Peanut butter and jelly, a childhood staple. There’s some sort of innocence to a peanut butter and jam sandwich, something that brings you back in time almost, nostalgia. Not to mention they taste awesome. You have savoury; you have sweet and then jam packed in between two slices of soft fluffy bread. How could you go wrong?
Please don’t hate us when we say that your childhood lunchtime favourite doesn’t offer any particular health benefit, nor does it offer really anything of nutritional value. It’s pretty much sugar on sugar jam packed in between two slabs of sugar. So ya, sounds great, who doesn’t like sugar?
But, this childhood meal is basically a slab of cake, so we’re going to deconstruct this sandwich, and rebuild it with new and exciting ways to eat the classic.
Bear with us.
CLASSIC PEANUT BUTTER
We gave up the common brands of Kraft, Jif and Skippy a long time ago when we realized that what goes into these classic jars of peanut butter is more than we bargained for.
The first ingredient is usually peanuts so we can give them that much, but then you have GMO soybean oil, sugar, corn maltodextrin (another highly processed sugar), more hydrogenated GMO oils, salt and mono and diglycerides.
Then, they’ve done a great job at marketing to those who are looking to find something better for their waist by creating a low-fat version, which takes most of the fat out and replaces it with corn syrup solids and more sugar!
Ingredients of a common reduced fat peanut butter: PEANUTS, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, SUGAR, PEA PROTEIN, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: SALT, FULLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OILS (RAPESEED AND SOYBEAN), MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, MOLASSES, MAGNESIUM OXIDE, NIACINAMIDE, FERRIC ORTHOPHOSPHATE, ZINC OXIDE, COPPER SULFATE, FOLIC ACID, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE.
Most of those cheap additional ingredients are added to extend shelf life and as emulsifiers so that ingredients don’t separate for a creamy texture.
In addition, the hydrogenated vegetable oils listed are typically chemically processed. This allows them to be stable at room temperature and extends the shelf life of the product. However, during the hydrogenation process trans fatty acids (TFAs) are created and it’s now well known that TFAs are linked to high LDL cholesterol and a higher risk of heart disease.
Don’t be fooled by what looks like added vitamins and minerals, as they are synthetic forms that have a very low absorption rate and might cause unpleasant side effects in some people.
Read on till the end to discover the amazing benefits of natural peanut butter…we can even go on classifying it as a superfood in our kitchen.
Ohh, white bread… how did you manage to take over the world?
White bread is made from refined flour that has been stripped of its outer shell, which contains the fiber of the grain. It is also high on the Glycemic Index making it rapidly absorbed during digestion causing spikes in your blood sugar (so not only is it a bad choice for diabetics, but anyone who experiences blood sugar imbalances). And lastly, most bread that has been prepackaged from your supermarket has additives, preservatives, extra sugar and vegetable oils.
JAM / JELLY:
Most conventional jams or jellies pretty much consist of the same thing: sugar, pectin, artificial colours, and if you’re lucky… fruit.
The first or second (not likely!) ingredient in most commercial jams is sugar and not just your plain sugar but most likely high fructose corn syrup as well as various preservatives and in some cases added food coloring.
Opting for a sugar-free option, made with artificial sweeteners seem to be a healthier choice, but look at what you get inside a jar of sugar-free jam:
WATER*, STRAWBERRIES+, MALTITOL SYRUP*, SORBITOL*, FRUIT PECTIN, LOCUST BEAN GUM*, NATURAL FLAVOR*, CITRIC ACID, POTASSIUM SORBAE (PRESERVATIVE), REBIANA (SWEETENER EXTRACTED FROM THE STEVIA PLANT)*, CALCIUM CHLORIDE*, RED 40*.
We would need an entire article to go over all of the ingredients in detail, but it’s enough to say as an example that food colourings such as Red 40 are usually synthetically derived from petroleum and/or coal tar (yes, the same one used in pavement sealing). Artificial colouring has been banned in certain European countries due to the adverse health effects, and its link to immune reactivity.
Now that we have ruined your moment of nostalgia, let us give you the good news. You can still enjoy your childhood favourite, and there are better options that provide you with plenty of nutrients without compromising on taste!
HOW TO MAKE A PEANUT BUTTER AND JELLY SANDWICH HEALTHY
In reality, peanuts do pack a lot of nutrition in their natural state and when eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet. They are rich in mono-saturated fats, B vitamins including B1, B3 & folate as well as vitamin E. Nuts including peanuts and natural peanut butter promote cardiovascular heath, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, may reduce colorectal cancer in women and are associated with a lower risk of death from all causes.
In addition, peanuts are rich in protein and antioxidants such as resveratrol (yes the same one found in red wine) and p-coumaric acid that possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties as well as managing lipid metabolism and obesity.
You might have heard that peanuts are susceptible to molds and toxins, and that you should avoid them all together. While, this is partly true modern storage and handling practices have practically eliminated the risk of alfatoxin ingestion, a poison and known carcinogen that is produced when peanuts are stored in a hot and humid environment.
Proper handling, storage and roasting temperature is crucial so in the case of peanut butter, organic is always a better option. In addition, conventional peanuts are heavily treated with pesticides.
What you can do to reduce your risk further is to ensure that you are eating enough dark leafy greens such as spinach, parsley and broccoli. These greens are rich in chlorophyll that has been shown to reduce the levels of aflatoxin damage from all sources in the body.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
- Organic Peanut butter with no additives.
- Valencia or Jungle peanut varieties are more resistant to mold, if available.
- Store peanut butter in the refrigerator.
Here’s a great brand of organic peanut butter that’s contains only peanuts!
Note: Eating a variety of nuts and seeds, including almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, chia, hemp and flax seeds will ensure that you are balancing out your omega-6 and omega-3 ratio.
STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
The Classic Peanut Butter and Jam Sandwich
STEP 1: Do a bread swap
Go for a whole grain loaf, sourdough, rye or gluten free. Read the labels carefully to make sure your bread is made from whole ingredients and doesn’t have any additives or preservatives that you can’t recognize.
STEP 2: Do a peanut butter swap
This is very simple. Get a natural peanut butter, which will have one ingredient and one ingredient only: peanuts (if a bit of sea salt is added, that is fine). Go organic if it’s in your budget.
STEP 3: Top with something sweet
We like sliced banana and a drizzle of raw honey but you can make your own strawberry compote or jam easily by following this simple and delicious 3 Ingredient Strawberry Chia Jam Recipe here.
Another great option is a sprinkle of cinnamon, that adds sweetness and helps to balance out your blood sugar.
If packaged jam is your jam (pun intended), there are brands of jam that are much better alternatives. You can buy ‘only fruit’, which is sweetened with grape juice, or go for the classic. They taste just like the other stuff, but has a much healthier ingredient list.
CROFTERS is one of our favourite healthy jams:
OR SUGAR FREE, JUST FRUIT:
Some other incredibly delicious ways of getting your PB & J fix:
- Nut Butter and Jam Overnight Oats
- Nut Butter and Berry Smoothie
- Peanut Butter and Jam Thumbprint Cookies
Let us know your favourite way to enjoy your peanut butter and jam below, and don’t forget to follow us for more deliciously sinful foods with a healthy twist.