Time to Kick PB&J to the Curb!
I know it’s an old standby and someone’s favorite lunch. It’s easy as pie to make (easier actually) and your kids can even do it so you don’t have to. All the ingredients are readily (and always) available. They don’t go out of season, and they rarely go bad. Your kids will eat it day after day. It’s packed with protein and whole-wheat goodness, right?
Wrong. Here’s what you need to know about PB&J:
Bread is not the staff of life.
But whole grains are good for you, aren’t they? According to cardiologist William Davis of Wheat Belly, bread—the food most eaten by Americans— is the perfect chronic poison. Here’s why:
1. Whole grain bread—not just white—spikes your blood sugar. It has one of the highest glycemic loads of all foods. The glycemic load estimates how much the food will raise a person’s blood glucose level after eating it. Two slices of whole wheat bread—a sandwich—contain the equivalent of six teaspoons of sugar. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gives both whole wheat and Wonder Bread a glycemic index rating of 10. Coke and candy bars are just slightly higher at 13-14. Bagels are more than twice that at 25, so more like eating a piece of cake. Here’s a handy chart to pore over with glycemic index and glycemic load ratings for a thousand foods.
These breads have a higher glycemic index than a Snickers bar:
- -Kaiser rolls
- -Melba toast
- -White flour
- -Whole-grain bread (like Stay Trim, Natural Ovens)
Why is eating bread like eating sugar? It’s because the carbs are made up of the compound amylopectin A, which is converted very quickly into glucose. Like the minute you’re done chewing it.
2. Bread is addictive. Not just psychologically because you think it’s yummy and are used to eating it. Rather, it’s because it produces compounds—called opiates— that bind to morphine receptors in your brain. People who eat wheat end up taking in many more calories per day–an average of 400.
3. Gluten is dangerous. If you have no noticeable side effects from eating gluten products, you may not be aware of the damage that it is causing. Gluten produces inflammation and even perforations in the gut. Food proteins leak through the damaged intestinal wall into the bloodstream and are attacked as foreign invaders by your antibodies. This is called an immune reaction. Other symptoms that are rarely identified as gluten-related include headaches, fatigue, and sinus issues. Want to know a whole lot more about gluten? This is a fascinating read.
4. Gluten-free substitutes are just as unhealthy. Gluten is bad for everyone, whether or not you have symptoms. But the substitutes are cheap, highly-processed fillers like tapioca, corn and potato starch. They’re usually full of chemical preservatives, syrups, industrial oils and GMOs. Also arsenic and mercury. And surprise—they rank even higher on the glycemic index, sending your blood sugar soaring. Almost all varieties rank higher than simple table sugar. Read more about the dangers of gluten-free food.
5. Antinutrients. Wheat—like many plants—contains anti-nutrients to protect itself from being eaten by bugs and other predators. Gluten, lectins, and trypsin inhibitors are all in there. But the most dangerous kind is wheat germ agglutinin. It can damage your endocrine system and digestive tract and lead to chronic inflammation and compromised immunity. Yum—gimme some antinutrients, right?
6. Sprayed with Glyphosate. Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide is heavily sprayed on crops—especially in colder, wetter climates—to rapidly remove any moisture so that it can be harvested more quickly. The main ingredient, Glyphosate, is a known endocrine disruptor. It also kills beneficial gut bacteria. Studies show that it damages the DNA in human embryos and that it is linked to birth defects and reproductive harm in lab animals.
Why am I encouraged to eat “healthy whole wheat”, even by my doctor?
Wheat and wheat products make up the largest category of the USDA Food Pyramid for the recommended daily allowance of food. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know why: because of corporate interests. The industry is actually getting away with making dietary recommendations for all Americans, and these recommendations are there to boost their profits.
How it works: the food industry funds most food-related studies; their well-paid, cherry picked scientists are willing to tow the line and interpret data in a way that reinforces company objectives; company executives are hired to direct government agencies like the FDA; they create “industry-friendly” policies like deciding it’s unnecessary to regulate or collect information about Glyphosate, and then they issue “recommendations” to the organizations we trust like the American Medical Association. The AMA then sends guidelines to doctors and other healthcare practitioners like nutritionists.
Follow the money. That, my friends, is why Americans are often alarmingly misinformed about food, why chronic illness is on the rise, why the “war on cancer” only raises money for treatment without addressing the root causes, and why pharmaceutical companies keep getting richer as the general population gets sicker, and more and more people are diagnosed with cancer and other diseases. There is a huge industry that benefits from our suffering.
Don’t stop reading! Some of this stuff may discourage you or make you feel helpless. It would be more fun to jump to Instagram and see what your friends are up to. But knowledge is power, and you are here to take your health into your hands with the powerful tools that I am giving you. The torture is temporary, and the gift of health lasts a lifetime…
Peanut butter has bad stuff hiding in it.
- Extra sugar. Peanut butter is already sweet, people. It doesn’t need to be all sugared up. But Jif, Smuckers, and Skippy disagree. That’s why they, and other manufacturers, add all kinds of unnecessary crap like high fructose corn syrup–which damages your liver, genetically modified soybean oil, and hydrogenated oils, which are deadly trans fats.
- Lectins. These are part of a plant’s defense mechanisms to avoid being eaten. Lectins can paralyze bugs, and they damage the lining in our gut as well, wreaking havoc on our immune system. There are entire books written about the problems with lectins, like the Plant Paradox by Steve Gundry. Peanuts, which are legumes, are loaded with lectins. Food with lectins can lead to IBS and leaky gut, and most of us have one or the other or both.
- Omega-6 fats. The American diet is packed with omega-6 foods. Who cares, it’s just a number, right? Well actually, our bodies are meant to keep a balance of omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids, and when this ratio is out of balance, it leads to inflammation and eventually cardiovascular disease, cancers, asthma and type 2 diabetes. Most of us are way out of balance, as we eat a massive amount of omega 6-s and are deficient in omega-3s.
- Anti-nutrients. In here, too. The highest levels are found in grains, beans, nuts, and legumes. Certain anti-nutrients, like the kind found in a class of vegetables called nightshades, can be beneficial. Other kinds, like phytic acid (present in peanuts) interfere with the absorption of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
- Aflatoxin. Peanuts are grown in a moist environment on the ground which breeds mold (known as mycotoxins) and a toxin called aflatoxin which is produced by fungi. Mold is responsible for all kinds of health problems—some severe—and allergies are one of them. It may be the mold that is causing an epidemic of peanut allergies in kids. Aflatoxin exposure can lead to stunted growth, delayed development and liver damage, especially in kids.
- Pesticides. Peanut shells are soft and absorbent. They are typically grown in the same soil as cotton, which is heavily doused with glyphosate. Non-organic peanuts typically contain about eight pesticides including piperonyl butoxide, a known hormone disruptor and suspected carcinogen.
What’s wrong with a little sugar?
- It’s a lot of sugar, that’s what’s wrong. Sugar is ubiquitous in the food supply—it’s added to almost everything—and it masquerades under many different names, like evaporated cane sugar and dextrose. For the most part, though, sugar is sugar. Eating even a little depresses your immune system, and eating a lot leads to diabetes, obesity, tooth decay and even heart disease. You can justify your jelly by thinking it comes from fruit. Or even that it’s homemade. But the reality is that there’s tons of sugar in most jams and jellies, and sugar is evil.
- HFCS. Lots of brands contain high fructose corn syrup, which is worse than sugar. It’s derived from corn stalks through a chemical process and has been shown to damage both your liver and your intestinal wall. Read more about it!
- Pectin. One of those pesky ingredients that sounds pretty natural. Pectin is a fiber but too much of it can block minerals like zinc and potassium and lead to IBS.
Now that you’ve yucked my yum and made my children cry, what should I do?
Glad you asked! There are great alternatives. Here’s my favorite recipe:
Almond butter and banana between two pieces of brisket.
I’m kidding of course. But how about this one here:
Almond butter and banana slices on frozen toasted sprouted wheat bread, or fresh pumpernickel/sourdough.
This is not a perfect solution because you noticed that bread is still in there. That’s because it might be easier to “transition” away from peanut butter and jelly first, and later take the bread-free challenge. Pumpernickel and sourdough are two of the less destructive forms of contemporary bread, but unless they are made by an “artisanal bakery” using traditional methods (proper fermentation is key), they are doing you more harm than good.
Almonds are rich in calcium, fiber and iron and are packed with nutrients and healthy fats. They have harder shells which protect them from contaminants but ideally should be organic (because conventional varieties are sprayed) and soaked (because they, too, contain phytic acid),
If you really can’t live without peanut butter, here’s what you can do:
Better peanut butter.
- Buy organic. Without all the extra sugars and hydrogenated oils.
- Buy valencia or jungle peanuts. These are grown in bushes so are less susceptible to mold.
- Make sure that you’re consuming omega-3s at the same time. Hey, how about a peanut butter and tilapia sandwich? 😂 😱. Actually, most of the foods that are high in omega-3s do not pair quite so nicely with peanut butter. So before you have that sandwich, consider taking a spoonful of fish oil or flax oil. Or have a hard-boiled egg with lunch, or some sardines, wild rice, or spinach.
Other butters. Try them out! There are so many to choose from these days, although a conventional grocer may not carry them all:
- -cashew butter. Not as high in protein but full of iron, magnesium, zinc, copper, phosphorous, and manganese.
- -macadamia nut butter. Lower in protein but higher thin heart healthy fats than the others.
- -pistachio butter. Great fiber and potassium, more protein than most other nuts.
For those with nut allergies:
- -coconut butter. Heart-heatlthy, boosts metabolism, can prevent bacterial infections.
- -pumpkin butter. Packed with protein, fiber, potassium, and beta-carotene. Make your own!
- -sunflower butter. High in magnesium and some anti-oxidants.
- -sesame spread (tahini). High in calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin B1, and fiber.
Where to buy:
Almond butter has become pretty ubiquitous and can be found at most grocers. I grind my own at the local co-op. Look for organic, and if possible sprouted. Thrive Market is a great resource for organic pantry items. Here is a good brand of almond butter, but there are many others.
- -banana slices in winter, strawberry slices in summer, apple slices in fall
- -raw honey (Manuka is the healthiest)
- -make your own fruit spread
Quality bread substitutes:
- -Go Grain-free bread using a combination of nut and seed flours
- -Make your own bread! Here are lots of great recipes and ideas.
- -Eight kinds of zucchini bread! See, you don’t really have to give it up. Just change it up.
Take the plunge and go bread-free.
- -What should I put my almond butter and honey on? How about a stalk of celery or open-faced red pepper?
- -How do I satiate myself without all those carbs? Nuts, cheese, yogurt, fish, meat, lotsa veggies…
Want some great lunchbox ideas for your kids? Check out this post.
I want to hear from my readers! Please let me know what ideas worked for you and your family and how the no-PB&J challenge is going.