People have eaten peanut butter for generations. For many of us, it is a comfort food. We grew up eating peanut butter and jam sandwiches, ants on a log, peanut butter Ritz Bitz, peanut butter cups, and the list goes on. It is loved for its creamy texture, rich flavor, and ability to be paired with various foods. But is peanut butter actually healthy for you? Let’s explore the upsides and downsides of peanut butter to help you make an informed decision about incorporating it into your diet.
Is Peanut Butter Healthy?
As something many of us have grown up eating and probably even feed to our own children (or dogs, even!), it’s hard to imagine it not being at least somewhat good for you. In recent years, however, some have started to debate whether or not peanut butter is good for you. Is it a part of a balanced breakfast, snack, or other meal? Or should it be avoided at all costs? The real answer isn’t quite so clear, because like most things in life it depends. These are the pros and cons of peanut butter, so that you can decide whether or not it has a place in your diet. (1)
The Potential Downsides of Peanut Butter
While peanut butter is packed with nutrients, it is important to be aware of some potential downsides. Most of these downsides are associated with traditional peanut butter, often found in processed forms. However, by opting for natural peanut butter, many of these concerns can be mitigated. Organic peanut butter is an even better choice. Let’s dive into the downsides and their explanations:
One concern related to peanut butter is the presence of aflatoxins. Peanuts can be colonized by a mold called Aspergillus, which produces aflatoxins. These compounds are considered harmful to health, particularly in developing countries. Exposure to aflatoxins has been associated with liver cancer, stunted growth in children, and delays in mental development. However, the processing of peanuts into peanut butter significantly reduces the amount of aflatoxins present in the final product.
2. High Calorie Load
While peanut butter is nutrient-dense, it also has a high-calorie content. This can concern individuals who are watching their weight or trying to maintain a calorie-controlled diet. Moderation is key when consuming peanut butter to avoid exceeding daily calorie intake goals.
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3. High Sugar and Salt Content
Peanut butter is often sweetened with sugar and salted to enhance its flavor. Sometimes, it may be sweetened with other kinds of sweeteners, too. While these additives can be enjoyed in moderation, they should not be consumed in excess due to their potential negative effects on health.
4. High Fat Content
Peanut butter is high in fat, which can concern individuals who are watching their weight or trying to maintain a calorie-controlled diet. One serving of peanut butter contains about 16 grams of fat, which is more than half the recommended daily intake for an adult woman. While this may not seem like much, it adds up quickly if you eat multiple servings daily. This is also another case of the importance of reading your labels. Some commercial peanut butter contain trans fats, so read your labels and avoid those brands.
The Upsides of Peanut Butter
Despite those potential downsides, there are a lot of positives when it comes to PB. Let’s shift our focus to the numerous upsides of peanut butter, especially when opting for natural or organic varieties:
1. Abundance of Nutrients
Peanut butter is a good source of essential nutrients, including protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It contains antioxidants, such as vitamin E, which help protect cells from damage caused by harmful free radicals. Additionally, peanut butter is rich in magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, which support various bodily functions.
2. Heart-Healthy Fats
Peanut butter is predominantly composed of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are considered heart-healthy. These fats have been shown to improve blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease when consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.
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Peanut butter is a reliable source of plant-based protein, making it an excellent option for vegetarians and vegans. Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth, as well as for supporting optimal immune function. While peanut butter is more of a source of fat than protein, it’s still a fairly good source. A 100g serving of peanut butter contains 22.5g of protein and 51g of fat, with 14% of the calories coming from protein.
4. Satiating and Energizing
The combination of healthy fats, protein, and fiber in peanut butter can help you feel full for longer periods and provide a sustained release of energy. This makes it a valuable addition to breakfast or snacks.
Conventional vs. All-Natural Peanut Butter
It is worth noting the difference between conventional peanut butter and all-natural peanut butter. Conventional peanut butter often contains added sugars, hydrogenated oils (trans fats), preservatives, and other additives. On the other hand, all-natural peanut butter is made solely from peanuts without any added ingredients. Organic all-natural peanut butter, in addition to being all-natural, is made from organically grown peanuts without the use of pesticides or chemicals. Opting for all-natural or organic peanut butter ensures that you are consuming a purer and healthier product. (2, 3)
The Bottom Line
Peanut butter can be a healthy addition to your diet, particularly when choosing natural or organic varieties. It offers a range of essential nutrients, heart-healthy fats, and plant-based protein. Moderation is key, as peanut butter can be high in calories. Overall, embracing nutritious foods like peanuts and peanut butter can be a smart choice when building a balanced and enjoyable eating plan. Before introducing any new food into your diet, it is always advisable to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have any allergies or specific dietary concerns.
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- “Is Peanut Butter Good or Bad for Your Health?” Healthline. Kris Gunnars, BSc and Rachael Ajmera, MS, RD. February 14, 2023.
- “Is Peanut Butter Good for You?” Health. Madison Yauger. December 26, 2022.
- “Ask the doctor: Why is peanut butter “healthy” if it has saturated fat?” Harvard. July 30, 2019