Peanut butter is something I had to grow into as I remember despising it as a child mainly due to the cloying consistency over the roof of my mouth which somehow is one of the biggest appeals now. Definitely one to join coffee, onions, beer and sea vegetables as tastes worth acquiring and I’m not the only one to think so as sales have been steadily soaring in the UK since 2012, moreso with recent workout nutrition trends. Our American cousins put away on average a staggering 3lb of PB a year each but they also voted GWBII in twice so perhaps we will rely on other associations for this Food Hero status.
In its truest form, suspected to have been around since the time of the Aztecs, our beloved Peanut Butter is quite simply smooshed peanuts- roasted then ground into goo. Original patent holder Marcellus Edson added sugar to improve the consistency. I will take this mention of consistency to cast my vote for Crunchy rather than Smooth. Give it some time and technology and the glorious PB is now everywhere in spaceage and organic forms alike. In jars, in breakfasts, in sports supplements, in cheap chocolate bars and filthy desserts- google The Full Elvis from Duck & Waffle exec Chef Dan Doherty if you haven’t come across such things. It comes in protein bars for cyclists and readily mixed with jam or chocolate spread for the kids/childish. You can make cookies from it or add it to curries, it really is incredibly versatile stuff. But just because you can eat something in a million ways, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Does it?
The very same Mr Edson to copyright peanut butter was a chemist, able to spot the spanking nutritional profile which lead to PB becoming a medical supplement to those with little/no chewing ability. Pure peanut butter packs a good and reasonably clean hit of protein at 25% by weight plus 6% dietary fibre by weight. The protein profile in particular has made it popular as a sports supplement and recovery food for athletes and gains seekers everywhere. Vitamins E and B6, manganese, magnesium, zinc and phosphorous also occur in reasonable amounts per serving. Before you get too excited peanut butter is also around 50% by weight fat which should be viewed cautiously by the calorie conscious however certainly not avoided on this basis as that fat content includes arguable ‘good’ fats oleic and linoleic acids which are essential fatty acids- you need these in your diet.
The high nutrition and calorie wallop packed by peanut butter has lead to its use in military and astronaut foodstuff and, perhaps more importantly, in the development of low volume high goodness foodstuffs with a long shelf life suitable for transporting to famine stricken areas- a serious win in the food science backhistory.
So peanut butter is awesome, right? Weeeeell, yes and no. Like so many wonderful and pure things it is easily dirtied down. A measured tablespoon of organic NAS peanut butter is in a different universe to a half inch smear of Sunpat crunchy over your bagel. I recently came into possession of a tub of 100% peanut butter and it is weird, sticky, ultra nutty stuff very far removed from the jarred crunchy mass brand that I too am guilty of spreading half an inch thick over a bagel. 100% PB is much cleaner on the profile than more standard brands and as such less addictive on the palate. It is still great for cooking and sports nuts, though it may not yeild usual results if you use it in baking as average recipes will assume use of a bigger brand PB. Commercial peanut butter has all kinds of additions- most commonly salt, sugar and palm oil (I don’t have time to take a palm oil rant here please just try to avoid it if you or your offspring intend to enjoy this planet for any great amount of time). And this is just your ‘plain’ peanut butters. The ingredients list gets smaller and smaller in print when you start adding your swirls or flavours so please, please don’t kid yourself into thinking that anything with peanut butter in it is good for you. Read the ingredients list and portion it accordingly and as always seek out organic and lower sugar options if you can. Chances are if you need all the jam, sugar, sweetener, soy lethicin, palm oil, gums and stabilisers then you don’t actually like peanut butter at all. So why spend money on it?
Hopefully we agree now that peanut butter has important stuff that your body needs in it and tastes good, so how best to eat it? I might argue the answer to this is in a dark corner of the kitchen, straight from the jar while no-one is looking. This is completely legitimate practice, however you might want to break out into other serving suggestions. Fitness site The Running Bug suggests a breakfast of wholemeal toast and PB is the perfect start to an active day for the health nuts and my own running bugger older male sibling votes for a bagel spread with peanut butter then topped with sliced banana as a weekend breakfast. It makes a good addition to cookies or fudge and is involved in my new favourite smoothie. You could add a dollop to your porridge or overnight oats or naughty it up in some peanut butter cups mixing the PB with white chocolate and a touch of vanilla to make the filling (Sweet Things by Annie Rigg has the best recipe I have used). Away from breakfast you could, and should, investigate the joys of mixing with lime and chilli for a simple satay sauce or chuck some in a vegan curry or make no end of protein balls and granola bar things just head to google for a million options but my favourite and hotly debated serving has to be, quite simply, with cucumber.
Yes, with cucumber. Wholemeal base of choice, crunchy peanut butter, thick slices of cucumber. I think the freshness of the cucumber cuts through the fatty cloy quite nicely and makes for a filling snack or breakfast without activating your sweet tooth. In my current diet efforts I will often have a big wedge of cucumber with a modest spreading of peanut butter as a snack when I’m overly hungry or approaching the end of my carb allowance for the day. It could be worse.
So dig in to some peanut butter, it’s not just for vegans or bad American sandwich ideas.