Definition Peanut butter is a food paste made primarily from ground dry roasted peanuts, popular in North America, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and parts of Asia, particularly the Philippines and Indonesia. It is mainly used as a sandwich spread, sometimes in combination as in the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The United States and China are leading exporters of peanut butter.
History Peanuts are native to the tropics of the Americas and were mashed to become a pasty substance by the Aztec Native Americans hundreds of years ago. A number of peanut paste products have been used over the centuries, and the distinction between peanut paste and peanut butter is not always clear in ordinary use. Early forms of peanut butter, like the Aztecs' version, were nothing but pure roasted peanut paste. It may have been harder to work with and spread than regular peanut butter, less creamy and less sweet. Vegetable oil was also later added to most brands to aid in its spreadability, but with new modern processing machines being invented, the peanut butter was already significantly smoother than it had been.
Evidence of peanut butter as it is known today comes from U.S. Patent 306,727, issued in 1884 to Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal, Quebec, Canada, for the finished product of the process of milling roasted peanuts between heated surfaces until the peanuts entered "a fluid or semi-fluid state." As the peanut product cooled, it set into what Edson explained as being "a consistency like that of butter, lard, or ointment." Edson's patent is based on the preparation of a peanut paste as an intermediate to the production the modern product we know as peanut butter; it does show the initial steps necessary for the production of peanut butter. George Washington Carver is often credited with inventing peanut butter and is nearly synonymous with its history in the United States. Dr. Ambrose Straub, a physician in St. Louis, Missouri, pursued a method for providing toothless elderly with protein in the 1890s. His peanut-butter-making machine was patented in 1903. January 24 is National Peanut Butter Day in the United States.
Health benefits Peanut butter has a high level of monounsaturated fats and resveratrol. Peanut butter (and peanuts) provide protein, vitamins B3 and E, magnesium,folate, dietary fiber, arginine, and high levels of the antioxidant p-coumaric acid.
Health concerns For people with a peanut allergy, peanut butter can cause reactions, including anaphylactic shock, which has led to its being banned in some schools. The peanut plant is susceptible to the mold Aspergillus flavus which produces a carcinogenic substance called aflatoxin. Since it is impossible to completely remove every instance of aflatoxins, contamination of peanuts and peanut butter is monitored in many countries to ensure safe levels of this carcinogen. In 1990, a study showed that average American peanut butter contained an average of 5.7 parts per billion of aflatoxins, per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines of 20 parts per billion. Some brands of peanut butter may contain a small amount of added partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are high in trans fatty acids, thought to be a cause of atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, and stroke; these oils are added to prevent the peanut oil from separating. Natural peanut butter and peanuts do not contain partially hydrogenated oils. A U.S. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) survey of commercial peanut butters in the U.S. showed the presence of trans fat, but at very low levels. At least one study has found that peanut oil caused relatively heavy clogging of arteries. Robert Wissler of the University of Chicago reported that diets high in peanut oil, when combined with cholesterol intake, clogged the arteries of Rhesus monkeys more than butterfat. Peanut butter can harbor Salmonella and cause salmonellosis, as in the Salmonella outbreak in the United States in 2007. In 2009, due to mishandling and apparent criminal negligence at a single Peanut Corporation of America factory in Blakely, Georgia, Salmonella was found in 46 states in peanut-butter-based products such as crackers, peanut-butter cookies, and dog treats. It had claimed at least nine human lives as of 17 March 2009 and made at least 691 people sick in the United States.
Other uses Plumpy'nut is a peanut butter-based food used to fight malnutrition in famine stricken countries. A single pack contains 500 calories, can be stored unrefrigerated for 2 years, and requires no cooking or preparation. A common, simple outdoor bird feeder can be made by coating a pine cone once with peanut butter, then again with birdseed. The oils found in peanut butter are known to allow chewing gum to be removed from hair. Other names A slang term for peanut butter in World War II was "monkey butter". In Dutch peanut butter is called pindakaas (peanut cheese), because the name butter was protected in the Netherlands when peanut butter came on the market in 1948. The word kaas, cheese, was already being used in another product (leverkaas, Leberkäse) that has no cheese in it. In the 1960s, collectible glasses related to characters from the Oz Books were sold as promotions with "Oz, the Wonderful Peanut Spread." The product was forced to rename itself a peanut butter when the USDA informed the company that, under food laws, a "peanut spread" has a lower peanut percentage than a "peanut butter."
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