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
- Lower in omega-6
- Rich in fibre
- Rich in protein
- Can improve intestinal bacteria
- Can improve insulin sensitivity
- Can reduce cardiovascular disease risk
- Can help with weight loss
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
- 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.
- Veggie Rice Wraps with Almond Dipping Sauce
- Chocolate Almond Butter Cups
- Spicy Thai Ginger Kale Chips
- Hazelnut Fudge
- Grain-Free Raw Coconut Cookies
- Buckwheat Sweet Potato Burgers
- Caramel Fudge Chocolate Bar
23 responses to “Why I Avoid Peanut Butter”
Peanuts from china are sprayed with a really toxic pesticide. It’s believed that this is what causes many people to develop an allergy to peanuts. The majority of peanuts butters on the shelf are from imported peanuts.
I eat a lot of almonds but experience a lot of concern…not from a personal health standpoint but from an environmental health standpoint. Almonds are grown as a monocrop….miles and miles of just almonds. They all bloom at the same time…miles and miles of one plant blooming. In order to pollinate those miles and miles of almonds, honeybees are brought in from all over the country to pollinate this one crop. Bees are not cattle or livestock yet we treat them as such and then wonder why they are struggling to survive. Nothing we do is in a vacuum. Just a thought for everyone jumping to almonds. Perhaps that are multiple, varied options that will sustain our personal and environmental health!
Also, we’ve even brought honeybees in from Australia and New Zealand in order to pollinate the almonds!
Almonds have been in my regular diet all my life, until I found out that the majority are fumigated with propylene oxide, a chemical that even the CDC has admitted causes cancer. Those marked as organice are not fumigated but heat processed, unfortunately losing lots of their good properties. So just an advise to make sure the almonds you buy are fumigation-free! For example the brand Kirkland sold in Costco has been fumigated. The almonds bought in Trader’s Joe have not been fumigated. You can see this article for more information: http://naturalsociety.com/discovered-dirty-little-secret-almonds/
Sunflower butter is high in heavy metals like lead!! Please be careful and try not to eat it too often. I’m curious which is worse when it comes to heavy metals. Peanuts or sunflower seeds?
Wow what a great article about peanuts every time we think we understand something about Health and wellness we learn more
I love the taste of almond butter but the environmental cost is very high (water consumption). I recently discovered pumpkin seed butter. It seems like a more environment friendly spread, because it can be made from locally grown produce (I’m in Canada too.) What do you think of that butter from a nutritional point of view?
OK. You’ve convinced me. I had already reduced my peanut butter intake opting for organic versions only once in a while but I see now even that it dangerous. Thanks for the straightforward info.
Great article on peanut butter! Very informative. What is your take on sunflower seed butter or pumpkin seed butter?
Either of those are great replacements!
Thank you for the informative article. It makes me wonder if it is contributing to my son’s allergies. What about sunflower seed butter? I find it to be nice and creamy and something he may not mind.
Yes, sunflower seed butter is a great replacement for peanut butter!
We were told to purposefully introduce peanuts to our child twice a week to avoid an allergy from developing. Not sure now if it’s worth the risk…thoughts? We do buy organic bc I was aware of the heavy pesticides used on peanuts.
Hi Susan! It’s best to work with your health care provider or practitioner for customized advice for your child. I’m unable to give specific recommendations for you here.
I agree with a comment above, I think it is important to note the environmental impact of almonds and increased consumption. If you want to promote reducing peanut butter consumption, I think it would be wise to perhaps promote other alternatives over almond butter?
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!!!
You could check out Organic Matters (OM Foods).
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.
I’m an Oxford scientist, and I wanted to give a bit of input. Aflatoxins are pretty much reduced or negated in most commercial peanut butters. You would need to addictively eat tubs of the food for the carcinogenic effect to take hold really. Hope that helps.
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.
I recently stopped eating peanut butter and switched to other nut and seed butters. But, the assortment of butter I have contain Brazilian nuts… Could that potentially increase my selenium if I’m taking a multi containing selenium ?
Hi Oren! Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium. How much you’re getting would depend on how many Brazil nuts you’re actually consuming daily from the nut butter (it’s hard to know if they are the predominant nut in a mixed nut butter), how much selenium is in your multi, and your health needs/status.