On Nutrition by Ed Blonz

Peanut Butter Battle

DEAR DR. BLONZ: Please help settle a dispute between my wife and me. We buy organic peanut butter, and the oil rises to the top. I would prefer to mix the oil in with the rest of the peanut butter whenever we get a new jar. But my wife wants us to pour out the oil, saying that we don’t need the excess fat. What are your thoughts about this? -- S.S., via email

DEAR S.S.: Peanut butter is a healthful food, with or without its top oil. The oil rises to the top due to gravity, along with the fact that no substances were added to the product to help emulsify it -- that is, to keep it all together. The amount of oil reflects the fineness of the grind, and the temperature and length of time the jar has been sitting.

Regarding the fat content: While a significant portion of the calories in peanuts come from fat, most of them stay with the solids. Assuming you will be eating the same serving size either way, the calorie savings will be minimal. A 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter with all its oil will contain about 188 calories, 16 grams of fat, 8 grams of protein and 3 grams of sugars. If you were to pour off 3 tablespoons of oil (about 45 grams), then take a 2-tablespoon serving of this less-oily nut butter, you would have about 183 calories, 15 grams of fat, 9 grams of protein, and 3 grams of sugars. So the differences will be slightly fewer calories, a bit less fat, and a bit more protein.

Of course, nut butters also contain other nutrients, all of which are affected when the oil is removed, however slightly. Looking specifically at vitamin E, the 2-tablespoon serving of “un-poured” peanut butter will contain 2.9 mg of vitamin E (about 15 percent of the recommended daily value), while the same serving of poured peanut butter will contain about 2.5 milligrams (roughly 13 percent of the daily value).

DEAR DR. BLONZ: Thanks for your response to a recent letter regarding frozen salmon. What length of time is reasonable to freeze other meats -- beef, pork or chicken -- assuming they are kept and thawed safely, as you described in your response? -- B.N., Walnut Creek, California

DEAR B.N.: If properly wrapped and kept in an airtight container at 0 degrees F (-18 degrees C), meats will be as safe to eat when thawed as when they were initially frozen. The flavor and texture quality, however, will deteriorate with time. The major risk is freezer burn, which attacks the edges and surface of meat first.

You will have an average of about three months of safe storage for frozen meats, but this will vary according to the cut, whether it was cooked before being frozen, and the efficiency of your freezer. Be sure to place a date on the package.

Check out more detailed information on frozen-food safety by visiting fsis.usda.gov and searching for “frozen food.”

Send questions to: “On Nutrition,” Ed Blonz, c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106. Send email inquiries to questions@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.