Peanut butter and jelly. A childhood staple. There is some sort of innocence to a peanut butter and jam sandwich, something that brings you back in time almost. Nostalgia. Not to mention it tastes awesome. You have savory; you have sweet and then jam packed in between two slices of soft fluffy bread. How could you go wrong?
Please don’t hate us when we say that your childhood lunchtime favourite does not offer any particular health benefit, nor does it offer really anything of nutritional value. It pretty much is sugar on sugar, jam packed in between two slabs of sugar and some hydrogenated vegetable oils. So yes, sounds great, who doesn’t like sugar? It makes us happy, but that happiness is short-lived and we could all do with a little reduction in sugar if you ask us.
So let’s deconstruct this sandwich, but don’t worry – we are going to rebuild it with new, exciting and wholesome ways to eat this classic.
Alright, here we go…
The Peanut Butter
If you are not going for the ‘all natural’ version of this (the only ingredient being peanuts) then you’re pretty much not eating any peanut butter at all. This includes common brands such as Kraft, Jif, and Skippy.
So what’s going into it? Well, the first ingredient is usually peanuts so we can give them that much, but then you have GMO soybean oil, sugar, corn maltodextrin (another highly processed sugar), more hydrogenated GMO oils, salt and mono and diglycerides.
And if you think that you are doing yourself a favour by picking up the Reduced Fat version… think again, because the fat that is missing is being replaced by corn syrup solids and more sugar!
Ingredients of a Common Reduced Fat Peanut Butter: PEANUTS, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, SUGAR, PEA PROTEIN, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF SALT, FULLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OILS (RAPESEED AND SOYBEAN), MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, MOLASSES, MAGNESIUM OXIDE, NIACINAMIDE, FERRIC ORTHOPHOSPHATE, ZINC OXIDE, COPPER SULFATE, FOLIC ACID, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE.
Most of those cheap additional ingredients are added to extend shelf life and as emulsifiers so that ingredients don’t separate for a creamy texture.
In addition, the hydrogenated vegetable oils listed are typically chemically processed. This allows them to be stable at room temperature and extends the shelf life of the product. However, during the hydrogenation process trans fatty acids (TFAs) are created and it is now well known that TFAs are linked to high LDL cholesterol and a higher risk of heart disease. 
And don’t be fooled by what looks like added vitamins and minerals as they are synthetic forms that have a very low absorption rate and might actually cause unpleasant side effects in some people.
Yes, white bread is bad. We think that just goes without saying. It is a refined flour that has been stripped of its outer shell, which contains the fiber of the grain. It is also high on the Glycemic Index  making it rapidly absorbed during digestion causing spikes in your blood sugar (so not only is it a bad choice for diabetics, but anyone who experiences blood sugar imbalances). And lastly, most bread that has been prepackaged from your supermarket has additives, preservatives, extra sugar and vegetable oils.
Jam / Jelly
Well, it doesn’t really matter what kind of jam or jelly you are getting because it all is pretty much the same. Sugar. The first or second ingredient in most commercial jams is sugar and not just your plain sugar but most likely high fructose corn syrup as well as various preservatives and in some cases added food coloring.
And going sugar-free can be a worse choice here.
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This is an Example of the Ingredients in a Commercial Sugar Free Strawberry Jam: WATER*, STRAWBERRIES+, MALTITOL SYRUP*, SORBITOL*, FRUIT PECTIN, LOCUST BEAN GUM*, NATURAL FLAVOR*, CITRIC ACID, POTASSIUM SORBATE (PRESERVATIVE), REBIANA (SWEETENER EXTRACTED FROM THE STEVIA PLANT)*, CALCIUM CHLORIDE*, RED 40*.
We would need an entire article to go over all of the ingredients, but it’s enough to say as an example that food colorings such as Red 40 are usually synthetically derived from petroleum and/or coal tar (yes, the same one used in pavement sealing) and linked to hypersensitivity disorders in children.
Now that we have ruined your moment of nostalgia, let us give you the good news. You can still enjoy your childhood favourite, and there are better options that actually provide you with plenty of nutrients without compromising on taste!
How well do you know your healthy ingredients? Take the quiz to find out!
Let’s Dig In!
In reality, peanuts do pack a lot of nutrition in their natural state and when eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet. They are rich in mono-saturated fats, B vitamins including B1, B3 & folate as well as vitamin E. Nuts including peanuts and natural peanut butter promote cardiovascular heath, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, may reduce colorectal cancer in women and are associated with a lower risk of death from all causes. 
In addition, peanuts are rich in protein and antioxidants such as resveratrol (yes the same one found in red wine) and p-coumaric acid that possess powerful anti-inflammatory properties as well as managing lipid metabolism and obesity.   
You might have heard that peanuts are susceptible to molds and toxins and that you should avoid them all together. While, this is partly true modern storage and handling practices have practically eliminated the risk of aflatoxin ingestion, a poison and known carcinogen that is produced when peanuts are stored in a hot and humid environment. Proper handling, storage, and the roasting temperature are crucial so in the case of peanut butter, organic is always a better option. In addition, conventional peanuts are heavily treated with pesticides.
What you can do to reduce your risk further is to ensure that you are eating enough dark leafy greens such as spinach, parsley, and broccoli. These greens are rich in chlorophyll that has been shown to reduce the levels of aflatoxin damage in the body. 
What To Look For
- Organic Peanut butter with no additives.
- Valencia or Jungle peanut varieties are more resistant to mold, if available.
- Store peanut butter in the refrigerator.
As Peanut butter is higher in omega-6 than omega-3, consume enough omega-3s to balance it out. Don’t misunderstand us, we do need both omega-6 to omega-3 but the key is to have a balanced ratio and since most of what we consume today is high in omega-6, we need to ensure that we are getting enough omega-3s. So eat a variety of nuts including almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, cashews, and hazelnuts.
And now to the good stuff…
The Classic Peanut Butter and Jam Sandwich
First, Swap the Bread
Go for a whole grain loaf, sourdough, rye or gluten-free. Read the labels carefully to make sure your bread is made from whole ingredients and doesn’t have any additives or preservatives that you can not recognize.
Second, The Peanut Butter
This is very simple. Get a natural peanut butter, which will have one ingredient and one ingredient only: peanuts (if a bit of sea salt is added, that is fine). Go organic if it’s in your budget.
Third, Then Something Sweet To Top
We like sliced banana and a drizzle of raw honey but you can make your own strawberry compote easily by boiling a small amount of water down with mashed strawberries and adding a drizzle of honey to it. Boil until the consistency is that of jam. Check out this super easy 3 Ingredient Strawberry Chia Jam Recipe here. 
Another great option is a sprinkle of cinnamon, that adds sweetness and helps to balance out your blood sugar.
And why not explore other nut butters toast ideas such as almond butter topped with sliced apple and cinnamon; hazelnut butter with banana and a sprinkle of cacao; or simply any nut butter with sliced berries, some raw honey or maple syrup.
And There Are Many Other Ways to Get Your Peanut Butter and Jam Fix
- Nut Butter and Jam Overnight Oats
- Nut Butter and Berry Smoothie
- Peanut Butter and Jam Spelt Muffins
Let us know your favourite way to enjoy your peanut butter and jam below, and don’t forget to follow us for more deliciously sinful foods with a healthy twist.
Want to make your own nut butter? Try these easy to make delicious nut butters!
This amazing guest post was written by Jenni + Mimi, Registered Holistic Nutritionists and founders of Naughty Nutrition. They’re research-lovin’ nutrition mavens that have made it their mission to connect you with the most accurate, up-to-date, science-based health resources alongside simple and delicious recipes. You can download a list of their Top Free Resources here to kick-start your health and make this newfound lifestyle stick, for life.
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23122211, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/100/1/256.long, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16482621
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