LOGAN – There is a peanut butter substitute developed by United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultures Research Services (ARS) that is sunflower seed based.
Utah State University Extension Nutritionist Carrie Durward said that if the claims of better taste are true it could help a lot of children and give the schools a better option than peanut butter and jelly in school lunch programs.
“With the growing number of kids with peanut allergies, at least now they can have peanut butter and jelly sandwich using the sunflower butter at school,” she said. “Some children can’t even get close to someone with peanut residue on their hands, so sunflower butter could be used as an alternative in place of peanut butter in schools.”
United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultures Research Services Southern Regional Research Center teamed up with sunflower producers in North Dakota to develop a sunflower butter as a peanut butter substitute.
The new process resembles the flavor, texture and appearance of commercially available peanut butter.
“There are several brands on the market now and some versions have been around since the early 2000’s,” she said. “Originally, the sunflower butter wasn’t very tasty.”
ARS researchers also with Red River Commodities were able to modify the roasting process – and controlling moisture and ingredient effects – and produced a significantly improved sunflower butter.
“Having better tasting sunflower butter is a good thing for people with peanut and tree nut allergies like almonds, cashews and walnuts,” Durward said. “People that can’t eat peanut butter can eat sunflower butter because it is made from seeds.”
The USU professor said nutritional recommendations are changing on when to introduce foods to children when it comes to allergies. Nutritional researchers have found giving peanut products to children earlier may reduce allergic reactions.
“In some countries children are given peanut based food and in America we give them Cheerios,” she said. “In the Israeli culture they eat more peanut products and have fewer people with peanut allergies.”
Israel did a controlled study offering peanut based foods to children early on and it seemed to have a positive effect. A previous prevailing attitude was to avoid peanuts early on.
If children have siblings or parents with a food allergy, or any history of a reaction to a food, consult with your doctor before exposing him or her to foods that may cause a reaction. There is a fact sheet that discusses guidelines for safely exposing your child to allergenic foods.
“There are nutrition differences between sunflower butter and peanut butter, but they are comparable,” she said. “It’s like apple and oranges, or serving pork verses chicken. They are about the same. “
Companies that make sunflower butter have expanded their product lines. The expanded product lines include a variety of flavors like creamy, organic unsweetened, natural, natural crunch and natural omega-3 including new “go packs” designed for lunches and on-the-go snacking.