Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Food Worship #4: Natural Peanut Butter

I love peanut butter, and I'm willing to bet most of you do as well.  The good news is that the natural stuff is actually very healthy for you in small quantities.  In fact if you're looking to keep your heart healthy, put on some muscle, or even lose some body fat, natural peanut butter can definitely help you out.

What's so great about "natural" peanut butter?  Well, normal peanut butter may be a delicious gift from heaven, however it's filled to the brim with chemicals that will help to keep the peanut oil and the peanut paste from separating.  These include hydrogenated oils as well as high fructose corn syrup.  Those ingredients spell trouble, because in reality they mean something much more sinister: TRANS FAT. That nasty fat will surely fight your heart in every way possible, and will most likely contribute to a soft middle as well.

But wait, on the nutrition label it says there's zero trans fat for peanut butter, is it lying?

Not exactly, but that label may be a little misleading.  See, in reality, the FDA doesn't require trans fat to be posted on the label if it contains less than .5g of the stuff.  So it's there, it's just very minuscule.  But good ol' skippy definitely does NOT have 0 trans fat.  And while a tiny little bit such as this may not seem to mean too much, over a whole jar's worth it can add up (although I hope most of you don't eat an entire jar in one serving).

Natural peanut butter however doesn't have trans fat, because if you compare ingredients, you'll see that a good brand of natural peanut butter (I suggest either Teddy Bear or Smucker's natural) has "roasted peanuts" as the only ingredient.  No added sugars, no hydrogenated oils, only healthy fats and proteins.  Because it doesn't have these extra additives, the peanut oil in natural peanut butter will separate out over time.  Simply stir before using, or flip the jar when you're putting it away so the oil can absorb back up into the ground peanuts.

So how can natural peanut butter improve your diet?  I'll list a few ways, and give you an excuse to have a spoonful today:

Healthy Fats- Natural peanut butter is loaded with healthy, poly and mono unsaturated fats which will do you all sorts of good. They'll increase cardiovascular health if consumed in decent quantities in your diet, and will help to raise your HDL or "good" cholesterol.

These fats will also give you clean, usable energy throughout your day, which is why I'd definitely suggest having a tablespoon or two of natural peanut butter for breakfast on a slice of whole wheat toast.

Finally, these fats will help you to absorb what are called "fat soluble vitamins."  These essential vitamins are wasted and unusable by your body if they are not absorbed into a good source of unsaturated fat.  Examples of fat soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Protein/Bulking- While natural peanut butter does contain around 6g of protein per serving, considering that one serving has around 190-200 calories it doesn't end up being that protein dense.  What peanut butter is EXTREMELY good for though is those looking to bulk up, and pack on some muscle mass.  Because peanut butter is very calorie dense, it can assist hard-gainers to finally be in a caloric excess for the day so that they might use some of those extra quality calories to build some new muscle (note that muscle building required WORK, and existing in a caloric excess without working out is definitely NOT recommended.)

Fiber- Natural peanut butter has a good amount of fiber that will keep your digestive system healthy and will help to metabolize other food by slowing digestion.  This can help people to maintain or lose weight, and will also help them to feel fuller, longer.  Natural Peanut butter is very satiating.

Extended Feed Time- My personal favorite usage of natural peanut butter is to keep my muscles fed while I sleep.  After I lift, my muscles will be repairing themselves all the rest of that day and through the night, and they need raw food material in order to build those muscles up bigger and stronger than they were before.  I take a tablespoon of natural peanut butter before I go to bed to ensure that the healthy fats in peanut butter will slow down nutrient absorption into my muscles so they can be "drip fed" all night while I sleep, and won't ever enter a catabolic state.

It's a cheat meal, that's not a cheat meal!- Peanut butter tastes freakin' amazing! Sure the natural stuff may not be quite as sweet, but I guarantee that if you give it a couple tries, you'll learn to appreciate its rich, nutty flavor and its amazingly smooth texture.  It feels like you're eating dessert when really you're consuming a very healthy meal.  Remember to keep it in controlled quantities, but enjoy those quantities to their fullest extent.

It's cheap!- For all those great nutrients and healthy fats, natural peanut butter is pretty darn cheap.  Pick some up today, don't worry it won't break your food budget.

So there you go, I just gave you six great reasons to eat some peanut butter.  Do you need any more?  I bet you didn't need more than one....ha.  Seriously though, go out and pick some up, and try a little for breakfast, or as a between meal or pre-bedtime snack.  Natural peanut butter is an amazing diet tool and consuming it will result in a healthier, happier you.

Creamy or Chunky, it doesn't matter, I like either one.

Good Luck!

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