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Searching for the healthiest peanut butter and a note to my Dad

Posted on : 03-03-2013 | By : Cindy | In : On my plate, Snacks


I had just popped into my local deli – The Gourmet Grocer in Balmain – when an enthusiastic man thrust a sample stick of golden gooey stuff at me. “Would you like to try my really good peanut butter?” he asked. The timing couldn’t have been better: peanut butter was top of my shopping list.

Peanut butter is one of my favourite convenience foods. It’s about one-quarter protein and one half fat – most of which is poly and monounsaturated. These are essential fats that our body needs in small amounts. When my son needs a high protein sustaining snack, I simply spread peanut butter on a couple of whole wheat wraps. At schools where peanuts are not banned, it makes an ideal school lunch as an alternative to meat, hummus or cheese.

Having said that, not every child likes the look of peanut butter. Just writing this has conjured unpleasant childhood memories of peering into my lunchbox and hesitantly lifting the corner of my ‘rustic’ sandwich. My heart would slump as I spotted the cloying brown stuff that would remind any child with half an imagination of embarrassing bodily processes. Hunger always overrode my imagination and I would stoically swallow it.

Fortunately the school experience didn’t scar me for life and now I always have a jar of peanut butter in the pantry. But not just any old peanut butter: it has to be one without added sugar and salt. So many foods have extra salt and sugar added that we are not aware of, and peanut butter is one of them. Tragically my pantry has been devoid of peanut butter lately as the local supermarket deleted my favourite brand. The only choices were brands with extra sugar or salt which I refuse to feed to my family.

I had been about to head to the local health food store which offers a great service grinding peanuts and other nuts on the spot but after tasting Pic’s Really Good Peanut Butter I didn’t bother. Pic is a Kiwi bloke who lives in sunny Nelson at the top of the South Island of New Zealand. What I like is that all the nuts used in his original, crunchy peanut butter come from Kingaroy in Queensland – no other country. (This means that if he can’t source the Kingaroy peanuts, he makes no crunchy peanut butter.) This ‘original’ peanut butter actually has a little salt added – 200mg sodium per 100g. Most of the regular supermarket brands have around three times more sodium – 600-700mg per 100g.

When buying peanut butter I like to check four things: 1 Whether the peanuts are local 2 The percentage of peanuts 3 Sodium  4 Sugar. Look at the ingredients list to find the percentage of peanuts, as well as if there is any added salt or sugar – including maltodextrin which is a type of sugar. In the nutrition panel maltodextrin is classed under ‘Total carbohydrate’ so it can be easily missed. I discovered one type of Kraft smooth peanut butter with over one third carbohydrate (39 grams per 100 grams or 39%) due to added maltodextrin. Most peanut butters have around 10-16% total carbohydrate with around half classed as sugar.

Both Sanitarium and Kraft now offer a no added salt and sugar product which is great. I do not know where they source their peanuts but imagine it is a mixture of Australia plus other countries when the local supply is limited. If anyone knows for sure, please add a comment.

I prefer my peanut butter plainly spread on wholegrain VitaWheat crackers or soy and linseed bread. But I want to dedicate this post to my wonderful dad who died suddenly a few months ago. His sandwich combinations were nothing short of adventurous – peanut butter with marmalade, banana with honey or marmalade with avocado. In fact my childhood memories are just one big adventure. Dad, thank-you taking us flying, fishing, water skiing, white water rafting, snow skiing off piste, bush walking off track, snorkeling, sailing in gales, surfing huge swells at sea, for making the best banana muffins and the worst school lunches, and for being completely faithful to Mum, us kids and God. No-one could have a better dad.




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Comments (2)

Sanitarium may offer lower salt and sugar products but what about the Mono and diglycerides? Why is there no mention in your article of these killers that lurk away in almost all PB? For a nutritionist web site you show a startling lack of insight as to the extremely unhealthy ingredients that can be found in PB.

Hi Mark, Certainly it is best to go for a peanut butter that is 100% peanuts, without emulsifier. Sanitarium now has a ‘Natural’ brand that is 100% nuts without emulsifier. Even better, find a health food store that grinds the peanuts freshly.

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