The other day I ate a Reese’s Cup and instantly regretted it. It tasted nothing like the peanut buttery goodness of my youth. In fact, it tasted nothing like peanut butter. And that’s when everything I’ve learned about food additives and sugar and other food chemicals came rushing back to my brain, and I instantly knew why the taste was so different. And that’s what we’re talking about in this episode, nut butter.
Artisana Organics Raw Almond Butter
MaraNatha Organic Raw Almond Butter
MaraNatha Organic Peanut Butter
Trader Joe’s Organic Peanut Butter
Santa Cruz Organic Peanut Butter
Gopal’s Organic Raw Sprouted Sunflower Seed Butter
Sun and Seed Organic Raw Sunflower Seed Butter
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The other day I ate a Reese’s Cup. I really didn’t want it, but then I did, and because I was likely lacking any semblance of self control that day, I ate it. And in just the first bite, I instantly regretted it. It tasted nothing like the peanut buttery goodness of my youth — from what I could remember. In fact, it tasted nothing like peanut butter. And that’s when everything I’ve learned about food additives and sugar and other food chemicals came rushing back to my brain, and I instantly knew why the taste was so different. And that’s what we’re talking about in this episode, nut butter.
When I eventually do an episode on refined sugar I’m going to talk about what sugar does to the brain and what I’ve learned about sugar addictions. But in that moment of eating that Reese’s Cup, I knew why it didn’t taste like peanut butter.
And it’s mainly because conventional peanut butter — whether it’s in candy or sitting on the shelf in a jar — isn’t actually peanut butter.
The reality is that it’s a whole cocktail of additives, oils and other junk used to keep the peanut butter from separating, to preserve its shelf life or simply to make it taste better or be more addictive to eat.
The truth is: whether it’s peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower butter or something else, the only ingredient in a jar of nut butter should be nuts. And maybe sea salt.
While you’d think that’s common sense, if you pull out a jar of the nut butter from your pantry and look at the ingredient list, you may be surprised to see how much more is listed on the label.
From hydrogenated oils like soybean and cottonseed to palm oil to added sugars, it’s more common to find a whole lot of extra ingredients in nut butter than just nuts.
Here’s an example of the ingredients label on a jar of Jif Simply Peanut Butter: Roasted peanuts, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (Rapeseed and Soybean), Mono and Diglycerides, Molasses, Sugar and Salt.
Even the Jif (so-called) “Natural” Peanut Butter lists Sugar, Palm Oil and Molasses as added ingredients.
And it’s not just Jif — other no-stir peanut butters like Peter Pan, Skippy and Reese’s contain added hydrogenated oils that are loaded with trans fats linked to heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Even healthier-seeming brands like Justin’s or Barney’s almond butters include Cane Sugar and/or Palm Oil.
So again, when buying any type of nut butter the only ingredient on the label should say the type of nut.
But then there’s the issue of nut butter brands that don’t use added oils but they’re not certified organic. And if you can go the extra step with buying organic, then it’s worth it. Because unfortunately, conventional nuts are highly treated with pesticides — especially if they’re grown in the U.S.
According to a study by the USDA Pesticide Data Program, conventional almonds and peanuts can be contaminated with pesticides that are linked to liver damage and classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a possible human carcinogen. Glyphosate (or Roundup) is a herbicide that I’ve talked about in the Grass episode and Organic Food episode and is used on conventional peanuts and other nuts — as a reminder, it’s known to cause cancer. The food products themselves are not usually tested for these chemicals by our government, but a third-party study showed residues of glyphosate found in Skippy Natural Peanut Butter.
And if you really want to go above and beyond, raw nut butter is healthier than roasted nut butter. Until I started researching this episode, I didn’t know to prioritize raw nut butter over roasted, but the reasons are compelling enough to me to make the switch:
- Many times, “roasted nuts” are fried in oils and not actually roasted.
- Roasted nuts contain fewer antioxidants and nutrients like Vitamin E — if you’re going to eat something, might as well get the full benefits, right?
- Roasting can also damage the healthy fats found in nuts. The healthy polyunsaturated fats they contain can oxidize and generate free radicals that damage the cells in the body.
The only exception to roasting is peanut butter but raw peanut butter is not widely available anyway. Roasting peanuts prohibits the production of aflatoxin, which is a cancerous byproduct of a mold found in peanuts, so roasting may make peanuts safer to eat. Also, the fat found in peanuts is pretty heat resistant, making it less likely to oxidize and generate free radicals.
If nut butter is an important staple in your own pantry, then I’ve linked the healthiest and safest nut butters widely available in grocery stores. They range from peanut butters to almond butters to seed butters and can all be found on the show notes page at cleanlivingpodcast.com/nutbutter
Does this mean I need to record a jelly episode?
Thanks so much for listening to this episode of The Clean Living Podcast — I’m your host Shannon Lohr. If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, have you left a review yet? Good reviews help more people find out about this podcast and would really mean so much to me. Here’s to creating a cleaner, more sustainable world for all of us.