As we all know, there are certain foods that aren’t allowed on the Paleo diet. One of these being peanut butter. Yet I still find people asking is peanut butter Paleo?
Well, for those who follow a strict Paleo diet, the answer is no. But for others, enjoying this food on the odd occasion is fine. Let us take a closer look at the humble peanut in relation to our past, why they aren’t considered Paleo, and is there any way for us to enjoy peanut butter occasionally.
Background To Peanuts
Prior to the agricultural revolution, the consumption of legumes (peanuts) and raw beans was something that didn’t occur often. This was because our ancestors found them extremely hard to digest. In fact, if eaten, they would pass immediately through a person’s digestive tract.
However, over the centuries the use of cooked legumes and beans became increasingly a normal part of our diets. Initially, it was people in North America, Central and South America who began to include such foods in their diets.
When explorers from Spain started to bring them back to Europe and the consumption of such foods, then spread to Africa. In fact, today beans and legumes are still very much part of the African diet and included in a variety of traditional dishes.
It was during the 1980s that the use of vegetable fats (such as those made from corn) became increasingly popular, and they considered the use of animal fats inferior for using when cooking. Like vegetable oil, peanut oil became very popular as considered being a more healthy alternative.
So Why Aren’t Peanuts Paleo?
The first thing you need to understand is that in fact, peanuts aren’t a nut, they are legumes. This is the primary reason they do not appear on the Paleo diet food list, unlike almond butter does.
Okay, we know that legumes aren’t as bad as grains as they don’t contain large amounts of gluten or other hazardous substances. But they can still prove very toxic if they haven’t been cooked for any length of time.
As with all legumes, you’ll find that peanuts provide a reasonable source of protein but also contain a sizeable amount of carbohydrates in them.
If we are not careful, it can lead to a person suffering a very high glycemic response after eating them. Plus, for some people eating them can lead to such issues as bloating and a buildup of gas in the stomach.
This is why you may be wondering if you can eat peanut butter on the Paleo diet?
Unlike us or animals, plants cannot run away from their predators or frighten them off. So in order to protect themselves, they release certain compounds. These compounds help to make them taste horrible or make it harder for us to eat them.
The kinds of compounds you will find in peanuts include lectins, phytates, and saponins. These can all cause problems for humans when eaten.
With peanuts, the part of the plant we eat is, in fact, the seed. It is this part of the plant that will contain the embryo that will help to grow more peanuts. So someone has designed it in such a way to prevent it from being digested. It moves through the body so it can then be deposited elsewhere.
It is this part of the peanut that leads to health issues. The seed contains chemicals that stop digestive enzymes from breaking it down. This causes a chain reaction.
Your digestive system will produce more enzymes hoping to break the seed down. But this doesn’t happen. Because of this, it leads to an overabundance of the enzymes in your stomach that can lead to the lining of your gut being worn away.
Also, it can lead to a build-up of undigested food in your intestinal tract. This helps to create the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. If the amount of bad bacteria in our stomach is allowed to grow, so we may suffer a variety of different health problems, including those relating to blood pressure.
Some of these problems may show up occasionally. You could suffer from bloating or a build-up of gas in the intestines. I’ve noticed if I eat too many, I felt bloated. At other times it could lead to bowel movements becoming disrupted. I can easily deal with these, just by eliminating the peanuts from your diet.
However, there are other problems that could arise you may find much harder to cope with. You may find yourself feeling depressed or anxious.
You may find it much harder to concentrate. This is because the compounds listed below impact how messages are relayed to your brain. So it is important to remember what effects a poor digestive system can have on the mental aspects of your life.
So what’s the problem with the kinds of compounds you’ll find in your beloved peanut butter?
You’ll find that raw peanuts contain high levels of this compound. It forms part of the seeds and helps the leaves to grow when this plant sprouts. We really have problems digesting this compound. If it compromises your digestive system in anyway lectin can get into your bloodstream with no changes.
As our body cannot digest it so our immune system goes into action. It produces antibodies that will attack and destroy them.
If it compromises your digestive system, lectin can get into your bloodstream with no changes. As our body cannot digest it so our immune system goes into action. It produces antibodies that will attack and destroy them.
This compound can also lead to damage to the wall lining your gut. It can lead to other health problems from joint pain and fatigue to an allergic reaction. In fact, in relation to the Western diet, the number of people who suffer from allergies relating to this food has grown substantially in recent years.
The big problem with lectins is sometimes it is hard to recognize what adverse effect they are having on our body. This is because the signs of these adverse effects are very subtle. So it is important you make the right food choices when following the Paleo diet philosophy.
Like other legumes, peanuts contain a phytic acid that allows the plant to store phosphorus, that it needs to grow. The levels of phytate to be found in peanuts vary and can lead to some unwanted side effects after we have eaten the peanuts.
First, our bodies finding digesting this compound difficult. This prevents digestive enzymes in the stomach from carrying out their work. As a result, you’ll find that your stomach isn’t able to break down carbs or protein as easily. If your diet contains lots of carbs, you may find that you suffer from bloating and gas more frequently.
However, including a few phytates in your diet shouldn’t cause any real problems. Which is why I say eating some peanut butter occasionally is okay?
Before you followed a Paleo diet, I bet you loved spreading peanut butter onto a slice of bread. I know my other half did. But what you may not realize that this combination can prove detrimental to your health, especially if grains were a staple food when eating lunch, breakfast, or dinner.
This is because phytates prevent you from absorbing other trace minerals to be found in the vegetables you eat. The kinds we are talking about here are calcium, zinc, magnesium, and iron. All of which are essential in helping our bodies to function properly.
This is a group of chemical compounds you’ll find in plants in abundance. Just like the lectin above, such cannot only irritate but damage your intestinal tract. Even if the peanuts in the peanut butter have been cooked for a long time, the saponin found in them can still cause problems for you.
The peanut is susceptible to fungus and mold. There is one fungus in particular that can be found in peanuts. We know this fungus as Aspergillus Flavus. It produces a toxin known as aflatoxin and is about 20 times more carcinogenic than DDT. We often use the chemical in the production of pesticides.
As well as the compounds above causing health issues, the amount of fiber and fat in peanuts can lead to health problems arising. The high levels of fat found in peanuts can lead to symptoms associated with IBS being triggered. The same also goes for the amount of fiber found in this food. All of which can result in you finding weight loss proving difficult to achieve.
Problem With Peanuts – How They Affect Nutrient Absorption
Peanut Protein Digestion
Researchers use a test in order to assess the bioavailability of various sources of protein. One measure that they like to use is the PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility And Corrected Amino Score). This score lets them know how well our bodies are able to absorb and utilize certain types of protein.
On average, peanuts protein gets a PDCAAS score that is around 20-25% lower than that found in animal protein. This is because they contain lower levels of essential amino acids in them, such as methionine and cysteine. Plus, of course, because of the number of anti-nutrients contained with them as well.
Absorbing Essential Minerals
You may not realise it, but peanuts are an excellent source of iron, in fact, they contain double what you would find in eggs or meat. However, the form of the iron they contain is actually much harder for our bodies to absorb. This is because it binds tightly the iron in them to phytates.
The phytates actually prevent our bodies from absorbing between 75-80% of the iron found in peanuts. These same phytates also actually prevent our bodies from absorbing other essential minerals such as zinc.
Roast Your Own Peanuts
Rather than buying ready made peanut butter, you could always have a go of trying to make your own first. In order to do this, the first thing you need to do is get some of these legumes and roast them.
The best way to roast this particular food option is to place them in the oven following the steps below.
Step 1 – Turn on the oven to 350 F (180 C).
Step 2 – Now take the whole peanuts (in the shell or shelled) and place them on a baking tray.
Step 3 – Place the tray in the oven and leave them to roast. Leave in for 20 to 25 minutes if still in the shell and for 15 to 20 minutes if the shell has been removed.
Step 4 – Now remove from oven and leave to cool before then placing them in jars to store for use later.
When it comes to storing home roasted peanuts, keep them in airtight containers and store them in a cool dry place. This will help to ensure the quality of them after you’ve roasted is maintained.
You could always try roasting them in a microwave. But I prefer to do mine in the oven, as they retain a great deal more flavor. If you roast them in a microwave, you need to add water and also salt. You may also find they are a lot crispier compared to ones roasted in an oven.
Making Your Own Nut Butter
If you live somewhere where you do not have access to stores that sell Paleo foods or you’d like to save money and make your own. It is very easy to do all you need is a good food processor or a high speed blender (say a Nutribullet).
This basic recipe will allow you to make your own nut butter very quickly and simply. All you need to do is place the almonds, shredded coconut, macadamia nuts, or of course peanuts in the processor or blender. Turn it on and let the machine do its work. You need to leave it on until you start to see the food turn into butter. It is important to stop the blender or processor often so you can scrape down the ingredients from the side.
To make it taste even more delicious, you can include other ingredients into the butter as it blends. Add some salt, cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa powder, or other spices into it. The great thing is when making your own you are preventing the inclusion of refined sugar or artificial sweeteners into the mix.
Once you’ve made your own butter, you can then use it for creating some delicious Paleo diet plan recipes. A quick search online and you’ll find plenty there are some great Paleo diet peanut butter recipes around that will allow you to make some tasty treats that all Paleo followers can enjoy.
In Conclusion – Is Peanut Butter Paleo?
As peanuts are a legume, not a nut, they aren’t considered being Paleo. So when you ask is peanut butter Paleo, you will find out it isn’t.
For anyone who has digestive problems, then eliminating this food from your diet is vital. The same goes for people who suffer from autoimmune or inflammatory health problems.
But for those who love this particular food, you can still enjoy it sometimes. Include it as an occasional treat or as a snack. Some would say it is acceptable to include them as part of your 15% non-Paleo approved foods. Although not great would be far better than heading over to the snack aisle for something that is carb-laden and packed with sugar.
Also, it is best to make sure that when cooking you avoid using peanut oil altogether. This is vital to prevent the highly toxic impact it could have on your body.