Tuesday, August 27, 2013

We're in L.O.V.E. with Peanut Butter

Whether it’s chomping on peanuts at a summertime baseball game, savoring a gooey peanut butter and jelly sandwich on your lunch break, or breathing in the delicious smell of homemade peanut butter cookies at Grandma’s house, there’s no doubt about it—peanut butter is an American favorite food. And what’s not to love? High on the totem pole in regards to taste, nutrition, convenience, and affordability, peanut butter is a “must-have” on our list for stocking a healthy kitchen. 

Peanuts Pump Up the Protein

There’s no underestimating the importance of protein. In the body, protein is converted to amino acids, which are the building blocks for the body’s cells and tissues (think: bones, skin, hair, nails, intestinal tract lining, blood cells, etc.), as well as immune cells, digestive enzymes, and some hormones that allow our bodies to run like smooth-operating machines – without us even thinking about it! Best known for its ability help build and repair muscles, protein is especially well-appreciated by active individuals. A two tablespoon serving size of peanut butter packs in a hefty 7 grams of protein, making it a great dietary staple to ensure you receive adequate nutrition to fuel your busy body. 

The Perks of Plant-Based Protein & Fats

Plant-based eating is getting a lot of attention in recent years, and it’s incredibly hard to argue against a style of eating that is in favor of nutrient-rich fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and legumes. The wonderful thing about plant-based foods – such as peanut butter – is that they are naturally loaded with healthy compounds such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. Peanut butter, in particular, is also packed with heart-healthy unsaturated fats while being low in saturated fat and cholesterol. The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in peanut butter have been shown to lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol and protect your precious heart against disease. By spreading a layer of peanut butter on your toast, adding a scoop to smoothies or stirring into your yogurt, you’re not only getting protein, you’re getting the added perks that come along with plant-based protein and healthy plant fats.

Peanuts for a Healthy Weight

Including an ounce of peanuts or about half a serving peanut butter into your daily diet has been shown to help maintain a healthy weight.  Packed with satiating protein, fat, and fiber – peanut butter may help to curve cravings and help moderate a voracious appetite. A study conducted by Harvard researchers found that when compared to a low-fat diet, a moderate-fat diet including peanut butter is much easier to stick with and results in more sustained weight loss. Keep in mind that a healthy eating regime is most likely to become a habit when it is maintainable, sustainable, and when it tastes really good. The incredible taste of peanut butter is able satisfy your taste buds while also being kind to your body.

Live Better with Breakfast

Yes, you better believe it – breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.  Multiple studies show people who eat a healthy, balanced breakfast—including some protein, good fat and carbohydrates with fiber—have a more nutritionally complete diet, concentrate and perform better at work and school, have more strength and stamina for sports activities, and have lower cholesterol levels.  Even more compelling, a recent Harvard study showed people who skipped breakfast had a higher risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) compared people who ate breakfast, independent of their weight.  That’s motivation!  Packed with both protein and good fats, peanuts and peanut butter can help make breakfast quick and easy, like a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole wheat toast or a spoonful of peanut butter in a banana smoothie.  See our other breakfast ideas, in the recipes below.

Peanut Butter is Versatile

Keeping a jar of peanut butter in your pantry means a healthy and satisfying breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks—or dessert!—is never far away.  Peanuts and peanut butter can be used in both sweet and savory dishes; the ideas are endless!  For breakfast, try peanut butter and raisins stirred into hot oatmeal.  While there’s nothing wrong with the traditional PB&J, try something new for lunch, like a Thai chicken wrap make with leftover chicken tossed in peanut sauce and stuffed with lots of crunchy raw veggies. Delicious!  For dinner, substitute the croutons on your salad for toasted, chopped peanuts, or try making creamy peanut soup for something new.  Our go-to snack is always apple slices dipped in peanut butter or the childhood favorite—ants on a log.  And for dessert—you can’t go wrong with an old fashioned peanut butter cookie! 

Peanut Butter is Affordable

At less than 20 cents per serving, peanut butter is an affordable way to add important protein and healthy fats to your meals.  Even better, a jar of peanut butter can last up to two years (although ours would never last that long!), so you can also save money by preventing food waste.  Our Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie, for example, is less than $1 per serving!  And at less than 300 calories with 10 grams of protein and five grams of fiber, this smoothie provides a nutritionally-complete, power-packed breakfast.   

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

It’s hard to resist that classic favorite combination of chocolate and peanut butter. Creamy and oh-so satisfying, this power smoothie will be sure to energize you first thing in the morning.

Serves 1

1/2 cup milk
1 frozen banana
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Put all ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. 

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

This slightly-sweet and savory banana bread can be a treat all on its own.  Or, smear a toasted slice with a thin layer of peanut butter and you’ve got a delicious, fiber- and protein-packed breakfast with a sweet edge.

Makes one 9×5 inch loaf

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas, about 4 bananas
1/3 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs
¾ cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed meal
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped peanuts

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan.

 In a large bowl, whisk together flour, flaxseed meal, baking soda, and salt.

 In a medium bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, yogurt or buttermilk, peanut butter and melted butter. Whisk in eggs, sugar and vanilla.

 Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients. Fold together with a spatula until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and top with chopped peanuts.  Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

 Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes before inverting the bread onto a wire rack to cool completely.

 This bread lasts, well-wrapped at room temperature, for up to 4 days. It is also great to store, well wrapped, in the freezer.

This post was sponsored by the Southern Peanut Growers. 

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