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An Ode to Peanut Butter

Have you made a New Year’s resolution yet? Forty percent of Americans do. But most of them don’t keep their resolutions.

Does yours have to do with eating better? That’s the No. 1 resolution: some variation on losing weight, eating better, working out or the like.

I’m thinking of resolutions because I know Jan. 24 is National Peanut Butter Day. What does peanut butter have to do with resolutions? Most folks would think it’s a food to avoid. But I’m here to tell you it’s how I stick to my diet plan. Stay with me, I’ll explain, right after I tell you a bit more about the humble spread believed to have been eaten by the ancient Incas in South America.

Americans have a love affair with peanut butter. It’s a staple in 90 percent of American homes. And women and kids like the creamy variety, but men prefer chunky. It takes about 550 peanuts to make a 12-ounce jar of the spread. And the average American eats six pounds of the stuff each year. That’s eight jars per person per year. I think I might personally raise the average. I buy my jars two at a time!

Peanut butter’s got a bad rap as an unhealthy food. In fact, some of us consider PB to be heart-healthy. Peanut butter has just 3.3 grams of saturated fat per serving (two tablespoons) but 12.3 grams of unsaturated fat. In other words, peanut butter is a lot like olive oil.

Its good-to-bad-fat ratio makes it really beneficial. It’s helpful in reducing LDL cholesterol, which lowers the risk of heart disease. And don’t for a moment think we don’t have to worry about cholesterol and heart disease with our little ones. The Texas Heart Institute reports about 15 percent of American kids have high cholesterol from consuming a diet high in fat. Couple diet with obesity and a lack of exercise, and it’s a pattern that can start in childhood and cause real problems in adulthood.

One of the issues I’ve always had with peanut butter is in knowing which to choose. It would seem like I would want the “low fat” variety when I am watching my family members’ weights. However, those are often filled with added sugar. A more natural brand is a much better option. Read the label. If you choose the all-natural brand, remember you’ll need to stir the oil that rises to the top. 

Peanut butter is high in potassium. That’s good for those of us worried about heart disease. And topping out a peanut butter sandwich (on whole grain bread, of course) with a banana is a great way to get a larger pop of potassium.

But what I like best about peanut butter is its protein. When my hypoglycemia kicks in, I need to eat something or I begin shaking. A spoonful of peanut butter does the trick every time! It sticks to the ribs and makes me feel fuller longer. And I’m not alone. Richard Mattes, a professor of nutrition at Purdue University, found peanuts or peanut butter kept his study participants fuller longer than rice cakes, almonds and pickles.

So, this choosy mom chooses peanut butter for all its beneficial properties. Oh, who am I fooling? I choose it (too) because it just tastes so darn good! Try this recipe with your little ones and see if they don’t feel the same.

Click to view recipe.

Chris Xaver, Ph.D., is a local TV and radio personality with three children and five grandchildren. Her healthy lifestyle show, The Sweet Life, is airing on public television stations nationwide.


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