America’s all-time favorite school lunch treat is the ubiquitous peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Anything with peanut butter on it is the cure for America’s breakfast, lunch, snack or midnight cravings. And if you’re a fan of peanut butter, here are 10 untold truths that are sure to surprise you!
10. Europeans don’t fancy it as much as Americans do
While peanut butter is a common pantry staple in most American households, Europeans don’t seem to think much of it. It would come as a surprise to most Americans that peanut butter is not as popular in Europe as it is in North America. While the U.S. spends about $800 million consuming about a billion pounds of peanut butter every year, the U.K., in comparison, only spends about $75 million on it in a year. And that’s on the higher side of things. The average European eats only about a single tablespoon of peanut butter in a year. Now that’s what you call a drastic difference! It is quite easy to find a jar or two of peanut butter in European supermarkets, but there isn’t much brand variety to choose from. In fact, in the Netherlands, it is even called ‘pindakaas’ or ‘peanut cheese’. With a name like that, it’s no wonder that Europeans don’t want to eat it! Jokes apart, Europeans seem to have found another use for peanut butter – to make art! A Dutch artist once spread out many gallons of peanut butter on the floor and managed to sell it as art for over $100,000! Now, that’s a strange way to make money from peanut butter!
9. Peanut butter for good health!
While it is undoubtedly one of the tastiest bread spreads, cooking ingredients, and a snack in itself, the humble peanut butter also has a multitude of health benefits. You would be surprised to know that peanut butter has many cancer-fighting abilities. According to a study conducted by Harvard Medical School, eating peanut butter just thrice a week can significantly reduce chances of developing benign breast cancer and improve breast health in women. Another study also suggested that the risk of developing colorectal cancer was remarkably lowered by regular consumption of peanuts. Since peanut butter is 100% vegan and gluten-free, it is suitable for all types of restrictive diets. Only those with peanut allergies need to proceed with caution. If you’re struggling to lose weight, good old peanut butter could help you with that too. Studies have shown that peanut butter can actually aid in weight loss, along with lowering your cholesterol levels, which in turn helps prevent heart disease. Peanut butter is also beneficial in reducing inflammation and the prevention of type 2 diabetes. Did you know that just a tablespoon of peanut butter has about 12-16 percent of a person’s daily recommended manganese intake? The manganese-rich peanut butter aids in tissue growth, removal of ammonia from the body, etc. It is also a rich source of niacin that aids in cell development, nutrient breakdown, metabolism, and more. Besides this, peanut butter also fulfills 15 percent of a man’s daily calorie intake requirement. Peanut butter is also one of the key instruments in the fight against malnutrition. A type of peanut butter paste that is packed with calories, calcium, vitamin E and protein has been used to feed malnourished children in the poorest parts of the world.
8. Show your peanut butter love with National Days and Months!
We live in an age where there are national celebration days for almost every object, food, state, city, profession, person, animal, event, brand, or anything else under the sun! So much so that are about 1500 national days celebrated each year. That’s about four times the number of days in a year, which means you have about three-four types of national days celebrated each day of the year! If all that was just too confusing for you, don’t worry. All you need to know is that there is only one National Peanut Butter Day – on January 24th. One of the most celebrated days on the National Day calendar is this peanut butter related day. Peanut butter enthusiasts can celebrate it by using #NationalPeanutButterDay on social media, making delicious recipes using peanut butter, gifting peanut butter jars to each other or simply making some lip-smacking PB&J sandwiches! Well, if that wasn’t enough, you have one more national day to declare your unending love for peanut butter – National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day on March 1st. Taking it a step further, September 13 is celebrated as National Peanut Day. There are two more industry-created holidays that you can celebrate – November is National Peanut Butter Lovers Month and March is National Peanut Month. Looking at the number of national days dedicated to this simple sandwich delight, it sure looks like peanut butter is America’s favorite snack!
7. A phobia related to peanut butter – Arachibutyrophobia
Of all the phobias in the world, arachibutyrophobia surely is one of the strangest ones. While the name itself is a mouthful, the explanation is quite simple. Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of having peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth! And unsurprisingly, it is quite a common complaint amongst peanut butter eaters. Psychologists believe that the fear of sticky surfaces, choking or peanut allergies may be the underlying fears of this oddly specific phobia. While not much is known about the origins of this phobia or how it is developed in a person, some of the symptoms associated with it are nausea, panic attack, anxiety, dry mouth, shortness of breath, etc. People who suffer from severe arachibutyrophobia could also experience a choking feeling if they see someone else choking on a thick paste. Their fear could also extend to peanut butter ice cream, peanut-based sauces and peanuts too. The most effective treatments for this phobia are counseling, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, etc. People who do not severely suffer from this phobia can safely consume peanut butter in small quantities.
6. Not all peanut butter is made equal!
Ever wonder what exactly is peanut butter? How is it made and what can be called peanut butter? Let’s start with the most basic facts about peanut butter and peanuts. What most people don’t know is that peanuts are not nuts at all; they’re classified as legumes. So, it would be essentially incorrect to call it peanut butter. In fact, the Dutch call peanut butter ‘peanut cheese’ because according to European standards (and most other world standards), the word ‘butter’ should be used only to refer to products that contain dairy butter. But in most of North America, since peanut butter is what it has been called for decades, the name still sticks around. Peanuts are widely grown in the southwestern states of the US and about sixty percent of the peanuts are used to make peanut butter. But do you know how many peanuts are actually required to make a 12-ounce jar of peanut butter? 540 – now that’s quite a lot of peanuts in one jar! And we can be thankful to a certain ’12-year peanut butter case’ for that. As the name suggests, it was a famous legal case between the USFDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration) and peanut butter manufacturers that lasted for 12 years. In the 1950s, when the case started, many sub-standard peanut butters were available in the market that used less than 75% peanuts, hydrogenated oils and glycerin instead of peanuts and natural ingredients. The USFDA insisted on a minimum 90% peanut count in any product labeled ‘peanut butter’ and anything less than that should be called ‘peanut spread’. After years of fighting for the consumers, the USFDA finally won the case and ever since then ‘90% peanuts’ has been the gold standard for all peanut butters.
5. Celebrities, presidents, and even astronauts love peanut butter!
What do American astronauts, presidents, comedians, and singers have in common? They’re all lovers of peanut butter! The yummy peanut butter is popular with all kinds of people, including astronauts. It is, in fact, one of the items that astronauts can safely enjoy in a zero-gravity space environment. Astronaut Alan Shepard’s love for peanut butter was so strong that he took it with him to space as his good luck charm! But it is not easy to eat anything in space, let alone make a tasty PB&J! Firstly, flying breadcrumbs are a big no-no in space, so astronauts are supplied with tortillas instead of bread. Scientist Rodolfo Neri Vela and astronauts Chris Hadfield and Shane Kimbrough experimented with tortilla peanut butter sandwiches in space, which then became a regular feature on future NASA missions. Also unknown to most people is the fact that two former peanut farmers have served as presidents of the USA –founding father Thomas Jefferson, and 39th president, Jimmy Carter. Another fun fact about the peanut butter connection of U.S. presidency is that former president Bill Clinton’s most requested sandwiches in the White House was the peanut butter and banana sandwich. Celebrities also seem to be enchanted by the mighty peanut butter. Elvis Presley reportedly loved peanut butter. Madonna, Jerry Seinfeld, and many other public figures seem to adore peanut butter, and some are even part of a special ‘Adult Peanut Butter Lover’s Fan Club’.
4. Peanut butter and dogs
While grapes and chocolates are fatal for dogs, most people don’t know that all-natural peanut butter in small amounts is quite okay for dogs. Some experts even suggest that natural low-sugar peanut butter that is full of vitamin B, protein, magnesium and potassium can actually help improve the immune system of dogs. But before you reach for that jar of peanut butter for your pooch, let’s look at some more myths and facts surrounding peanut butter and dogs. Canines love peanut butter. But most popular commercial peanut butter brands have a lot of harmful additives in them. One such ingredient is xylitol, which is a sugar-replacement sweetener suitable for diabetics but can prove fatal for dogs. It has a toxicity level that is 22 times higher than that of chocolate. It can cause nausea, obesity, diarrhea, seizures, and disorientation in dogs. Xylitol poisoning can also cause liver degeneration and lead to an untimely death in dogs. So, what type of peanut butter is safe for your dog? The type that does not contain any xylitol, other additives and has dried roasted unsalted peanuts as the main ingredient. And depending on the size of your dog, about a tablespoon of peanut butter in a day can be a great and safe snack for your furry friend.
3. Peanut butter has been around for centuries!
Contrary to popular belief, peanut butter is not a modern (or American) invention. Evidence suggests that the Incas were the first to make peanut butter, followed by the Aztecs. Peanuts reached North America from Africa in the 1700s. Later, George Carver popularized the cultivation of the peanut crop throughout the USA. The modern peanut butter had its origins in the sanitarium (an olden-days version of a luxurious rehab facility) of Dr. John Kellogg in the 1890s. He propagated a vegetarian diet to his patients and those with bad or no teeth by means of a peanut paste that was high in protein. Along with his brother, he even secured a patent for the peanut butter making process and founded a company that sold nut butter. Another physician, Dr. Straub, is also said to have invented one of the first machines to convert ground-up peanuts into peanut butter that was sold at St. Louis World Fair for the first time in 1904. Once a delicacy of the upper classes, peanut butter was soon available to the masses when brands like ‘Skippy’ started selling it commercially. Harry Reese invented the peanut butter cup in 1928, and the rest is peanut butter history!
2. It helps diagnose Alzheimer’s disease
One of the most heartbreaking diseases to afflict an individual is Alzheimer’s disease, characterized by dementia, memory loss and an inability to perform basic daily functions. Medical science still doesn’t know much about its causes or treatment, but one of the strangest ways of diagnosing an early onset of Alzheimer’s disease is the ‘peanut butter test’. The basis of this test is that patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease are unable to smell peanut butter. In this test, patients are asked to smell peanut butter with their left nostril only, from a minimal distance. If they’re unable to do so, it is considered to be an indicator of Alzheimer’s disease. But why is peanut butter used in this test? Simply because it is cheap, readily available, and has a very typical smell that is unlike any other and quite easily identifiable. It serves as a non-invasive and cost-effective tool for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.
1. The miraculous peanut butter diamond
If you thought that peanut butter was just for slathering on to your bread for making a delicious PB&J (peanut butter and jelly sandwich), then you’re in for a surprise! Did you know that scientists have succeeded in making a tiny diamond from peanut butter? Sounds unreal, but it’s quite true. In 2014, a team of scientists at the Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Germany wanted to study the role of the earth’s pressure on the diamond creation process. Scientist Dan Frost devised an ingenious method to use the hydrogen that is bonded to carbon in peanut butter to make diamonds by putting an extraordinary amount of pressure on it. The pressure is similar to the amount of pressure found in the earth’s core. This resulted in the creation of a minuscule diamond and scientists were able to successfully replicate the earth’s organic diamond creation process. After reading this, if you are rushing to your jar of peanut butter to try to create a diamond of your own, you would be sorely disappointed! According to Frost, this peanut butter diamond creation process is a very complicated one. Firstly, two presses are required to make the diamond. And each press is about 280,000 times that of the atmospheric pressure when cooked in a furnace. Secondly and most importantly, the diamond is almost immediately destroyed upon creation because of the enormous amount of hydrogen released once the pressure is taken off. Lastly, it would take approximately two weeks to create a minute 0.08 inch (2 millimeters) diamond using this method. While the scientists in Germany were trying to understand the earth’s inner workings and core geological processes by means of carbon-rich peanut butter, they deconstructed the diamond creation process for us. During the first press in this process, the atoms in the peanut butter are rearranged to form a tightly squeezed dense mass that results in tiny crystals. The second press crushes these crystal particles into tiny diamonds. Who would have ever thought that your humble sandwich staple could perform such wonders! So, the next time you dive into that jar of your favorite peanut butter, think about the secrets hidden in it!