Did you know that 80% of North American households have peanut butter in them? That's a lot of people who love (or at least like) peanut butter. The hot topic at hand is whether or not peanut butter good or bad for you.
Like most nutrition and fitness questions, the answer is "well it depends." The good things about peanut butter: 1) Peanut butter is a decent source of thiamin, niacin, folate, and magnesium 2) Its fat content is 46.8% monounsaturated fat and 3) It is high in protein (for a nut).
Now the potentially bad. While its fat content is 46.8% monounsaturated fat, 33% of that is Omega 6 and 0% is Omega 3. Omega 3 is the good stuff that doctors and nutritionists are always telling us to get more of. So in terms of it being a nutritional source of good fat- it scores low.
The Aflatoxins & Lectins
It has aflatoxins. Afla what? Aflatoxins are naturally occurring fungal toxins, common in plants that grow underground. Aflatoxin, being a toxin, is metabolized by the liver and in high enough doses, has actually been shown to cause liver cancer. It is actually used to induce cancer in lab mice. Aflatoxins have been shown to stunt growth in children and foods with high levels are avoided by those with weakened immune systems (like cancer patients). **Interestingly levels of aflatoxins are reduced in the peanut butter making process.
Peanuts also have peanut lectin. We know, another weird compound. Studies have shown that when peanut lectin is isolated with human colon cancer cells, it promotes the growth of these cancer cells. It has been shown to cause colon cancer cell proliferation in an in vitro study. Yikes!
The Acid Forming
Lastly, peanuts are acid forming in the body, meaning it negatively affects blood pH. Ideally, human blood pH should be slighty alkaline (7.35-7.45). Below or above this range means symptoms and disease. An acidic pH can occur from an acid forming diet, emotional stress, toxic overload, and/or immune reactions. An acidic balance will: decrease the body's ability to absorb minerals and other nutrients, decrease the energy production in the cells, decrease it's ability to repair damaged cells, decrease it's ability to detoxify heavy metals, make tumor cells thrive, and make it more susceptible to fatigue and illness. A blood pH of 6.9, which is only slightly acidic, can induce coma and death.
The reason acidosis is more common in our society is mostly due to the typical American diet, which is far too high in acid producing animal products like meat, eggs and dairy, and far too low in alkaline producing foods like fresh vegetables. So long and short of it, is that peanuts are acid forming. If you have a balanced diet alkaline forming diet, this isn't a problem but if you're like most North Americans and have a highly acidic diet, reducing your intake of peanut butter could be beneficial.
Conclusions and Alternatives
So to eat peanut butter or to not eat peanut butter.. that is the question. Like most nutrition, moderation may be key. Having 1/4 Cup of peanut butter everyday probably isn't a good idea. Knowledge is power. Based upon what you learned today, you can now use your discretion of how often you want to eat peanut butter and at what quantity. One option is switching to alternatives like almond butter, cashew butter, sesame butter, coconut butter, pumpkin seed butter, sunflower seed butter etc. A lot of these butters are higher in Omega 3 than peanut butter, don't have high levels of aflatoxins, are alkaline, AND some taste pretty good. Just an idea.
Please keep this conversation going on our Facebook and feel free to talk with Mandy and John at the Core.