In our last post in the “Grocery Shopping for Your Health” series, we focused on beans and legumes. This time, we’ll cover nuts, peanuts and peanut butter.
You might have wondered why I didn’t include peanuts when we discussed beans and legumes. Both beans and peanuts are legumes, after all. But, I wanted to focus this blog only on tree nuts and peanuts, given their wide range of varieties and uses.
Nuts add flavor to many of our foods, but offer much more. They are a good source of protein and fiber. They pack phytonutrient benefits. And, fats found in nuts are mostly polyunsaturated, considered a healthy type of fat.
The great flavor of many nuts makes them great snack foods. But, be careful, because they can be high in calories. An adult-sized serving measures out to just a small handful of nuts—about an ounce. Eat more than that, and the calories start adding up.
Nuts can be sold in varieties such as salted, unsalted and sugar-coated, with dry roasted and oil-roasted nuts and peanuts also available. You typically find unsalted nuts in the baking aisle, since that offers cooks greater control over salt levels. You’ll find most other nut varieties in the snack food aisle.
So, how can you include some of these nutritious nuts in your daily diet? Well, try adding pecans, almonds or sunflower seeds to your salads, pancakes or even sweet potatoes or yams. Or, add pine nuts (which, admittedly, can be expensive) and pistachios to your pasta sauces and casseroles. Walnuts and macadamia nuts go great in quick breads and cookies. And, you can always add nuts to your morning cereal or oatmeal, or even your yogurt.
And that brings us to peanut butter, a staple in many homes. So many of us grew up with—and on—peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We have fond memories of this food favorite. And many of us still enjoy it, even as we leave our childhoods behind. We’ll make a quick PB&J, or smear a little on toast. It’s great on crackers or celery (maybe even bananas, for some). Many tasty sauces contain a dollop of peanut butter. It’s a food with an amazing amount of uses.
That makes it a great food to keep in your pantry. All the more so, during hurricane season, since it’s high in protein, nutritious, and, critically, shelf stable.
You’ll find a wide range of peanut butter varieties on the shelves, from creamy to crunchy, salty to sugary, and more. When shopping, be aware that some manufacturers add salt and small amounts of sugar for added flavor.
If peanut butter doesn’t fit your taste, you can instead choose from a variety of nut butters, soy butter, and, now, even sunflower-seed butter. All are nutritious and delicious on top of your favorite bread.
Read labels carefully. Some products might not contain peanuts or nuts, but be made with shared equipment or in a shared setting, which can transfer allergens.
Of course, peanuts and tree nuts are included in the set of eight foods that cause more than 90 percent of food allergies, along with milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, and soy (Food Allergen Labeling And Consumer Protection Act of 2004 Questions and Answers | FDA).
So, you should always read the label on the items you purchase. You might find that a product does not contain nuts or peanuts as an ingredient but has been produced on shared equipment or in a facility that also processes peanuts and tree nuts. And, be especially careful if you are serving a food to a guest who has a known allergen.
NEXT: A journey through the pasta, rice and grains aisle.