For anyone who is an adult reading this, there is a good chance that you associate peanut butter with warm childhood memories. After all, what was more common than PB & J sandwiches, back in the day? But more and more, the potential health dangers of peanuts in general and peanut butter are coming to light. Yes dangers! I know it is scary to think that such a common food can actually have major issues with it. So much so, that hopefully future generations might have the same fond memories of almond butter or other such alternatives instead.
Just last week saw a massive recall of peanut products ranging from the nuts themselves to products containing peanut butter. The recall started in September, when peanut butter sold at Trader Joe’s was found to contain a strain of salmonella that caused an outbreak including 29 cases in 18 American states. Last week, the recall expanded to include all raw and roasted peanut products made by Sunland, Inc. For more details on the peanut recall, you can visit the FDA’s website.
Peanuts Very Susceptible to Contaminants
If you follow the Beauty Detox lifestyle, it probably comes as no surprise that the peanuts were susceptible to salmonella contamination. In The Beauty Detox System, I discuss in detail just how susceptible peanuts are to contamination.
One of the most concerning toxins associated with peanuts is a mold that produces aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a known carcinogen associated with liver cancer. Aflatoxin consumption has also been shown to stunt growth in children. Any food that is creating congestion in the liver may potentially impede its important functions, including detoxification and fat-burning.
Why are peanuts so susceptible to toxins? They are actually legumes, and not nuts. While nuts have a hard, protective shell (think about walnut and pecan shells and just how difficult they are to crack), legumes have a soft, permeable pod. Peanuts also grow underground, because they are part of the plant’s root system. Growing underground with a permeable pod leaves peanuts at the mercy of temperature and moisture conditions including warm humidity that allows for the growth of molds. Peanuts can also grow molds during storage, shipping, or even on grocery store shelves if the conditions are right for doing so.
This is true EVEN for organic peanuts or peanut butter, as it is the nature of the peanut itself and doesn’t have to do with pesticides or herbicides.
Peanuts are also listed as one of the most common food allergies for humans. In fact, some people have peanut allergies so severe that even breathing air contaminated with a tiny amount of peanut dust or eating foods produced in a factory that also processes peanuts is enough to set off life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Peanuts, along with other legumes like soy, contain anti-nutrients known as lectins. Lectins are sticky proteins found in many foods including legumes. They serve as a primitive pest-resisting strategy in the plant. The stickiness and structure of lectins, however, makes them almost impossible to digest. They also bind to sugars in cells in the human body, leading to an immune response and inflammation. Lectins have been indicated in a number of inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis. They may also wreak havoc on weight management, because lectins have been shown to mimic insulin behaviors in the human body. Some vegetables also contain lectins, but the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition notes that lectin levels vary considerably even among the same vegetable, and vegetables’ lectins are not orally toxic.
While the lectins are one aspect of peanuts that may be pro-inflammatory, so is the high level of omega-6 fatty acids they contain. Your body needs both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for good health, an overview of omega-3 vs omega-6. The problem, however, is that the standard Western diet is extremely high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3s. When omega-3 fatty acids are out of balance with omega-6 fats, as often arises in a standard Western diet, inflammation, heart disease, and other health issues can arise. Using peanut oil in any case or any situation is definitely never, ever recommended.
Since molds are an issue with peanuts, non-organic farmers use many pesticides and fungicides on peanut crops. With permeable pods, non-organic peanuts and peanut products may contain high levels of pesticide residues.
What to Try Instead
With all of the potential health dangers associated with peanuts, I don’t ever recommend consuming even organic versions of this legume. If you like a little nutty flavor or crunch, I strongly recommend raw organic almonds, which are high in protein, manganese, magnesium, and vitamin E. Because they are high in calories and fat, I recommend eating just an ounce or two of almonds each day. A little almond butter is great for certain recipes (though don’t overdo it, it is dense!) and is a super easy switch over. If you have little ones try making them Almond Butter-Goji Nuts on a Log!
Know anyone that eats peanut butter or gives it to their kids? Please share this info to spread the word (and save some livers!).