Is Peanut Butter Good For You? (You’ll Be Surprised)

peanut butter in jar

Americans spend $800 million annually on peanut butter and it’s the leading use of peanuts, according to the National Peanut Board. Much of this peanut butter is consumed in candy and other confectionery, or in a peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; snicker bars come to mind. These facts have promoted the idea that peanut butter is bad for you, but this not necessarily true.

Peanut butter alone offers many nutritional benefits and can be good for you in moderation. You don’t want to eat a whole jar — over 500 peanuts — with a spoon. It’s a rich source of several essential vitamins and minerals, which includes folate, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin E. Eating peanut butter could help you get the recommended dietary intake for several nutrients your body needs — when part of a healthy diet.

What is Peanut Butter?

peanuts used to make peanut butter

Peanut butter is a form of peanut paste, made by grinding dry roasted peanut. With 100 percent natural peanut butter you get oil separation that looks quite unpleasant. You rarely get this form of peanut butter in stores.

Standard peanut butter has added ingredients, which are salt, sugar and vegetable oil to get a consistency similar to butter. The oil is hydrogenated to prevent oil separation, so some people prefer to buy natural peanut butter to avoid the unhealthy effects of the oil added in peanut butter. There are also crunchy peanut butter and a smooth variation. Crunchy peanut butter tends to have slightly less saturated fats and more fiber.

Despite the added ingredients, most commercially available peanut butter is at least 90 percent peanut. Oil makes up about 5 percent and salt and sugar make up the last 5 percent. In the United States, it’s required by law that products labeled “peanut butter” contains at least 90 percent peanuts. It’s recommended you have about two tablespoons of peanut butter a couple times a week.

Just to be on the safe side, read the nutritional label to ensure you don’t buy a brand that adds a bunch of ingredients your body doesn’t need. Natural or close to natural peanut butter will highlight this fact on the packaging, so keep an eye out for those.

If eating peanut butter isn’t your thing, unsalted peanuts have the same health benefits and you should try and mix up your nut intake. Walnuts are very healthy and so are almonds.

A Source of Healthy Fats

Peanut butter is filled with fats, mostly the healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The body cannot produce these essential fats, which is why it’s important to include them in your diet. Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats both improve cholesterol and cut the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Eating 2 tablespoons of peanut butter provides you with 16 grams of total fat, which includes 7.4 grams of monounsaturated fat and 4.5 grams of polyunsaturated fat.

Peanut butter also has its fair share of saturated fats, so if you’re thinking about eating a whole jar with a spoon, think again. You want to get your healthy fats from multiple sources, such as olive oil, fish and peanut butter.

Rich in Protein and Contains Several Nutrients

teaspoon of peanut butter

Peanut butter is a rich source of protein. A 1-ounce serving of meat is equivalent to a 2-tablespoon of peanut butter, which is about 8 grams of protein. Protein is vital for repairing your body’s cells and growing new ones. Eating peanut butter could benefit athletes and bodybuilders in muscle repair and growth.

When you exercise, you lose a plethora of minerals and vitamins in your sweat. Peanut butter could help replenish several of these essential nutrients and could make a good post-workout meal. A 2-tablespoon serving also contains about 238 milligrams of potassium, a little over half a gram of iron and zinc, 29 micrograms of folate, 188 calories and 2.5 grams of sugars. After weightlifting or cardio, try having a banana with peanut butter immediately after your workout.

A Source of Dietary Fiber

The average person needs about 20 to 30 grams of fiber daily. A 2-tablespoon serving can provide over 2.5 grams of fiber. While it’s not a rich source of fiber, it can help you reach your recommended daily intake when included in a well-balanced diet, rich in green vegetables, whole grains and fruit. Eating peanut butter can benefit your bowels movements, help you maintain your weight and lower the risk of heart disease.

A healthy fibrous meal can consist of peanut butter on a banana and a bowl of oats. You could also throw these ingredient in a smoothie with a handful of kale.

A Good Source of Vitamin E

100 grams of peanut butter provides almost half of your recommended daily intake of vitamin E. Vitamin E in peanut butter acts as an antioxidant that boost your immune function and protects your cells from free radicals.

Free radicals can contribute to heart disease and certain forms of cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health. The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin E is 15 milligrams for women and men, or anyone over the age of 14. A 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter will provide you with 2 milligrams of vitamin E. You could also swap peanut butter with almond butter, which has significantly more vitamin E.

Peanuts Lower Risk of Diabetes

diabetes test

A study published in “JAMA” in 2002 looked at the effects of peanut butter’s healthy fats on type 2 diabetes in women. The study looked at over 80,000 women with no history of diabetes, cancer or heart disease.

The researchers found over 3,000 cases of diabetes in the 16-year follow up. People who ate peanuts or other nuts frequently cut the risk of diabetes. Eating peanuts five or more times per week was associated with a reduction of type 2 diabetes.

The researchers suggest you replace red meat, processed foods and refined grains with peanuts to reduce the risk of increasing your calorie intake. For example, you can replace a beef burger with a meal consisting of whole grains and peanut butter. You could try a whole grain bagel with peanut butter, banana and chia seeds.

Part of a Diet that Lowers Blood Pressure

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends peanut butter as part of a heart-healthy diet known as the DASH eating plan. You can two tablespoons of peanut butter four to five times a week.

Peanut butter is a low GI food. The glycemic index is used to measure how foods affect your blood and insulin levels. The higher the GI, the higher your blood and insulin levels spike. Peanut butter contains fiber, magnesium and healthy fats that allow you to control your blood sugar levels. This is important for diabetics and non diabetics who could be at risk of high blood pressure.

Spreading peanut butter on high GI foods, such as rice cakes can help slow down the release in your blood. This also helps avoid a sugar crash that could leave you feeling tired, hungry and craving more snacks. This potentially makes peanut butter an effective weight management food.

Study Says Peanut Butter Reduces Breast Cancer Risk

breast cancer awareness

Girls who consume peanut butter regularly could reduce the chances of developing breast cancer later in life, a study found. The study published in Washington University School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School, found that girls or teenagers between the ages 9 and 15 where 39 percent less likely to develop benign breast cancer by 30 years of age, if they consumed peanut butter regularly.

Benign means non-cancerous but cutting the risk of non-cancerous breast cancer consequently helps cut the risk of the cancerous form. These benefits are likely due to the healthy fats in peanut butter, as well as its nutritional profile.

Sliced apples with peanut butter in the lunch box twice a week is a healthy and delicious way to make sure your daughter gets those essential fatty acids.

Its Rich in Important Magnesium

Magnesium is vital for nerve function and keeping your heart rates normal. If you don’t eat a lot of vegetables it’s very possible that you are low in magnesium. Two tablespoons of peanut butter provides about 50 milligrams of magnesium, which is 12 percent of your recommended daily intake. Adults need about 400 milligrams of magnesium daily.

Peanut butter is a valuable source in a magnesium-rich diet that should include foods such as bananas, dried apricots, and avocados.