Is Peanut Butter Healthy? Here's What You Need to Know…
Peanut butter: as the old song says, "it's good for your dad, it's good for your mother"!
Peanut butter makes everything better! Dark chocolate is delicious, but adding peanut butter gives you the world's most delicious candy: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
Toast and jam is a great way to start your day, but with a bit of peanut butter, you get the PB&J, the sandwich you can never stop eating.
Smoothies are a tasty treat to help you consume more protein, but with a scoop of peanut butter, it's like a whole blender full of healthy, peanut-flavored goodness straight from the gods themselves.
DID YOU KNOW?
Did You Know 91% of American households use peanut butter? U.S. sales of peanut butter came close to $1.2 billion in 2015 alone. That's a lot of people with a peanut butter-induced smile on their faces!
Sadly, we have to look the nutty gift horse in the mouth and ask the tough question: Is peanut butter healthy?
Below, we'll take a look at peanut butter both the pros and cons to answer the question "Is peanut butter good for you?"
The answer may surprise you…
The Facts: Peanut Butter Nutritional Info
Before we can get into the details, first we have to know all the facts.
Here is a look at the cold, hard data on peanut butter's nutritional value:
In the basic serving size (32 grams, or 2 tablespoons) of everyone's favorite smooth, creamy peanut butter, you get:
% Daily value*
Total Fat 16 g
Saturated fat 3.3 g
Polyunsaturated fat 4.4 g
Monounsaturated fat 8 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 5.4 mg
Potassium 207.7 mg
Total Carbohydrate 6 g
Dietary fiber 1.9 g
Sugar 3 g
Protein 8 g
Vitamin A - 0%
Vitamin C - 0%
Calcium - 1%
Iron - 3%
Vitamin D - 0%
Vitamin B-6 - 10%
Vitamin B-12 - 0%
Magnesium - 12%
(Information courtesy of Google)
Let's take a closer look at that nutritional data, so we can better understand how eating peanut butter affects us:
- Calories: 188 -- All in all, that's a pretty hefty dose of calories for just two tablespoons of the nutty goodness. It's not much less than you'd get for two tablespoons of olive or coconut oil.
- Fat: 16 grams -- As the table shows, that's almost ¼ of the fat you should be eating every day. Add on a few eggs for breakfast, a bit of milk with your smoothie, and some healthy oils on your salad, and you've reached your daily quota of fat. Thankfully, the fat is mostly mono- and polyunsaturated fat. That's a good thing, as these two fats are the heart-smart kind that reduce your risk of cardiovascular disorders.
- Carbs: 6 grams -- This may only be a small percentage (2%) of the carbs you need each day. However, consider that peanut butter is usually eaten with bread and jam (two more high-carb foods). For those worried about blood sugar levels (such as diabetics), it's something to be aware of.
- Dietary fiber: 1.9 grams -- That's not a lot of dietary fiber, roughly the same amount as you'd get in a single slice of rye bread. Thankfully, peanut butter isn't usually eaten for the fiber content, so it's a "bonus" fiber source to add to your diet!
Image Source: Well Plated
The point of this article is to answer the question "Is peanut butter healthy?" Well, to answer that question, let's take a look at the things that make peanut butter such a great addition to your diet:
- It's flippin' delicious -- I just had to throw that one in there! Unless you're one of those philistines who dislike peanut butter, this is one of the primary reasons you end up spreading the nutty goodness on your toast, apples, or celery sticks. If only this were a good enough reason for you to eat it…
- It's anti-diabetic -- The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study back in 2002 that discovered the benefits of eating nuts (and peaNUT butter) in relation to Type 2 Diabetes.
- Women who are peanut butter more than 5 times per week had a significantly lower blood sugar levels. This is due to the high fat content of the nuts.
- The fatty acids help to reduce blood glucose instability and regulates insulin production. Unsaturated fats can help to improve sensitivity to insulin, making it an awesome addition to any anti-diabetes diet.
- It's a weight-loss food -- You may be thinking, "200 calories per serving, and you're calling it a weight loss food? Are you bats**t crazy?" Insanity aside, the truth is that peanut butter is a viable diet/weight-loss food, if consumed properly--at least that's what the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition believes.ss
- It's heart-smart -- According to The Peanut Institute (yes, it's a real place), peanuts "may be one of the most cardio-protective whole foods". A 2009 study found that eating nuts and nut products can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 50%. It's one reason the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute added it to their highly-effective DASH Diet.
- It's nutritionally-rich -- Fat and protein aside, peanut butter is surprisingly rich in nutrients. As the nutritional table above shows, peanut butter contains a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that will improve the health of your skin and hair, reduce your heart attack risk, and promote improved overall health.
Magnesium is needed to build health bones--it's almost as important as calcium!
Potassium is vital for not only a health electrolyte balance, but it prevents fluid retention and plays a central role in muscle-building.
Vitamin B6 helps to protect your body from disease and infection by strengthening your immune system.
Iron is needed for the production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen and nutrients around your body.
You see, peanut butter is rich in fatty acids and fiber, both of which are VERY filling. The fiber expands in your stomach, causing you to feel full more quickly.
The fatty acids take longer to digest, meaning the peanut butter remains in your stomach for longer.
The fat content of the peanut butter also triggers your feelings of "satiety", so you feel satisfied after eating. Plus, the protein helps to add to your feeling full.
That doesn't mean you can go on an all-out peanut butter eating spree. Remember the high-calorie factor?
A single serving of peanut butter is all you can get away with as a midday snack.
Serve it with a bowl of celery sticks, baby carrots, and an apple, and you have a 300 to 400-calorie snack that will keep you full for hours to come. Best of all, it's DELICIOUS!
"But wait a minute," you may say, "I thought the saturated fat in peanuts were BAD for your heart. Now you're saying it's good?"
Saturated fat is no longer believed to be a risk factor for cardiovascular disorder (trans fats now hold that place of honor). In fact, saturated fat can increase your HDL (good) cholesterol levels, making it easier for your body to control LDL (bad) cholesterol.
The protein in the peanut butter will help to lower your blood pressure, further reducing your risk of heart disease. All in all, it's one heck of a great reason to eat more peanut butter! "I'm doing this for my heart," you can tell yourself as you lick the peanut butter spoon clean.
As you can see, peanut butter is a handy source of A LOT of vital nutrients. Definitely a good reason to add it to your diet!
Dangers Of Peanut Butter
Image Source: Baker By Nature
Of course, for every pro, there has to be a con, right? To truthfully answer the question "Is peanut butter good for you?" we have to look at the downsides/risks/dangers of peanut butter:
Allergic reactions -- This is one of the primary arguments against not only peanut butter, but all peanut products! According to Food Allergy Research & Education, roughly 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies.
Only EIGHT foods account for 90% of the allergic reactions, and peanuts (all nuts, really) are on that list of the "Hateful Eight". Roughly 3 million people suffer from tree nut and peanut allergies. The number of children (under the age of 18) living with peanut allergies has increased by 300% since 1997.
Thankfully, there is a light at the end of the peanut-shaped tunnel: F.A.R.E. estimates that up to 20% of children outgrow their peanut/nut allergies. However, it's vital to understand that for children with peanut allergies, peanut butter is a DANGEROUS food--one that can cause symptoms like runny nose, digestive upset, skin reactions, itching, and shortness of breath.
Aflatoxins -- Uh-oh, you see the "-toxins" there, don't you? Time to freak out? Perhaps…
According to Wikipedia, Aflatoxins are "poisonous and cancer-causing chemicals that are produced by certain molds (Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus) which grow in soil, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains". Where do you think these molds are often found? That's right, in improperly stored peanuts.
The good news is that 89% of aflatoxins are killed off during the processing of peanuts into peanut butter. The bad news is that aflatoxins have been linked to a number of health problems, including liver cancer, impaired child growth, and even reduced mental function/performance. Thankfully, the USDA monitors the levels of aflatoxins in peanut butter, so the risk of being exposed to these toxins is fairly low. However, it's vital to understand that the risk is still there.
Atherogenic -- To put this in layman's terms, it may increase the risk of atherosclerosis (constriction of the blood vessels). Peanut butter has been used to induce atherosclerosis in animals (for research purposes). It usually only works if cholesterol levels are high, but it's definitely something to be aware of.
So, we've looked at the good and the bad, and it's time to answer the question: Is peanut butter healthy? The answer: Yes, but…
Yes, peanut butter is healthy. The high nutritional value makes it a useful addition to your diet, and it can help protect your heart, reduce your risk of diabetes, and promote feelings of satiety that will prevent you from overeating.
But, if you're not careful, it can cause you to gain weight, and there is always the risk of allergy.
Understanding this will help you to keep peanut butter in its correct place on your menu!
Alternatives To Peanut Butter
Not certain peanut butter is the right spread for you? Looking for something with a slightly different (read: lower in fat, higher in nutrients) nutritional profile? Here are a few healthy alternatives to peanut butter:
- Coconut Butter -- Almost as sweet as peanut butter, coconut oil offers excellent immune-boosting benefits, metabolism boost, and heart-smart fatty acids. On the downside, it contains very little protein, and has much more saturated fat than peanut butter.
- Almond Butter -- This tastes almost like peanut butter, but it has a higher nutritional value. It contains more calcium, potassium, phosphorus, Vitamin E, and magnesium than peanut butter, and plenty of brain-boosting, heart-smart Omega-3 fatty acids. It's great for reducing blood pressure and bad cholesterol.
- Soy Butter -- Say what? That's right, soy butter! It's high in Omega-3 fatty acids, but it also contains more Omega-6s. You get a lot of protein from soy butter, but your risk of phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogens that mimic the hormone in your body) increases with every bite.
- Tahini -- Made from sesame seeds, Tahini is a good replacement for peanut butter in your cooking, though it's not very tasty when eaten raw. It's high in Omega-6 fatty acids, but it will help to reduce cholesterol and may even prevent heart disease and cancer thanks to its high antioxidant content.
Some other recent alternatives for peanut butter are Sunflower Seed Butter and Cookie Butter. Both are relatively easy to find, mostly right next to peanut butter in large chain grocery stores. Both have a nice nutty flavor and is smooth and easy to spread. You won't even feel like you're missing out peanut butter with these two!
Try these peanut butter alternatives if you want a healthy snack, or if you're just looking to give your palate a break!