I recently discovered that November is National Peanut Butter Lover’s month. I have no idea how this got by me, being PB’s #1 fan! However, it is interesting that I have chosen this particular month to do something far outside my comfort zone: go on a peanut butter cleanse.
If you know me, you know how big of a deal this is. I am an avid peanut butter eater; we’re talking every day, sometimes twice a day. Celery and my homemade peanut butter has been my go-to snack for as long as I can remember. Even though it’s considered a healthy snack, I wanted to find out how true that really is. If I’m eating this every day, I feel I should know if it’s really the best thing for me.
I first gravitated toward celery and peanut butter initially because it was a filling snack that still felt healthy and relatively low-calorie. Although peanut butter has a lot of calories, roughly 188 per 2 Tbsp, eating it with something like celery, which is very low in calories and high in vitamins, I felt they sort of balanced each other out. Also, the alkaline properties of celery and the acidic properties of peanuts create a snack with a well-balanced pH when eating together. Peanuts are loaded with manganese, fiber, monosaturated fats, antioxidants, and contain the highest amount of protein per serving of all legumes. It was also very satisfying: the crunch of the celery combined with the creamy sweetness of the peanut butter. And I have to admit that the fact that it is free of carbs was a huge draw, especially when trying to keep my svelte figure while confronted with unitards and spandex in performance. =-/
Peanuts, like soybeans and corn, are seriously overgrown and over-processed in America. They are often sprayed with pesticides because they are hard to grow, so choosing anything but organic is a risk if you’re eating it every day. I thought I was being really healthy by making my own in my Vitamix, but I couldn’t find organic dry roasted peanuts in stores for a reasonable price, so I would use brands that were not organic. I didn’t think much of it, but if one is consuming as much of it as I am, that’s a lot of pesticides accumulating in the body! My personal theory about the difficult digestive issues I experience after eating my celery/PB snack is that it is being caused by my body negatively reacting to these foreign chemicals. It may not be a big deal, but if you’re eating it often, it’s best to buy or make organic.
Peanuts are also susceptible to molds and fungus, including one of particular concern called aflatoxin, a poison produced by a fungus commonly found when growing legumes. Although better storage and handling methods have decreased the risk of ingesting aflatoxin, it is important to know that it is a known carcinogen that is 20 times more toxic than DDT! Woah! If you attended my sugar workshop, you know the Splenda is also linked to this carcinogen…what is this stuff doing in our food? Yet another reason to avoid anything processed! If you’re purchasing raw peanuts, be sure to store them in a cool, dry environment because the fungus flourishes in hot, humid conditions. Roasting peanuts is thought to offer more protection against aflatoxin, plus roasting peanuts makes them easier for your body to digest. Try roasting them at home on a gentle heat to preserve the healthy oils, at 160-170 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
I knew I couldn’t go cold turkey on nut butters, so I decided to switch to almond butter and see if I felt any differently. It’s only been a week, but here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. Peanut butter is addictive. I had peanut butter every day because I wanted it, I craved it. Almond butter is more filling and I find I don’t need to eat it as often.
2. My bloating has decreased. I noticed I was feeling bloated pretty much every day, but I didn’t relate it to eating peanut butter. I attributed it to simply eating a diet heavy in raw fruits and vegetables. After looking at a list of foods that cause this affliction I saw that due to their complex starch and protein structure, legumes can often cause gas and bloating, especially when not soaked or cooked. only a week not eating peanut butter, I noticed my bloating symptoms have gone down, thankfully!
3. It’s easier to find almond butter that has no preservatives, no additives, no sugar and is organic and natural. This prevents from buying that Peanut Butter and Co. Chocolate Dreams that stares at you on the grocery store shelf (and it’s delicious, but loaded with sugar). Because we have a surplus of peanuts in this country it makes peanut butter much cheaper to buy than almond butter, turning many customers off. However, I found a jar of the 365 brand from Whole Foods for $7 and since it’s more filling and less addictive, a jar can stick around in your home for longer!
4. Nutritionally, almond butter is almost evenly matched when it comes to the macronutrients (carbs, fat and protein), but there are some benefits in the micronutrient category when it comes to almond. It’s a better source of magnesium, a nutrient that is important for bone health and maintaining the health of your central nervous system, and Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that protects your skin from ultraviolet light and prevents cell damage from free radicals.
I know I won’t be able to give up peanut butter forever, but I didn’t like the idea that a food had control over me. I wanted to get that control back and try to expand my flavor palette along the way. I’m unsure how much longer I will continue my “cleanse”, but I will keep you posted on my progress!
Do you feel like there’s a particular food that has a hold on you and you’d like to take back control? Share in the comments section or on my Facebook or Twitter page and maybe we can find out how to get there together!