Food & Drink

Stir Crazy: Moderate but mighty portions of peanut butter

Peanut Butter Pie
Peanut Butter Pie

There are “little foods” in life I find hard to do without. One of them is peanut butter, which is very good for you — in moderation.

It has the enviable combination of fiber (2 grams per a 2-tablespoon serving) and protein (8 grams per serving), plus no cholesterol and just 6 grams carbohydrates. I eat it in the morning — I’m a crunchy girl — on an English muffin or crumpet with some fresh peach jam. It fills me up, keeps my energy level up and holds down the growlies before a mid-morning health bar from my desk drawer.

But peanut butter has to be eaten in moderation since 2 tablespoons, considered a serving, has between 190 and 210 calories and 16 grams fat. I had a friend who carried a jar of Skippy and a spoon around in her purse when she was pregnant. It was a hard habit to break when she was trying to get back to pre-baby weight.

It's packed with nutrition, says Prevention magazine: A serving has 3 mg of the powerful antioxidant vitamin E, 49 mg of bone-building magnesium, 208 mg of muscle-friendly potassium and 0.17 mg of immunity-boosting vitamin B6. Research shows that eating peanuts can decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic health conditions. One study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that consuming 1 ounce of nuts or peanut butter (about 2 tablespoons) at least 5 days a week can lower the risk of developing diabetes by almost 30 percent.

And about that fat content: Half of it is monounsaturated fat, often called the “good” fat, such as you find in avocados. But, if you're buying reduced-fat peanut butter because you think it’s better for your waistline, save your money, says the magazine. The calories are the same (or even a little higher) thanks to the extra ingredients that are added to make up for the missing fat (including more sugar).

Peanut butter can save lives, too. Dr. Mark Manary, a pediatrician at Washington University in St. Louis is the founder of the non-profit Project Peanut Butter. His Malawi-based organization use a locally produced, high-calorie, nutrient-rich peanut butter called chiponde to treat malnourished children (and now pregnant young women) there in southeastern Africa as well as in Sierra Leone and Ghana. It's one of many therapeutic foods aid agencies used to treat severe malnutrition. (See projectpeanutbutter.org for more information.)

Here is a trio of ways to use peanut butter beyond as a spread from Michelle Stark, Tampa Bay Times Food Editor.

PEANUT BUTTER PIE — Buy a 9-inch graham cracker crust from the store or make your favorite recipe at home.

For the filling, start by beating 8 ounces cream cheese and 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar together until smooth.

Add 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter, 2 tablespoons milk and 1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts and mix well.

Fold 2 cups heavy cream, whipped until it’s thick, into the mixture. Pour into prepared crust. Place the pie in the refrigerator and chill completely, about 2 hours; you don’t need to bake this pie. This recipe makes about 8 servings, which are best garnished with some chopped peanuts and a dollop of chocolate sauce or whipped cream. Recipe adapted from “New New Orleans Cooking Cookbook” by Emeril Lagasse.

PEANUT BUTTER DIP — A lower-calorie snack option than just eating peanut butter straight from the jar, this dip goes great with graham crackers and apple slices. To make, mix a 6-ounce container of plain Greek yogurt with 1 tablespoon honey, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, a few drops of vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.

PEANUT SAUCE — Peanut butter (or almond butter) makes a convenient base for Asian salad dressing or stir-fry sauces. Here’s how to make a dressing that works in either hot noodle bowls or cold Thai salads. In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup peanut butter, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 1 teaspoon sesame seeds. Whisk until combined and smooth; thin it out with 1 or 2 tablespoons water if you’d like. Recipe adapted from lovefoodeat.com.

Contact me at sboyle@bnd.com, 618-239-2664 or follow me on Twitter @BoyleSuzanne. Write to P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.

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