Which Peanut Butter is Best?

Peanut butter is a versatile snack that is packed with protein and heart-healthy unsaturated fats. These same unsaturated fats also help you to feel full (satiety). Peanut butter is also a good source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, and Vitamin B-6. Unfortunately, identifying the healthiest peanut butter at the grocery store is becoming more and more challenging.  As new peanut butters and peanut butter-like products are coming onto the market, deciding between regular vs “natural” peanut butter or reduced fat vs. powdered peanut butter can leave your head spinning.

Peanut Butter vs. Peanut Butter Spread (aka reduced-fat peanut butter)

Many peanut butters on the shelf at the supermarket are full of added sugar and other ingredients, such as soybean oil. According to the National Peanut Board, in order for peanut butter to be labeled as peanut butter, it has to contain at least 90% peanuts. The only other allowable ingredients are salt, sweeteners, and hydrogenated vegetable oils.

Products that include anything else, like palm oil, flavors, or other ingredients, must be labeled as peanut butter spreads. They may still contain at least 90 percent peanuts and have a similar nutritional profile, but they are outside the standard definition of “peanut butter.” These are typically what your reduced-fat peanut butters are called.

“Natural” Peanut Butter

There is no standard, FDA regulated, definition for “natural” peanut butter. A loose definition of a peanut butter labeled “natural” has only peanuts and salt listed in the ingredients. It does not usually contain added sugar or hydrogenated oils. Without the added oils, these types of peanut butters are not well homogenized which leads to the oils separating out from the mixture and rising to the top of the jar. This can be remedied by simply stirring. As always, double check the label before assuming that a “natural” peanut butter fits these criteria.

Powdered Peanut Butter

As powdered peanut butter grows in popularity, it’s important to know what makes powdered peanut butter different from standard peanut butter. Powdered peanut butters are made by extracting most of the fat and dehydrating what’s left of the peanut, which forms a powder. The resulting product has 85% less fat calories. To make up for the flavoring that is lost with the fat, often sugar and salt are added.

While this can be a great product for those looking for peanut butter taste, without all the fat and calories, you would probably be better off just having a tablespoon of regular peanut butter. The unsaturated fats found in regular PB are far more filling than the powdered form. Additionally, replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fats in your diet is more likely to lead to weight loss than a diet higher in sugar. 

What to look for

Thankfully, you don’t have to grind up your own peanuts in order to get a healthy, no additives, creamy peanut butter. Many supermarkets as well as health food stores offer nut butters that are simple, delicious, and without all the unnecessary additives. Look for peanut butter (or any nut butter) that only contains peanuts and salt. This ensures you are getting all the protein and healthy fats, without the added sugar or hydrogenated oils. Additionally, many stores allow you to make your own nut butter. Essentially, you can crush your own peanuts. 

5 Healthy Recipe Substitutions

Eating a healthy diet doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice taste or texture. Enjoying your favorite foods while also making some healthy swaps is possible! Cutting down on calories, saturated fat, and sugar, are just a few ways to tweak your diet. The best part is that most people (e.g. picky kids or spouse) may not even notice the difference.

1) Fruit or vegetable puree for vegetable oil

Swapping fruit or vegetable puree (e.g. unsweetened applesauce, pumpkin puree, mashed bananas, or mashed avocado) for vegetable oil in baked goods is one of the easiest ways to cut calories and saturated fat. This substitution works well with both homemade goods, such as zucchini bread, and box goods, such as whole grain blueberry muffins. The texture remains light and fluffy and the flavor remains sweet!

2) Unsweetened applesauce for sugar

This is a great one for people with type II diabetes or anyone who is looking to reduce the amount of sugar in a baked goods recipe. The applesauce adds just enough sweetness without adding all the extra calories that sugar contains. Just be sure to reduce the amount of liquid by 1/4 cup for every cup of applesauce you substitute. This will help the recipe to maintain the proper consistency. The substitution works greats for oatmeal raisin cookies

3) Rolled oats for breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs usually pack a hefty amount of sodium and added fat. Replacing breadcrumbs with oatmeal not only reduces the sodium and fat, but the oatmeal is a good source of fiber, iron, manganese, B vitamins, selenium, and tryptophan. Make sure to use rolled oats if you want to maintain the crunchy texture of breadcrumbs. Quick oats are more processed and, therefore, cook more quickly……which may lead to a soggy dish. This substitute works great for recipes like meatloaf and casseroles.

4) Mashed avocado for mayo

This recipe swap is a beloved one for many people who have already discovered how delicious it is! If you do a side by side nutritional comparison of avocado vs. mayo, avocado is clearly the champ! Additionally, avocado complements almost any dish!

 

 

5) Pureed frozen fruit for ice cream

Whether you’re looking to reduce calories or sugar, or add in more nutrients…frozen fruit ice cream has the same creamy texture as ice cream, without all the “extras”. Simply puree your favorite fruit (e.g. bananas, strawberries, blueberries, or mango). Add your favorite milk (cow, coconut, almond, cashew, soy, etc.) for an even creamier texture. Adding a little pure vanilla extract will make for an even richer, more full flavor. But, rest assured, your frozen fruit “ice cream” will taste delightful even without anything added to it.  

 

News Roundup: FDA Redefines "Healthy" Label

 

The Food and Drug Administration will re-evaluate its definition of "healthy", which could eventually change how foods are marketed. This comes in light of strong and consistent evidence which supports the recommendation that healthy (unsaturated) fats can and should be a part of a healthy diet. As the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans outlines, unsaturated fats are associated with reduced total and LDL cholesterol as well as reduced heart attacks and cardiovascular disease-related deaths.

Last April, the FDA sent a letter to the makers of KIND bars asking them to remove the “healthy” label on four of their bars. According to current FDA guidelines, to use the “healthy” label, a food must have no more than 1 gram of saturated fat per serving and contain no more than 15 percent of its calories from saturated fat, which the FDA says is not true for these four bars.  Now, a year later, the FDA has reversed its stance and says KIND bars can use the “healthy” label and the FDA is reexamining its definition of “healthy”.

This week’s news roundup brings to you a collection of articles and blog posts related to the FDA redefining “healthy” in light of the KIND bar decision.

FDA reverses stance, affirms KIND can use “healthy” on labels. KIND. “The FDA has confirmed that it intends to reevaluate the regulatory definition of “healthy,” an action that was prompted in part by KIND. The current standard was created with the best intentions 20 years ago, when the benefits of consuming “good fats” (like those found in nuts) were not fully understood. Under the regulation, foods like fat-free chocolate pudding and children’s sugary cereal can bear a healthy nutrient claim, but foods like nuts and avocados can’t.”

Are Kind bars 'healthy'? FDA settles battle over snack label. Today. "Consumers want to make informed food choices and it is the FDA's responsibility to help them by ensuring labels provide accurate and reliable nutrition information. In light of evolving nutrition research, forthcoming Nutrition Facts Labeling final rules, and a citizen petition, we believe now is an opportune time to reevaluate regulations concerning nutrient content claims, generally, including the term 'healthy',"

The FDA Is Going To Change The Definition Of ‘Healthy’ Food. Think Progress. “As more and more and more Americans are trying to make eating decisions based on sound nutrition, marketers are proclaiming their foods as “antioxidant,” “whole-grain,” “heart-healthy,” “gluten-free,” and “natural” — nutrition buzzwords that are largely meaningless in terms of nutritional value, or, in the case of “healthy,” are 20 years out of date.”

FDA to re-evaluate definition of 'healthy'. Yahoo! “The move to rethink "healthy" comes as dietary trends have shifted, with more people expressing concern about sugar and questioning low-fat or low-calorie diets. But any change in the term's regulatory definition could take years. The FDA's final rule on gluten-free labeling, for instance, took more than six years to complete.”

 

 

News Roundup: High Fat Diets

Last Friday, the results of a small rodent study were presented at the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior by scientist Krzysztof Czaja (University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine).  His research with rodents demonstrated that a “high fat” diet changes the composition of gut bacteria in the body, which eventually leads to over-eating.

The resulting headlines, such as those seen below, warn of the risks of a “high fat” diet. The problem with headlines like those below is that they conflict with information that has been broadly circulated, accepted, and proven, regarding the health benefits of a diet that includes moderate amounts of healthy fats. 

As stated in our previous blog, Fat is Not the Enemy, all fat isn’t created equal. Some healthy fat is actually a good thing (think walnuts and olive oil). The type of fat used in Dr. Czaja’s study was saturated fat and trans-fat (think donuts and pizza), both of which have previously been proven to be unhealthy. In fact, the FDA recently banned trans-fat from the American food supply.

As you read through headlines claiming “fat is bad”, take note of which type of fat they are referring too and remember that unsaturated fat (in moderation) can and should be a part of a healthy diet.

This week’s News Roundup brings you a collection of articles and blog posts related to high fat diets.

How A High-Fat Diet May Be Screwing With Your Brain.  Huffington Post. “For two weeks, he fed them all the same balanced, healthy chow that all lab rats need to stay at a normal weight. Then he took half of them and fed them high-fat rat food, made with a mixture of saturated fats and trans fats, like the fats that are found in our highly processed foods such as fast food, frozen pizza and pastries made with vegetable shortening.

Study finds that high fat diet changes gut microbe populations.  EurekAlert. “According to a new study with rats, that high-fat indulgence literally changes the populations of bacteria residing inside the gut and also alters the signaling to the brain. The result? The brain no longer senses signals for fullness, which can cause overeating--a leading cause of obesity.”

This is your brain on fried eggs: Brain, motivation and eating a high-fat diet.  ScienceDaily.  “Fulton's study is the first of its kind to show that, regardless of weight changes, unrestrained intake of saturated fats can have negative effects on the controls of motivation by the brain.”

Understanding the Power of Omega-3s.  LiveScience. “Omega-3s [a type of unsaturated fat] work several ways in the heart. They appear to prevent irregular heartbeat, reduce fatty plaques inside artery walls, decrease blood clotting, decrease triglycerides (blood fat), increase HDL (good cholesterol) and decrease inflammation.”

 

The Mediterranean Diet: Good for Health, Good for Life.

The Mediterranean diet is consistently promoted by health professionals as one of the healthiest and most balanced diets available.  You may have wondered, what makes the Mediterranean diet so great? For starters, it’s a well balanced style of eating that is rich in fresh, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and seafood.  Other foods like dairy, red meats, and sweets are not entirely eliminated, but consumed less often.  The Mediterranean style of eating differs from many other diets because no single food group is deemed the token villainous “bad” food group. Foods from all food groups are included.  As illustrated in the Mediterranean diet pyramid, some foods are encouraged to be eaten more frequently, while others less often.  Most people find this particular style of eating relatively reasonable to follow and adhere to (versus more restrictive, less balanced diets).

Aside from dietary recommendations, the Mediterranean style of eating also encourages physical activity and enjoying meals. Focusing on diet, physical activity, and the mind/body (social) aspect of living, contributes to the well-roundedness of the Mediterranean diet. 

What does the research tell us?

Many large scale clinical and population health studies have tested the efficacy of the Mediterranean style of eating.  The results indicate that a diet similar to that of the Mediterranean region is linked with many physical health benefits including reduced risk of heart disease; reduced risk of death from heart disease, cancer and Parkinson’s; reduced blood pressure and cholesterol; reduced risk of obesity in children andadults; and reduced risk of Type II Diabetes

Research has also demonstrated the positive effects of a Mediterranean diet on mental health, particularly Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia.  Adherence to a Mediterranean style diet is linked with reduced risk and progression of Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia.

What makes the Mediterranean Diet so healthy?

There are a few staples of the Mediterranean diet that make it such a health style of eating.  Overall, it is a diet that is high in healthy (unsaturated) fats and low in highly processed, sugary foods-which have been linked with many adverse health outcomes such as heart disease and type II diabetes.  Consisting of many fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, olive oil, and fish, Mediterranean foods are generally lower in calories and higher in vitamins, minerals, fiber, heart healthy fats, and protein, than the typical Western diet.

How can I start eating the Mediterranean way?

Familiarize yourself with the Mediterranean diet pyramid and try to stick to the core principles of this style of eating.  Base every meal off fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and/or legumes. Consume poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt once or twice per week. Try to eat meats and sweets once per week or once every other week at most.

Here are a few tips that highlight the difference between the Mediterranean vs. Western style diet:

·         Stick with whole, fresh foods rather than prepackaged or precooked meals.

·         Grill, broil, and bake instead of frying.  

·         Use fresh herbs and spices instead of salt or sugar to flavor food. 

·         Use olive oil instead of butter.

·         Drink red wine in moderation (optional).

·         Be physically active.

·         Enjoy sit-down meals with others instead of eating alone or on the go.

Remember, the Mediterranean style is ideally fresh, flavorful, and abundant in variety; it’s far from boring, tasteless, and rigid (like many other “diets”). Note the word “style” versus “diet”. Diet implies restriction and something that cannot be maintained long-term. The Mediterranean “style” of eating is healthy and flavorful and can most definitely be maintained long-term for well beyond weight management benefits – as aforementioned.

So- experiment in the kitchen, be active, and share meals with others. These are the foundations of the Mediterranean way!