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Peanut butter or ham
February 22, 2012 5:32 PM   Subscribe

Peanut butter or lunch meat?

All things being equal, what is a healthier sandwich option? Wheat bread and peanut butter or wheat bread and low fat ham (no cheese, lettuce, spreads, etc.)

Would love to hear your definition of "healthy" and which you'd eat if you had to and why.
posted by gocubbies to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would eat the ham. The peanut butter will typically have added sugar and I avoid peanuts anyway because of the agglutinin. I would also skip the wheat bread.

For me healthy is meat, animal fats, greens, and tubers.
posted by rainbowbullet at 5:41 PM on February 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


One slice of bread with peanut butter, one slice of bread with ham (so, two open faced sandwiches). That's heather because it has both protein and fat. With just the ham, you're missing fat, with just the peanut butter, the meal is too low-protein for me (though it has some).
posted by insectosaurus at 5:41 PM on February 22, 2012


A lot of this depends on the type of ham and peanut butter. If you mean peanut butter made only from ground peanuts with no added sugar or oil, and ham cut freshly off the bone of a home-roasted pig, that is a very different question from if you are are talking about typical peanut butter with lots of additives and prepackaged supermarket ham.
posted by lollusc at 5:42 PM on February 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Healthy" is the most micronutrient-dense foods in quantities that align closest to your optimal macronutrient ratio. Whether you opt for PB or ham on your sandwich therefore depends entirely on what the rest of your diet looks like: PB if it needs more fat, ham if it needs more protein. Assessing their healthiness as individual items is meaningless.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 5:42 PM on February 22, 2012 [12 favorites]


If you're talking peanut butter that's just ground peanuts and a touch of salt, do that on the wheat bread. Fat and protein, yum, and less sodium/godknowswhat than the ham.
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:46 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


That depends, what kind of peanut butter, and what kind of ham? Your traditional Skippy or Jiff has a lot of sugar, while the no-sugar added ones...don't, obviously. And processed lunch meats generally have a fair amount of sodium. For me, my healthiest choice would be no-sugar added peanut butter, adding some honey to taste (probably a teaspoon or two). I don't eat pork, but the equivalent processed lunch meat would have too much sodium to make it a healthy choice for me. But then I'm less concerned about fat in my diet.
posted by yasaman at 5:48 PM on February 22, 2012


Well, for me it would probably be the peanut butter, since I have to watch my cholesterol. If you are worried about high blood pressure, the ham is always going to have more sodium.

But for someone with a peanut allergy, or someone diabetic, the ham would be the better way to go.

Moderation is generally a good strategy when you're eating for health, so rather than have both in open-faced sandwiches, I think the best thing to do would be to alternate. That way, you won't get bored with the same old thing, and you'll also be varying the nutrients you are getting.
posted by misha at 5:54 PM on February 22, 2012


This depends completely on the kind you get. If you get unsweetened organic peanut butter (or fresh ground), or you get nitrate-free organic ham, then you're looking at a choice between whether you consider peanuts or ham to be a healthier option.

However, it is far, far easier to get unsweetened organic peanut butter than it is to get ham with no additives. For that reason I would go with the peanut butter.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:56 PM on February 22, 2012


Healthy is relative, and food quality is variable.

Depending on where you are, it's probably easier to find peanut butter without additives (hydrogenated oil, sugar, emulsifiers, preservatives) than ham without unnecessary additives (sodium phosphate, propylene glycol, natural and artificial flavors), especially if you're talking about presliced, packaged lunch meat.

The ham will have more salt than the peanut butter. The peanut butter will have more fat and less protein. Sugar could go either way depending on the kinds of peanut butter and ham you buy.

Personally, I'd buy natural peanut butter and minimally processed ham (kind of an oxymoron - "artisanal" might be a better buzzword) and alternate sandwiches. More expensive, yes, but so much better.

Truthfully, I'd go for really good roast beef.
posted by WasabiFlux at 5:59 PM on February 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Most lunch meat-style ham and preserved meat in general= full of nitrites. I would never eat that crappy poison, or any meat at all.

Natural peanut butter and sprouted grain bread is better. But only one slice folded over would be best. Lots of bread isn't really optimal in any diet.

As far as my definition os healthy... statistically, the people who are the longest-lived and healthy eat the least animal products. So yeah, ham in the diet doesn't fit into my definition of good health.
posted by devymetal at 6:08 PM on February 22, 2012


I only buy ham if I can afford the fancy nitrate-free kind (Neiman Ranch and Applegate Farms are two decent brands), which is basically almost never. I can afford the fancy organic no sugar added peanut butter, though, so that's what I'd be eating.
posted by Juliet Banana at 6:27 PM on February 22, 2012


And yeah, ain't nobody ever got no colon cancer from no peanut butter.
posted by Juliet Banana at 6:27 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Vegetarian here, so I pick peanut butter.
posted by vegartanipla at 6:33 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can afford the fancy organic no sugar added peanut butter, though, so that's what I'd be eating.

Smuckers chunky natural is sugar-free and cracktastic. Even diehard fancy organic PB fans have agreed with me, Smuckers kicks arse. And it's only $2.50 a jar when on sale!!

That said, I think the healthiest option here is to eat BOTH the peanut butter AND the ham, and ditch the sugar bomb also known as "whole wheat bread."
posted by artemisia at 6:39 PM on February 22, 2012


I thought this was an interesting statement: statistically, the people who are the longest-lived and healthy eat the least animal products so I did some looking.

From a quick read of the relevant studies (staying away from the pro-meat / anti-meat sites) it looks like the majority of studies show one thing conclusively - either eating too much meat or eating no animal products both increase mortality relative to eating less meat or some animal products.

So I think the advice suggested above to alternate between sandwiches produced from high quality ingredients is probably best - All things in moderation still seems to be good advice...
posted by NoDef at 6:51 PM on February 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


This isn't enough information to make a determination. First, it's true that it depends on the rest of your diet and on your personal dietary needs. Second, there's a lot of difference in ingredients such as "peanut butter." I like Teddie, natural, sugar free, made in my region, and cheap. Not bad. It's hard to find ham that is free of preservative chemicals and is from a locally raised source. I don't think industrial ham fits my definition of 'healthy' - it's salty and full of additives I'm not a fan of.

Whole wheat bread does not have to be a "sugar bomb," but you need to check the ingredients. A lot of commercial wheat bread does contain sugar, honey, molassess, or corn syrup and might have precious little whole wheat content. I make my own in the breadmachine at home, so I know it doesn't have sugar. Artisanal bakery wheats aren't that likely to have sugar, but do check.

In other words, not enough info here. You can have a pretty unhealthy peanut butter or ham sandwich, or a pretty healthy one. That's without even getting into portion sizes.
posted by Miko at 6:58 PM on February 22, 2012


Side note, for some reason a lot of people use the terms interchangeably, but "wheat bread" is not the same thing as "whole wheat bread."

The stuff I see labeled "wheat bread" is generally bread made with some white flour and some whole wheat flour. The healthy stuff is labeled "whole wheat" and is made without white flour.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:02 PM on February 22, 2012


The stuff I see labeled "wheat bread" is generally bread made with some white flour and some whole wheat flour. The healthy stuff is labeled "whole wheat" and is made without white flour.

Yes, "wheat bread" can legally describe any bread made with wheat, even if the wheat is in the form of bleached enriched white flour. But it can contain relatively little whole wheat flour - particularly moist breads like raisin or seed bread; and many breads like that are plumped up with sugars and oils. So be careful about that.

Whole Grain Council guidance on US standards for wheat and grain product labeling.
posted by Miko at 7:13 PM on February 22, 2012


But it can contain

That should read "even whole wheat bread can contain"
posted by Miko at 7:15 PM on February 22, 2012


I'm not a health expert BUT one of my favorite things to eat that I thought was pretty healthy (and really tasty) was Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter spread with Arnold's Whole Grain Health Nut bread.
posted by bluelight at 7:26 PM on February 22, 2012


If you're doing this for lunch at the office either seems like a reasonably healthy choice to me. It's a much more controlled portion than you'd likely consume if you went to a restaurant. I'd probably go with the peanut butter because it's got less salt and it's got a longer shelf life.
posted by itheearl at 7:37 PM on February 22, 2012


Arnold's Whole Grain Health Nut bread.

This is a good example of what we were just saying. Arnold's uses some whole wheat flour in this bread but mixes it with white flour. There's sugar and molasses in it, and nonfat dry milk as well which I think contributes more natural sugars, so each slice gives you 3 grams of sugar, making 6 for a 2-slice sandwich, or about a teaspoon and a half, or 24 calories just from sugar, then you have 150 mg of sodium, not a ton but if you're trying to stay below 800 then 2 slices at 300 mg uses up a little under half your day's allotment (of course not everyone needs to worry about this). Then over here you might have something like Nature's Own Whole Wheat which has a totally sugar-free version and would save you 70 mg sodium and 120 calories over the Arnold's.

I'm not saying that the Arnold's or really any other kind of bread is a terrible thing to eat, but it's a good example of how healthy-seeming labeling can hide a pretty big variance in actual ingredients. So when asking "Which is healthier" you really have to be specific and compare the numbers, and then compare that information to what it is you need to supply and/or avoid in your diet.
posted by Miko at 7:44 PM on February 22, 2012


Look for bread labeled "100% whole wheat;" all other bread can be 99% white and still claim the label "whole wheat" for that 1% smidgen. Take care also of bread deceptively labeled "100% serving whole wheat" that's 100% of a daily serving, NOT 100% whole wheat.
posted by nicebookrack at 9:30 PM on February 22, 2012


I think it's a crock that "whole grain" is more healthy. By keeping the bran you are keeping anti-nutrients such as phytates that are the plant's chemical defense mechanism to keep from being eaten. Domestication and agriculture has selected for yield but not for lower anti-nutrients.

The only grain I consider healthy is white rice, honestly, though processes such as the fermentation that takes place in traditional sourdough making go a good way towards making some grain foods more healthy.
posted by rainbowbullet at 10:09 PM on February 22, 2012


all other bread can be 99% white and still claim the label "whole wheat" for that 1% smidgen

No, that's not true in the US. If it says "whole wheat" anywhere it has to contain only whole wheat flour and no other flour. It can say "whole GRAIN" and contain other flours, though. And it can say "wheat" or other wonderful sounding things like "All Natural Wheat" or "Honey Multigrain Wheat" and contain white flour.
posted by Miko at 7:46 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


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