What is peanut butter?

The peanut plant is a legume with the peanut pods developing underground. Once harvested, the peanuts are usually roasted before being made into peanut butter.

Peanut butter is similar to almond butter and cashew butter, being a paste made from ground dry roasted nuts. Be careful when eating shop-bought though. It often contains additives to modify taste or texture such as salt, sweeteners or emulsifiers. We think the best is homemade. It’s easy! All you need is peanuts and a blender. Just blend the peanuts and when you think you’re done, blend the peanuts for two or three minutes more. Then the magic happens. No additives, just perfect peanut butter.

The US is one of the largest growers of peanuts in the world. Over half of its crop is grown to be made into peanut butter, both crunchy and smooth. There are around 540 peanuts in each jar of peanut butter and they must make up at least 90% of the ingredients, otherwise, it’s peanut spread.

No one is quite sure who invented peanut butter – it’s been credited to at least three people. In 1884, Canadian Marcellus Gilmore Edson patented peanut paste, which he made by milling roasted nuts between two heated surfaces. Then in 1895, Dr John Harvey Kellogg, who also created Kellogg’s cereals, patented a process for making peanut butter from raw peanuts, marketing it as a protein substitute for people with no teeth. Then in 1903, Dr Ambrose Straub patented a  machine for making it. Finally, in 1922 chemist Joseph Rosefield invented a process for making smooth peanut butter using partially hydrogenated oil to prevent it separating. So much work, for such a simple product.

Health benefits

Just because it’s high in fat and has around 100 calories in each tablespoon, don’t assume that peanut butter should be on your naughty list. It’s great when you need a boost of energy plus, the ‘good’ fats help lower cholesterol, reduce heart disease, lower blood pressure. These are also important for the production of testosterone and vitamin D.

In fact, peanut butter can actually be a dieter’s friend. With its combination of fat, protein and fibre, it’ll fill you up for longer meaning you eat less overall.

It also contains the powerful antioxidant vitamin E, bone-building magnesium, muscle-friendly potassium, immunity-boosting vitamin B6 and Q10, which is so important for energy metabolism. And research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that eating around two tablespoons of peanut butter five times a week reduced the risk of diabetes by almost a third.

Recipes

Peanut butter is both healthy and tasty, making it a very versatile ingredient. Simply spread it on toast or try the US classic peanut butter and jelly (jam) sandwiches. Add it to sauces or in biscuits, cookies and cakes. In fact, its flavour combines well with many ingredients such as oatmeal, cheese, cured meats, fruit jams, bananas, apples and honey.

Energy ball recipes including peanut butter: