Wholesome Cook

Nuts about nuts: but what’s really lurking in commercially made peanut butter

The label on my peanut butter jar proclaims with pride it has “No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives”, but is it?

Breakfast time. Little did I know it would send me on a research spree spanning over two days…

The label on my peanut butter jar proclaims with pride it has “No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives” – a pretty popular marketing claim nowadays, especially on packaged foods that seem to need to claim their health benefits. Nevertheless, it sounds like a perfectly healthy breakfast spread, right?

It smells good – that’s freshly toasted peanuts a whole 67g per 100g of spread. It looks good and spreads well – that’s vegetable oils, which are supposed to be healthier for us than animal derived fats.

However, the fine print tucked away in the ingredient list at the back, tells a slightly different story.  The spread contains, amongst sugar and other things:

–          hydrogenated oils,

–         antioxidant E320.

Any type of vegetable oil that stays solid at room temperature has been hydrogenated – solidified through a chemical process. Legislation in some US states has actually banned restaurants from using hydrogenated oils because of their trans-fat forming properties in cooking. You start to get a little suspicious of smearing the stuff on hot toast.

If that hasn’t put you off, perhaps consider the next ingredient: antioxidant E320. It is a type of fat preservative, but because of its anti oxidising properties it is called an antioxidant. And, unlike antioxidants found naturally in foods such as berries, E320 is a petroleum derivative otherwise known as Butylated hydroxy-anisole. You don’t drizzle your food with motor oil, so why would you consider having its close-enough cousin on your bread every morning?

While the peanuts are full of healthy attributes and natural antioxidants, they are best eaten raw – toasting peanuts may release toxic acrylamides, which again put our livers into overdrive trying to get rid of the toxins.

Generally speaking, if you want to avoid those added nasties in your daily diet, read the food labels and steer away from anything that contains numbers in its name or reads like it came from a PhD in chemistry – if you cannot pronounce it, it’s probably too hard for your body to deal with, too.

Disappointed with my findings, and still hungry, I ’bagged the evidence’ crime lab style, placed it in the guilty bin and decided to make my own Breakfast nut spread. Healthy and delicious! Yum! There are also many brands that make raw nut betters, so try them out instead.  

Read more on additives and ways to avoid them: Artificial colours, Preservatives, Antioxidants, Flavour enhancers.

1 comment

lateraleating July 11, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Homemade is the way to go. Commercial stuff is full of crap, no matter how many health claims they put in the labels.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.