The Humble Peanut
The poor, humble peanut. It has fallen from grace. Peanut butter was a staple for many of us growing up and PB&J’s and “ants on a log” still bring back fond memories for many adults. But as we grew up, and nutrition evolved, the peanut started getting a bad reputation. This mostly stemmed from how the peanut is treated to make peanut butter. In order to make it shelf stable and keep it from separating, partially hydrogenated oils are used in the production of peanut butter, and those oils contain trans fat. Scientists quickly discovered that trans fat comes with a host of health problems, specifically raising our cholesterol and clogging our arteries. And thus peanut butter got a bad reputation, and peanuts were dragged down with them as an inferior nut. The solution? Almond butter (or if you are super trendy cashew butter)! Although they both have a reputation as a superior nut, almonds and cashews (and walnuts) are not drastically different from peanuts nutritionally speaking. They all contain plenty of good-for-us unsaturated fats, in slightly varying portions. The thing about almond butter is that it’s typically made au natural- i.e. not with partially hydrogenated oils. That’s why you have to stir it and refrigerate it once you open the jar, and partly why it enjoys a better reputation than peanut butter. But natural peanut butter is free of trans fat as well, not to mention significantly cheaper.
So, if you hate the taste of almond butter go ahead and use natural peanut butter in its place! And if you don’t love the natural kind (or just hate stirring) you can use the regular stuff. While it does have added sugar, many athletes can fit that into a well-rounded diet within moderation. Especially when you are traveling and don’t have access to refrigeration, the shelf stable options can come in handy.
The truth is that the humble peanut, including peanut butter, is a good source of protein, healthy fats, and fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals such as copper, manganese and vitamin E. So, let’s help peanut butter get its reputation back as a staple food. Try stuffing dates with peanut butter, spreading it on an apple or a banana, or even mixing it into oatmeal. Peanuts can be added to trail mixes or even air popped popcorn. Or try sprinkling a small handful on top of a stir fry.
Fun fact- peanuts are technically members of the legume family!
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Banana Muffins
(Makes 12 muffins)
1/3 cup peanut butter
2 ripe bananas, mashed
2 TBSP honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon
1/8 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix peanut butter, bananas, honey, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and almond milk in a bowl. Add the oats and mix until combined. Use cooking spray or muffin cups in muffin tin and spoon batter evenly into each cup. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until a fork inserted in a muffin comes out clean. Freeze if not used within 3-4 days.