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Why I Avoid Peanut Butter


Nut butters, whether they be almond, hazelnut, cashew, or peanut; are a staple source of quick protein for vegans, vegetarians and health nuts (pun intended!) alike. But not all nut or seed butters are created equal. I will not eat peanut butter, though.

I’ll admit it’s delicious, so very delicious. But I still won’t eat it.

Peanuts are not actually a nut at all. They’re a legume, like a bean or a chickpea, but this is not the problem with peanuts.

Peanut Butter and Aflatoxins

Unlike almonds, which grow on trees, peanuts grow underground. This leaves them susceptible to mold and fungus; and unfortunately peanuts are high in carcinogenic compounds called aflatoxins, which are produced by the Aspergillus fungus. These aflatoxins have been linked to a variety of health issues, most notably liver cancer, but also growth impairment in children and developmental delays.

There are cancer-causing compounds all around us. Some of them we can control, and some of them we can’t. If I can reduce my exposure to aflatoxins by avoiding peanut butter, it’s a very small sacrifice to make for my overall health and cancer prevention.

Peanut Butter, Pesticides and Allergies

Peanuts are one of the most heavily pesticide-ridden crops.

Peanuts are among the foods most often implicated as triggering allergic reactions. This much we all know, but we don’t know why. Could it be because of this high toxic load from all the pesticides, or could it be the ability that peanuts have to absorb toxic waste and heavy metals from the soil they are grown in? Perhaps this could be one of the contributing factors leading so many kids to have life threatening reactions to a mere crumb of a peanut.

Now I know many of us health nuts, if we were eating peanut butter, would choose organic, which would at least reduce the amount of pesticides and would not contain all the sugar, emulsifiers and hydrogenated oils of conventional peanut butter. But even organic peanuts can have the mold factor, which is not cool if you suffer from any kind of inflammatory, fungal or yeast related health condition like candida or general allergies.

Peanut Butter And The “Bad” Fats

Fat is good for us – but we need to eat the health-supportive fats in order to reap the health benefits. Peanuts are extremely high in omega-6 fats. While omega-6 fats are essential, we also need to have them balanced with omega 3s in a 3:1 ratio. Otherwise, inflammation erupts.

Peanut butter is rich in omega-6 fatty acids, but is very low in omega-3s (this is exemplary of the typical American diet). We don’t need another source of omega-6; we consume enough of it already.

Pass Me The nut or seed Butter!

In contrast, many other nut and seed butters are absolutely delicious and health-supportive.

I am a fan of almond butter. Almonds are a rich source of Vitamin E, an important antioxidant that protects us from cellular damage, as well as biotin, a B vitamin that enriches our skin. They’re also one of my go-to sources for magnesium (nature’s relaxant mineral) and fibre.

Almonds have been thoroughly touted for their ability to support our hearts (especially their cholesterol-lowering properties), as well as their capacity to help us balance blood sugar, improve gut health and fight inflammation.

Delicious Benefits Of Almond Butter

That being said, in recent years I have been rotating almond butter with many other nut and seed butters. It’s important to eat a variety of foods, rather than eat the same thing each day (and it’s worthwhile to take advantage of seasonal goodies!). Almond production has an environmental impact because it’s a water-intensive crop. Many almonds are grown in California, which has been dealing with severe droughts in recent years. As almonds, almond milk and almond butter have grown in popularity more land has been changed to grow them, plus bees – a struggling population – are transported to help pollinate almond crops.

Play around with different nut or seed butters, including:

  • Hazelnut butter
  • Cashew butter
  • Brazil nut butter
  • Macadamia butter
  • Walnut butter
  • Tahini
  • Sunflower seed butter
  • Pumpkin seed butter

And it’s super easy to make your own nut and seed butters from scratch! All you need are nuts or seeds a food processor or high-speed blender (don’t try this in a regular blender).

These nut and seed butters can be a perfect stand-in for peanut butter no matter what recipe you’re creating. You can replace these nut/seed butters for peanut butter 1:1, so there’s no need for much adaptation. Make almond butter cups, spread on a nut/seed butter and jelly sandwich, blend them in sauces, dip crackers into them. I’m betting you and whoever you’re cooking for likely won’t notice the difference (unless it’s to remark on how delicious your version is!).

Give almond butter a go. Or hazelnut butter. Or cashew butter. If nut allergies are an issue, use tahini or sunflower seed butter instead.  Eat as you would peanut butter; on fruit, in a smoothie, with chocolate (the best!), on toast drizzled with honey and cinnamon, or right off the spoon. All of the above happen in my kitchen regularly.

Here are a few of my recipes with nut and seed butter to try.

Healthy Fudge Recipe

Peanut Butter Alternatives
Header image: iStock/ BarnabyChambers

19 Responses to “Why I Avoid Peanut Butter”

  1. Gae said… August 3, 2020
    And where can one get unsprayed almonds/butter? All the articles I’ve read say there is NO such thing...that ALL almond Trees are sprayed with pesticides because they are SO susceptible to various fungus and mold! If they are not fumigated or sprayed, they are heat treated which kills most of the positive benefits!!!
  2. Anne said… January 12, 2021
    I still eat peanut butter, but now I'm going to re-think this, and replace it with almond butter. I remember reading China Study and they were looking at cancer likely caused by aflatoxins in peanuts. Thanks for the information.
  3. Rebecca said… January 12, 2021
    Hi Meghan! I was just reading about nuts and mold and cashews and pistachios both came up as being moldy type nuts other than peanut butter. I notice many health “nuts” ( totally intended😆) recommend cashews for a variety of things. Why do cashews get a pass?
    • Hi Rebecca! There are other nut varieties that can be prone to mold, and people who are susceptible or sensitive to molds may choose to avoid those as well. The sourcing of nuts is important, as well as storage and preparation (ie sprouting may reduce aflatoxins). From what I've read, peanuts are more likely to be higher in aflatoxins - but even it they weren't, there are still the other reasons I outlined in the post that put them on the list of ingredients I avoid.

Before you post your comment, please note that I am unable to offer nutritional advice or recommendations via my blog.

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