That's Nuts

A weekly dose of nutty history, pop culture, and recipes from Lee Zalben, aka The Peanut Butter Guy.

Peanuts: Salted or Unsalted?

Note: Lee Zalben, a.k.a. "the Peanut Butter Guy" is the creator of the Peanut Butter & Co., a New York sandwich shop with a national line of nut butters. Every week he'll chime in with some nuttiness.

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Sodium is a hot topic these days. Chefs often say that their heavy use of salt is one of the reasons restaurant food tastes so good, while public health officials say we're on the verge of a public health emergency due to rising rates of hypertension, caused in part by excess sodium in our diets.

A lot of the controversy seems to be centered on processed foods that use salt as a preservative, as opposed to foods that include a small amount of salt purely for flavor. My good friend and food politics guru Marion Nestle doesn't really make a distinction however.

Salt does not prolong the shelf life of peanut butter, and she is constantly imploring me to produce a "No Salt Added" version of our Old-Fashioned Smooth and Old Fashioned Crunchy peanut butters at Peanut Butter & Co.

Many people who've given up salt say it's hard in the beginning, but that after a while, they begin to taste more flavors in their food. Other people who grew up in households where salt wasn't used a lot seem to experience a salt renaissance later in life.

I discussed the salt issue recently with friends and found out how divisive the issue is, especially when it comes to peanut and peanut butter lovers.

There seem to be two camps: those who feel the salt enhances the flavor of peanuts and peanut butter—the combination of salt and sweet is what it's all about, right? And then there are those who think the nutty flavor stands on its own just fine, without any salt.

On a funny note, among a small group of people, I noticed that the "salteds" were more conservative in both their eating habits and political views, while the "unsalteds" were a little more adventurous eaters and more liberal in their thinking. (Anyone else agree?)

Politics aside, do you think peanuts and peanut butter are best salted or unsalted?

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