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Because of Breast Cancer, I Can't Eat What?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

©Brenda Coffee. All rights reserved.

If there had been a 12-step program for peanut butter a few years ago, I would’ve found a meeting, plopped myself down in the front row and said, “Hi. My name is Brenda, and I am a peanut butter-aholic.” My habit was so bad, my husband and son would buy their own jars and hide them from me because I blew through at least one large jar a week. No pretense of a sandwich for me. I ate it spoon after spoon, straight from the jar while standing at the kitchen counter.

After my breast cancer diagnosis I consulted a nutritionist and learned about the various sources of protein and decided there was a chance I wasn’t a peanut butter-aholic after all. My copious consumption of peanut butter could have been my body’s way of screaming for more protein. My shame was lifted! <PREVIEWEND> I also learned peanuts were high on the list of foods containing phytoestrogens and were not a good idea if I wanted to lower my risk of recurrence. Because phytoestrogens are thought to bind to the estrogen receptors in our body, and because my breast cancer was fueled by estrogen, I went cold turkey on peanut butter and am proud to say I haven’t had a spoonful since. I have, however, discovered raw almond butter.

Unlike peanut butter, raw almond butter contains no added ingredients or preservatives and has less hydrogenated oils, plus no salt or sugar. Almond butter is full of monounsaturated fats, which are good for your heart and helps control blood sugar, plus it has more calcium, iron and Vitamin E than peanut butter. As my “Type A” self is inclined to do, I took this discovery one step further and became a connoisseur who decided the best raw almond butter was from England and could only be purchased on the Internet. The problem was, by the time I converted English pounds to American dollars, and added tax and shipping, my weekly fix was $30 a jar. A small jar. If that wasn’t bad enough, I recently discovered a terrible new twist to my nut butter saga.

Some phytoestrogenic foods may actually be protective by binding to our estrogen receptors, thus blocking estrogen, which sounds like a good thing, but nobody really knows which ones are the good phytoestrogen foods and which are the bad. Oh, but wait… The plot thickens. Some experts suggest almonds may be as bad for me as peanuts. That may, or may not mean they are on the list of bad phytoestrogen foods, but not knowing, once again, I have gone cold turkey on a beloved nut butter.

Addictions are tricky things: You start small, just a spoon or two, then before you know it, you’ve consumed a whole jar in less than a week. Where will it stop? Will I move on to more addicting things, and what might they be? Is this how addicts become thieves, selling stolen merchandise to supplement their cravings? Sometimes I long for the little girl who ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Campbell’s bean soup while she read Nancy Drew. I’m really glad she didn’t know about peanut butter-aholics and phytoestrogens.

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Previous Comments
Anonymous commented on 01-Jun-2010 04:01 PM
Hilarious! Our whole family is nutty for peanut butter & I can't see any of us cutting back. The biggest shift was to Organic peanut butter - didn't go over so well in the beginning, but got em trained now. The food & health saga continues. Good luck with the next nut infatuation!
Anonymous commented on 01-Jun-2010 05:51 PM
Brenda you are so funny! Love the Nancy Drew twist. I am not a peanut butter fan at all but can see how the body would be saying feed me more protein. I am staying away from chocolate. One bit and I will remind my body of an addiction that I am happy to say overcoming.

Thanks for the interesting articles and for your comments of encouragment. They really help!
Anonymous commented on 03-Jun-2010 11:25 AM
Who knew it was so complicated to find a safe alternative to peanut butter. Good luck on your search, I am sure you will find something! In the mean time, you should consider joining breast cancer survivors at to share more tips and advice. I am sure others will find your insights very encouraging and helpful.

Anonymous commented on 19-Jun-2010 04:27 PM
Mmmmmmm, I love peanutbutter! 'nuf said. :D
Anonymous commented on 18-Sep-2010 08:58 PM
Hi Brenda,
Thanks for stopping by Fitness for Survivors. I'm honored. I know your site; you're doing such great work.

And your comment came at just the right moment - one of those nasty little self-doubt moments, wondering if all this effort matters. So, thank you!


Julie Goodale
Anonymous commented on 19-Sep-2010 04:07 PM
You’re doing a great, good thing for a lot of women! Thanks.

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