Sunday, March 13, 2011

Peanut Butter Transformation

I've always loved peanut butter. I was never one to be addicted to a specific brand or such, but I have always been a fan of crunchy over creamy. Several years ago I was introduced to the "natural" peanut butter; the kind that you had to stir fiercely with a knife or spoon before using because the oil separated from the solids. I thought this was a hassle but I liked the PB with honey in it and I, like so many other Americans, thought the word "natural" meant healthier. Today I've come to learn that "natural" really has no 100% accurate definition. It can mean different things to each different company using the term. 

According to the USDA: NATURAL indicates a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product) may be labeled natural. The label must explain the use of the term natural (such as - no added colorings or artificial ingredients; minimally processed.) *Sounds like it's up for interpretation to me. 

Back to the peanut butter- I was a crunchy, corn syrup added, hydrogenated oiled up peanut butter fan. Until I learned that the hydrogenated oils found in most peanut butter contain trans-fats that lead to elevated LDL, bad, cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease. I also gained a strong dislike toward corn syrup and generally try to avoid it at all costs. Corn syrup is basically super sweet sugar that makes you crave more super sweet sugar. Not to mention the lists of random preservatives and other things you might find on a typical jar of peanut butter. By law 90% of the jar must be peanuts, so what makes up the other 10 percent?

All of this knowledge quickly led me to a new found favor in the fresh-ground peanut and almond butter machines in natural food stores. In goes nuts, and out comes nut butter. No added sugar or fat! Although it did take me a while to get used to the nut butter without sugar or salt added, it really is not that difficult to make the switch. Usually I eat peanut butter with some form of bread, fruit or vegetable that have their own natural sugar present so I don' even notice. I also love to put nut butters in smoothies.

Peanut butter is definitely an item high in calories and fat so it must be eaten sparingly. However, the health benefits of peanut butter are many. Peanut butter has a good amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. All these go together for perfect, high energy, long lasting satisfaction. Most of the fat found is mono-unsaturated fats, the heart healthy ones. It also contains Vitamin E, fiber, niacin, phosphorus, and magnesium. All of this makes for a great addition to a healthy diet.

Most recently I have run out of my fresh-ground supply and haven't had the opportunity to make it to the health food store for a refill. This has led me to the next extreme peanut butter snob level. Homemade and fresh-ground!
A nice little combo of peanuts
Vita-Mix to the rescue! I did have to add a bit of canola oil to the mix simply
because even this monster couldn't handle all those nuts. 
My fresh-ground occasionally has some oil separate, but it is nothing
compared to the store-bought natural processed peanut butter.


  1. I will have to try this! I've never made my own peanut butter!

  2. Looks great! I mix peanut butter with fat free yogurt cheese to spread on bread. It's creamier and lower fat. I started with a half and half blend, but now I make it 1/3 pb and 2/3 yogurt cheese.

  3. How cool that you figured out how to make your own! I grew up on natural peanut butter, but didn't have it in college. I LOVE peanut butter and eventually adjusted to the gross "peanut butter spread" (yes, look carefully at the labels - that's what it says!) in the cafeteria. Once I graduated and got my own place, it was back to the good stuff! I feel sorry for all those people out there who think they are eating PB, but really missing out.