tender. Add the vegetables and sauce to the noodles and mix. Garnish each serving with chopped peanuts.

Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 568 calories, 22 g protein, 17 g total fat (3 g saturated fat), 86 g carbohydrates, 10 g dietary fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 731 mg sodium. Daily Value: 59% folic acid, 120% vitamin A, 100% vitamin C, 10% calcium, 30% iron.

Peanut Butter Candy Bars


1 1/2 cups margarine, melted
2 cups peanut butter
4 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup margarine
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


1. Grease a 10x15 inch pan. In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups melted margarine, peanut butter, confectioners' sugar and graham cracker crumbs. Spread in prepared pan.

2. Combine 1/2 cup margarine and chocolate chips in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Spread over peanut butter mixture. Let cool completely before cutting into bars.