Peanut Butter and Jelly may be a lunchbox favorite. But perhaps it’s time to give PB&J a healthy makeover: AB&J, anyone?

Food For Thought – The Takeaway

Peanut butter, though high in protein, is often full of hydrogenated oils, sugars, and other preservatives, making this all-American treat a Greatist dangerfood for health enthusiasts. To remedy this, grocery store shelves have increased their selection of peanut butters, including roasted and raw varieties with nothing beyond “peanuts” in the ingredient list.

But not too fast– this expansion in variety alone may not do the trick. For one, peanuts, even in their purest form (think: just cracked from its shell), are inherently one of the most mucus forming foods out thereResolution of childhood peanut allergy. Spergel, JM. Division of Immunologic and Infectious Diseases, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, PA. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunology, 2000 Dec; 85 (6 Pt 1): 473-6.. A build-up of mucus can lead to congestion, poor digestion, light-headedness, asthma, and headaches (plus there’s always that phlegm sound!).

Nutritional facts aside, while peanuts have garnered a reputation of being the indispensable lunchbox favorite, 4 out of every 100 children have a peanut allergy, and it’s the number one cause of food-related deathsPeanut lectin stimulates proliferation in colonic explants from patients with inflammatory bowel disease and colon polyps. Ryder, S., N. Parker, D. Ecclestone, et al. Department of Medicine, University of Liverpool, England. Gastroenterology, 1994 Jan; 106(1): 117-24.. Also, a peanut allergy is distinct from a nut allergy because, as it turns out (shocker alert), peanuts aren’t actually nuts, but legumes! Though people with peanut allergies often have nut-related allergies, too, it’s just another thing to keep in mind.

But back to our scheduled programming. Slated against peanut butter, almond butter at first seems relatively similar. In their simplest forms (no salt added and non-crunchy), both have about the same amount of calories, protein, and carbs.

But almond butter beats peanut butter in terms of fiber, iron, and especially Vitamin E. And, according to one study, almonds— roasted, raw, or in butter form— can also play a role in lowering cholesterolEffects of plant-based diets high in raw or roasted almonds, or roasted almond butter on serum lipoproteins in humans. Spiller, G., A. Miller, K. Olivera, et al. Sphera Foundation, Los Altos, CA. Journal of American College of Nutrition, 2003 Jun; 22(3): 195-200.. That may very well stem from the clear differentiating factor between the two: almond butter has 50% more monounsaturated fat (a good kind) and 25% less saturated fat (the bad kind).

It may seem small, but a move as simple as replacing peanut butter with almond butter regularly can make a difference to the body. The one downside to consider is that almond butter is typically anywhere from $1-4 more expensive per jar (though if buying higher quality stuff to begin with, it usually evens out). Almond butter has a similar texture to peanut butter with its own nuanced flavor that is earthy and dense. Try it by the spoonful, in a smoothie, or even spread it on celery. And almond butter and jelly? The Greatist Team gives it one big “yum” of approval.

The Tip

Almond butter is a healthier, simple replacement for peanut butter to consider.

Updated October 2011