Why Americans Love Peanut Butter
As of October 8, 2017, the current population of the United States is estimated roughly at 326.8 million. According to sales statistics in the year 2016, over 290 million of those Americans consumed peanut butter. In addition, it is predicted that November 2017—being the National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month—will bring about the consumption of over 65 million pounds of peanut butter. Suffice it to say, peanut butter is an American staple food—and why shouldn’t it be?
Peanut Butter Facts
In each serving (typically 2 tablespoons), peanut butter provides:
Nine percent (9%) of the daily intake of the standard 2,000-calorie diet —
Despite popular opinion, calories are not the enemy. They are units of food-derived energy necessary to the optimal function and healthful maintenance of the human body. The average adult—whether sedentary or active—needs 2,000–3,000 calories each day for the purpose of systematic operations within the body to continue unhindered.
Fiber (2 grams/serving) —
Most plant foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water, forming a binding, gel-like material that enables the liver to excrete cholesterol and bile acids instead of reabsorbing them for reuse. Without soluble fiber, the persistent reabsorption of cholesterol has the potential to cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, as well as the hardening of the arteries. Other risks include heart attack, coronary disease, and stroke.
Soluble fiber also prevents sudden spikes in blood glucose levels by slowing the emptying of the stomach. It is a particular help to type II diabetics who must be ever-mindful of what they eat (or anyone aiming to maintain or lose weight), because its gel-like form creates a feeling of fullness and satiety.
Lastly, soluble fiber provides digestive relief. It reduces inflammation in the bowel, relieving inflammatory bowel conditions, temporary or long-term issues such as diarrhea and constipation, and even hemorrhoids. The key is, once again, its gel-like nature that will either add bulk to loose, watery stool or act as a liquid agent to hardened, immovable stool. Further research has revealed that soluble fiber helps overall digestive health even further because it ferments in the colon, which increases the proliferation of beneficial bacteria throughout the bowel. In the end, it provides both immediate and lasting results in gut health.
Insoluble fiber is often referred to as dietary fiber. It is indigestible but provides tremendous benefit to gastrointestinal health. In fact, dietary guidelines in North America recommend that for every 1000 calories consumed, 14 grams should be comprised of insoluble fiber. Americans, especially, are at a high risk of developing constipation, diverticular disease, and even cancer because their standard diet contains very little insoluble fiber. This type of fiber provides fullness and satiety without increasing calories. It also adds bulk to stool, which allows the body to excrete digestive waste more thoroughly and efficiently, protecting the bowel from being exposed to potentially carcinogenic toxins created as a biproduct of digestion. This permits a more optimal pH balance in the intestines that will encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria.
Protein (8 grams/serving) —
While current dietary trends overestimate the amount of protein needed each day, it is a vital component of every cell in the human body. Protein is necessary in the building and repairing of tissues, in the production of hair and nails, and in the various processes within the production of enzymes, hormones, and a wide range of other chemicals within the body.
Protein is referred to as a “macronutrient,” which means that the body requires a significant portion of it daily. Unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body cannot store protein for future use. Without adequate protein intake, the building and maintenance of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood would be obstructed and there would exist a detriment to overall health.
Vitamin E (3 milligrams/serving) —
Vitamin E is solely derived from plants. It is a powerful nutrient that supports the proper function of various organs, enzyme activities, and neurological processes. As an antioxidant, it prevents free radical damage to specific fats in the body that are critical not only to health, but also to the elasticity and overall appearance of skin. Aside from repairing skin damage and slowing the aging process, vitamin E thickens hair, improves vision and muscle strength/physical endurance, balances cholesterol and hormones, and treats and prevents heart and blood vessel diseases. Recent studies indicate that vitamin E is a vital component in not only pregnancy and fetal development, but is also a necessity in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and even cancer.
Magnesium (49 milligrams/serving) —
Magnesium facilitates a great number of benefits throughout the body, such as increased energy, decreased nervousness, and better sleep, to name a few. It increases energy because it is crucial to the activation of adenosine triphosate (ATP), which essentially creates and regulates energy and energy levels, respectively. It also promotes a state of calmness and relaxation since gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)—an inhibitory neurotransmitter that produces “happy hormones” (such as serotonin)—is dependent upon magnesium for proper function. All this, in turn, promotes better sleep. Some of the other advantages of magnesium are digestive relief, stronger bones, and the prevention of hypertension (high blood pressure).
Potassium (208 milligrams/serving) —
Potassium is an essential nutrient best-known for its contribution to muscle health. Potassium plays a direct role whether it’s in support of heart function or general muscle strength. It also decreases muscle cramps, reduces stroke risks, alleviates hypertension, and aids in the processing and utilization of ingested carbohydrates.
Vitamin B6 (0.17 milligrams/serving) —
Pyridoxine—or vitamin B6—is one of the eight complex B vitamins necessary for cardiovascular, digestive, immune, muscular, and nervous system function. It is needed for proper brain development and function and for the production of serotonin and norepinephrine, which are hormones that affect mood. Vitamin B6 also helps the body make melatonin, which regulates sleep and wake cycles.
Monounsaturated Fat (8 grams/serving) —
This type of fat has an anti-inflammatory effect and protects against cardiovascular disease because it works against metabolic syndrome, lowers the risk of atrial fibrillation, and combats cholesterol. Other benefits include the improvement of insulin sensitivity, proper fat use throughout the body, weight loss, improved mood, increased bone density, and reduced risk for cancer.
Niacin (about 12 milligrams/serving) —
Otherwise known as vitamin B3, niacin is a potent B-vitamin that acts as an antioxidant, plays a role in cell signaling as well as the making and repairing of DNA, and is involved in cellular metabolism as it helps enzymes convert food into energy. Niacin lowers (“bad”) LDL cholesterol, raises (“good”) HDL cholesterol, lowers triglycerides, is a possible preventative against heart disease, is a possible component in the treatment against Type 1 Diabetes, boosts brain function, improves skin function, and decreases symptoms of arthritis.
Sodium (5 milligrams/serving) —
In moderation, sodium is quite beneficial because, as an electrolyte, it serves to maintain fluid equilibrium throughout the body, assist nerve impulse transmission, and aid in the contraction and relaxation of muscles.
Overall, peanut butter is high in valuable nutrition, full of healthy fat, and has the potential to:
1. Control hunger and aid in weight loss .
2. Lower the risk of cardiovascular  and coronary diseases .
3. Reduce the risk of colon cancer in women .
4. Protect against Alzheimer’s/memory impairment .
5. Prevent gallstones .
6. Reduce the risk of Type II Diabetes .
By all appearances, peanut butter seems to be a superfood. So, what’s the catch?
You guessed it: mold.
Once peanuts are harvested, they are stored in silos that perpetuate warmth and humidity. This, in turn, proliferates the growth of mold and not just any mold, but Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus. These fungi produce a highly carcinogenic (cancer-causing) aflatoxin that has been linked to heart and liver disease, neurological malfunction, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, asthma, stunted growth, and premature death.
While other edibles can be chosen more carefully to avoid the presence of fungal infestation, the unfortunate truth is that peanuts are a guaranteed source of mycotoxins. But, if one is unwilling to renege on their love for peanut butter, one preventative/combative measure is possible:
Chlorophyll (or chlorophyllin)—a substance found in dark leafy greens, such as spinach, broccoli, and kale—could reverse the effects of aflatoxicity. This is due, in part, to its ability to bind to potential carcinogens, interfering with how they’re absorbed within the human gastrointestinal track. This helps halt the circulation of aflatoxins throughout the body that would otherwise reach tissues more susceptible, such as those within the heart or joints. Chlorophyll also protects healthy cells and bodily tissue by increasing phase II biotransformation enzyme activity, which could reduce the risk of aflatoxin-induced liver damage and cancer.
So, if you’re among the hundreds of millions who will be participating in the peanut butter love-fest this upcoming November, be sure to help yourself to some spinach, as well.
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About the Author: TheWife is the mother and personal chef of two boys, the domestic technician of a three-bedroom desert home, and occasionally, a freelance writer and editor. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @TheWifesLife
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