In recent times, more and more people have been finding out that they need peanut butter in their diet. People are slowly resuming consumption of it, after having abruptly stopped eating it out of fear of adverse reactions by themselves, or from new juvenile members of their family. It is becoming known that natural peanut butter, once shunned by heart attack patients, may indeed help save their lives. You see, peanut butter is one of the “good guys” containing the “good fats” that indeed lower cholesterol rather than raise it.
“The presence of saturated fat doesn’t automatically kick a food into the “unhealthy” camp. Let’s take a look at the peanut butter package. One serving (about 2 tablespoons) has 3.3 grams of saturated fat and 12.3 grams of unsaturated fat, or about 80% unsaturated fat. That puts it up there with olive oil in terms of the ratio of unsaturated to saturated fat. Peanut butter also gives you some fiber, some vitamins and minerals (including 200 milligrams of potassium), and other nutrients. Unsalted peanut butter, with 5 milligrams of sodium, has a terrific potassium-to-sodium ratio. Salted peanut butter still has about twice as much potassium as sodium. That profile compares quite favorably with bologna, roast beef, and many other sandwich fixings.
Over the years, numerous studies have shown that people who regularly include nuts or peanut butter in their diets are less likely to develop heart disease or type 2 diabetes than those who rarely eat nuts. Although it is possible that nut eaters are somehow different from, and healthier than, non-nutters, it is more likely that nuts themselves have a lot to do with these benefits.
Saturated fat isn’t the deadly toxin it is sometimes made out to be. The body’s response to saturated fat in food is to increase the amounts of both harmful LDL and protective HDL in circulation. In moderation, some saturated fat is okay. Eating a lot of it, though, promotes artery-clogging atherosclerosis, the process that underlies most cardiovascular disease. In contrast, unsaturated fats, which make up the majority of the fat content in peanut butter, help reduce LDL cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease.” – Walter C. Willett, M.D.
Professor of Nutrition
Harvard School of Public Health
But why has the relatively new phenomenon of large numbers of children around the world becoming critically allergic to peanut butter, come about in the first place? Today’s school children are dying because of it. This is literally amazing to me, since I grew up in an era, post-war, when almost every child had a lunch of peanut butter or Vegemite sandwiches in their Australian school lunch boxes. The baby boom was on, and families were large. Living conditions were becoming better for the average Australian, but with fathers just home from the war, struggling to raise a large family meant having to provide staples that gave the maximum nutritional content. Sweets were something to be enjoyed on birthdays, Christmas and Easter celebrations. For the average child, they were not part of our normal, everyday diet.
Amongst the hundreds of children of our ever-expanding State School, I never knew even one child who had an allergic reaction to peanut butter. Sure, there were babies who could not tolerate cow’s milk, but a change to goat’s milk soon fixed that. Our school enrollment numbers were daily increased by immigrants arriving from war-ravaged Europe and none of them displayed any reactions either. Believe me, if one had suddenly developed an illness and been rushed to hospital at lunch time, the whole town would have known about it.
The situation has changed remarkably and drastically today. Yet no one seems to be asking “Why?” The answer would logically seem to be that either an additive to commercially prepared peanut butter contains toxins life-threatening to some humans, or that the peanut itself has undergone some kind of metamorphosis rendering it potentially lethal to some. The figures are not in on the reactions, (if any), natural, i.e.organically produced, peanut butter has on allergic sufferers, but it would seem the latter is the most reasonable and likely of the optional scenarios.
Has anyone done any research into what has happened to the humble peanut to turn it into a weapon of mass destruction to children who are now labelled anaphylactic? Many foods can trigger anaphylaxis; this can occur the very first time a child is introduced to the offending product. No wonder young parents of today are loathe to give their small children peanut butter. The very name is anatheme to some.
Interestingly, common foods that trigger such a negative response vary around the world. In Western cultures, the eating of, or sometimes close physical exposure to traces of peanuts, nuts, wheat, seafood, shellfish, and even milk and eggs can cause a reaction. Sesame seed allergy is common in the Middle East, while rice and chick peas are frequently encountered as sources of anaphylaxis in Asia. Severe cases are usually caused by ingesting the allergen, but some people experience a severe reaction upon contact. Children can outgrow their allergies. By age 16, 80% of children with anaphylaxis to milk or eggs and 20% who experience isolated anaphylaxis to peanuts can tolerate these foods.
True, allergic reactions have always been around us, but their prevalence seems to have exponentially increased chronologically; and does not seem to be necessarily associated with the increase in population.
The “peaNUT” is actually a bean. Its shape is similar to a bean, and it is not a nut at all, but part of the legume family. It grows underground: quite different to beans which grow above ground, in pods on vines. The peanut, by contrast, has its pod buried in the soil. It has a soft, porous shell, which easily absorbs chemicals. Put any toxic contaminant into that soil and it gets absorbed through the soft shell and into the peanut.
Peanuts are grown in warm, humid climates, so fungi are a problem with peanuts. The fungi release a poison known as “aflatoxin”. This cancer-causing agent attacks the liver. Scientists have expressed concern over low-level, long-term exposures to aflatoxin. Studies have shown a correlative liver cancer risk. To get rid of the fungi, fungicides are applied to (non-organic) peanut crops. Because the peanut is also a big target for little pests, peanuts are one of the crops most heavily, routinely saturated with pesticides. Logically considered, this two-pronged attack with fungicides and pesticides can do nothing to make the non-organically produced peanut safe to eat. It may be a catch 22 situation: without the fungicides we may have an exposure to the risk of liver cancer. How great this risk actually is, and whether it truly warrants the mass use of fungicides is something we must now consider.
Some years ago, I wrote a humorous children’s book entitled: Jack the Arachibutyrophobiac. (This is a genuine phobia: a fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth.) From the time I wrote the book to the time I published the book, a period of one year, anaphylaxis had become such a prevalence in modern-day Australia, that peanuts and peanut butter were progressively being banned at lightning speed in school after school around the country. No longer was the familiar spread to be seen on sandwiches within and smelt oozing out of school lunch boxes.
Consequently I saw the need to edit my book to include an introductory chapter explaining the dangers of eating peanut products to some children, as well as a crash course in how to use the life saving EpiPen in an emergency situation.
For your interest and observation, I have posted a picture of the cover of this book, and the links to it below.