What is more American than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? What’s not to like about the complex carbs in peanuts and the fruit in that jelly?
Let’s break down this all-American, kid-friendly sandwich.
- Roasted peanuts
- Sugar (sometimes listed as dextrose)
- Fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed, cottonseed and soybean)
Roasted peanuts are cooked using additional oil unless dry roasted. Boiling and dry roasting do not require the addition of extra oils.
Sugar on labels is code for (in nearly all cases) GMO sugar beet sugar. This is a crop that is engineered to tolerate spraying of glyphosate for weed control without damage to the sugar beet plant itself. Beets are a root crop. If the sugar had been derived from sugar cane, it would have been labeled “cane sugar.”
Molasses (less than 2% according to the label) in and of itself isn’t bad if it is made from cane sugar; however, non-organic processed food molasses may be made from GMO sugar beets and can contain additives such as sulfur dioxide (less common today than a few years ago). The source for the molasses in this peanut butter is not listed.
Rapeseed oil — they did not even use the less non-nutritious Canola oil term for this ingredient. Rapeseed is a brassica and is almost always GMO (again, lots of glyphosate). Canola is what is typically sold for human consumption and rapeseed (not using the Canola name) is more commonly used in animal feed.
Cottonseed oil is extracted from the seeds of the cotton plant which is not a food at all. We don’t eat cotton seeds in any recipes or foods. But oils extracted from cotton seeds seems to be okay according to the agricultural and food industry. Since the majority of cotton grown in the U.S. (and India) is GMO Bt Cotton, it contains a built-in pesticide. Cotton plants also require frequent spraying with a number of pesticides to fend off the many pests that attack crops. This may be the most toxic oil humans ingest.
Soybean oil is extracted from soybeans which is up to 96% GMO in the United States and Canada. This crop is engineered to tolerate spraying glyphosate for weed control. I highly recommend researching soy to learn of its effects on the human body over time. I don’t recommend this oil.
Hydrogenated means the addition of hydrogen to the oil (a chemical process) until the oils become solid at room temperature. This creates trans-fats in partially-hydrogenated oils, the kind that increase bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lowers good (HDL) cholesterol levels in humans. This label says that they are “Fully hydrogenated” which means that they do not become trans-fats; however, Consumer Reports writes that these oils are not good for humans, either.
Here is a short article explaining which oils are healthy and which are not: Bon Appetit’s 3 Best and Worst Oils for Your Health.
Peanut butter is made by grinding peanuts until they become a paste of sorts. The oil separates from the solid if allowed to reach room temperature because peanut oil is not hydrogenated (it remains a liquid). This is as it should be. At this point, the addition of a little salt is all that is necessary to made a delicious and nutritious peanut butter.
Why all of the weird ingredients in cheap peanut butter?
Well, the peanut oil is removed from the peanut paste and sold for big $$$. This oil then must be replaced with something so that it can be spread on bread, hence the addition of the cheaper, and less nutritious, oils which are hydrogenated for shelf stability (the oil doesn’t separate from the peanuts at room temperature).
The addition of sugar is unnecessary but, I believe, creates a food that sugar-addicted consumers will crave more. And, of course, sugar added to nearly anything makes foods more palatable. Sugar is in everything.
There is nothing wrong with the salt. Salt is merely a flavor enhancer and is not inherently unhealthy. High sodium from other additives is unhealthy.
You have two choices: buy a natural peanut butter or buy organic; however, even many organic brands of peanut butter contain sugars and non-peanut oils — peanut oil is big $$$ product. This was a huge disappointment to me when I shopped for organic peanut butter.
You want to see this on the label:
- Salt (optional)
That’s it. And, of course, you can always make your own (something I want to try) using a food processor. Some grocery stores will grind fresh peanut butter for you on site.
If you buy natural peanut butter, merely use a butter knife to stir the oil on top back into the peanut paste (yes, it is a little messy, but only takes a minute). I keep my jar in the fridge to keep the oils from separating again. Easy peasy.
I recommend avoiding cheap peanut butters. They are full of GMOs and unhealthy ingredients designed to allow the food to sit on the shelf for months and years. Peanut butter is a wonderful food which should contain only peanuts and salt (optional).
Next will be an evaluation of the jelly part of PB&J.