There’s no denying it. Peanut butter is delicious. It has a perfect balance of creaminess, nuttiness, and saltiness, all in an inexpensive product. It’s no wonder that so many recipes rely on peanut butter, like keto peanut butter fat bombs, smoothies, and even peanut butter and bacon mug cake. Despite the amazing flavor, peanut butter isn’t normally seen as a healthy food. So, is peanut butter good for you or are you better off avoiding it?
The answer partly comes down to the type of peanut butter you choose. The healthiest versions are the ones that have few extra ingredients. Often you’re looking at peanuts, salt, and little else. Such products might cost more than the highly processed ones, but they’re well worth the extra price.
Of course, there’s more to it than just that. We also need to talk a little about what peanuts mean for your health, including whether they’re a good idea or not.
Is Peanut Butter Good For You?
- The Benefits Of Peanut Butter
- The Problems With Peanut Butter
- Is Peanut Butter Highly Processed?
- What Is Peanut Butter Spread?
- Is Almond Butter Healthier Than Peanut Butter?
- Does Peanut Butter Make You Gain Weight?
- Final Thoughts
The Benefits Of Peanut Butter
A Protein Rich Spread
Peanuts themselves are a decent source of protein, so it’s hardly surprising that peanut butter is as well. In fact, you get around 8 grams of protein from a 2 tablespoon serving of peanut butter. Pretty impressive, right?
Not surprisingly, protein is valuable. Our bodies need it to function and it performs more roles than we can count. Seriously. Protein isn’t to be underestimated. Getting enough protein also helps to keep us satisfied. This is why a high protein diet can help you to lose weight.
The protein content is even more relevant if you’re having peanut butter on toast for breakfast. Far too many of our breakfast foods are high in carbs and low in protein, a combination that spikes our blood sugar levels and leads to an energy crash not long afterward.
Choosing something with protein is a much more powerful idea and provides energy that will last longer and help you to get through the day.
Provides Some Nutrients Too
Peanut butter also provides an interesting range of nutrients, with manganese, various B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and zinc all being notable. These nutrients matter, as each plays a host of roles throughout your body, helping to support essential functions.
For example, B vitamins are critical for the function of your cells and are strongly involved in energy metabolism. Getting insufficient B vitamins could even lead to a decrease in energy.
We can’t forget about fiber either. Fiber is found in all plant-based foods and is an essential part of our digestive processes. That might sound strange, as most fiber isn’t digested. However, it’s this lack of digestion that makes fiber so powerful, as it helps to lower the impact of food on blood sugar, while also decreasing blood cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of constipation.
Peanut butter isn’t the best choice for fiber, that’s true. There are plenty of better options out there. Still, it is an easy way to add some extra fiber to your diet. Why not spread peanut butter on multigrain bread to boost your fiber content even further?
Fruit and vegetables are famous as sources of antioxidants, but you find antioxidants in other foods as well, including peanut butter. In fact, peanuts might be as good for antioxidants as strawberries are.
Interestingly, the antioxidant content doesn’t decrease when peanuts are roasted – it increases instead. This effect should make peanut butter a fantastic choice for antioxidants.
These antioxidants are a fantastic reason for eating more peanut butter. After all, these compounds can lower oxidative damage and reduce the risk of many health problems at the same time.
Relatively Low In Carbs
Carbs are the subject of almost endless debate. On one hand, carbs are a source of energy and diets rich in complex carbs often lead to good health. But, carbs also spike your blood sugar levels, can promote inflammation, and aren’t our only source of energy anyway.
Peanut butter is a fairly low source of carbs, to the point that you can easily include it on a keto diet – and many people do. The trick is to watch your serving size, as you get roughly 5 net grams of carbs in a 2 tablespoon serving.
That said, other types of nut butter are better for carbs. Macadamia nut butter actually contains just 2 net grams of carbs in the same serving size, while almond butter and hazelnut butter each contain 3 net grams of carbs.
Can Promote Heart Health
Despite being high in fat and calories, peanut butter has actually been linked to improved heart health. This effect is partly because nuts mostly contain healthy fats, including unsaturated fats and oleic acid. These types of fats may help improve your heart health and decrease your cholesterol levels.
Studies regularly show that diets rich in healthy fats tend to lower heart disease risk and promote overall health. Indeed, consuming peanuts regularly could decrease the risk of heart disease by around 38%.
Helps With Other Aspects Of Health
Heart health isn’t the only important area. Nuts have been associated with a whole host of other health benefits, including the potential to decrease diabetes risk, to fight cancer, and to lower inflammation.
You might imagine that these benefits don’t apply to peanuts, as they’re legumes rather than true tree nuts. However, research has consistently shown that peanuts offer many of the same health benefits. They may even be a better choice, as you save money when you choose peanuts over other types of nuts.
A Low FODMAP Food
Legumes are often high in fermentable FODMAP carbs, which can lead to uncomfortable side effects for anyone with irritable bowel syndrome or a similar condition. Peanuts are an exception to this rule, as they’re relatively low in FODMAPs.
Testing confirms that a serving of two tablespoons of peanut butter is low in FODMAPs making it a viable choice for anyone with digestive issues.
You will, however, need to experiment for yourself, as FODMAP content could vary from one product to the next.
Delicious, Inexpensive, And Versatile
The benefits we’ve talked about here aren’t unusual at all. For example, most other legumes are rich in protein, antioxidants, and nutrients as well. You’ll get plenty of nutrients from dark leafy greens and other vegetables too.
What makes peanut butter stand out is how practical it is. Unlike other legumes, peanuts can be eaten as they are. There’s no need to soak them and cook them first. Similarly, peanut butter can be eaten straight from the jar, if you’re so inclined. What could be simpler?
Combine this feature with the low price of peanut butter and its amazing flavor, and you can easily see why peanut butter is so incredibly popular.
The Problems With Peanut Butter
It’s Calorie Dense
Peanut butter is packed with calories. Seriously, a 3.5 ounce serving contains close to 600 calories. This is an incredibly high amount, especially as most of us don’t eat peanut butter on its own. Anything we have with it provides even more calories.
You are getting plenty of nutrients and antioxidants for those calories, but even so, many of us need to be consuming fewer calories, rather than more of them.
Can Contain Unwanted Additives
At its simplest, peanut butter is made using ground dry-roasted peanuts and perhaps some salt. This often isn’t the case though. Instead, companies often include extra ingredients to change the flavor and texture of the product.
Potential ingredients include sugar or molasses for sweetener and vegetable oil to create a consistent texture.
May Contain Antinutrients
Peanuts fall into the legume family, which automatically makes them controversial. Part of the problem is that legumes contain a decent amount of so-called antinutrients. These antinutrients are compounds that plants use to protect themselves.
They’re concerning, as they can decrease the absorption of some nutrients. If your nutrient intake is borderline anyway, consuming many antinutrient-rich foods could potentially lead to nutrient deficiencies.
Concern about antinutrients is why some people avoid legumes entirely. Many of these antinutrients survive high heat processing, so you’ll find them in peanut butter as well as in fresh peanuts.
Even so, this isn’t a reason to switch to almond butter instead. For one thing, all nuts contain some antinutrients, so you’ll be getting antinutrients with almonds butter, peanut butter, and any other type of nut butter you can find.
Besides, like most compounds, antinutrients aren’t entirely bad. They can promote health in some ways too, like by acting as antioxidants. If you’re consuming plenty of vitamins and minerals, their ability to slightly decrease nutrient absorption isn’t that big of a deal either.
Is Often High In Sodium
Peanut butter often includes salt as an ingredient. The saltiness contrasts excellently with the creaminess of the peanuts and is one reason that peanut butter is so popular.
Of course, excess sodium isn’t a good thing at all. It can increase your blood pressure, which then raises your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Sodium is an important electrolyte, so we do need some of it to function well. Still, most of us need to decrease our sodium intake, rather than add to it. If this is the case for you, you might need to stick to low salt or even salt free peanut butter. Such products mightn’t taste as good, but they’re much better for your heart.
Peanut Allergies Are Common
Peanut allergies make peanuts a dangerous choice for many people. For some, the symptoms are mild, like a stomachache or itchy skin.
Others, however, have more serious reactions, including anaphylaxis. If you’re in this camp, you’ll need to avoid peanuts entirely, as even very small amounts of the legume can be dangerous.
Many people have serious peanut allergies, to the extent that you might not want to use peanuts or peanut butter in any recipes that are going to be shared with others.
May Contain Aflatoxins
Aflatoxins are one reason to be cautious with peanuts. These toxins are produced by Aspergillus mold, which peanuts are particularly susceptible to, given that they grow underground.
Aflatoxins are concerning, as they could lead to increased cancer risk and developmental problems for children. Thankfully though, aflatoxin levels are closely monitored, so the risk is low. Plus, the processing steps used to create peanut butter decrease aflatoxin content.
If you’re worried about aflatoxins, stick to commercial peanut butter, rather than products from local vendors. Large companies should have more quality control measures in place to protect their customers.
We Consume Too Much Of It
We’ve highlighted plenty of ways that peanut butter can help you. However, most of the benefits are based on relatively small serving sizes, often around 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.
Larger servings of peanut butter could easily be harmful, as you’re suddenly eating a considerable amount of calories, fat, and sodium. Doing so regularly could even increase your risk of obesity and cause more harm than good.
And, let’s be honest, few of us measure out our servings of peanut butter. We tend to simply spread it on bread or apples, or perhaps eat it by the spoonful. Such practices make it easy to go overboard, especially as it’s hard to accurately judge portion size by eye.
Is Peanut Butter Highly Processed?
Peanut butter can be highly processed and will often contain a variety of additives and concerning ingredients, including trans fats, sugar, and stabilizers. Thankfully, this isn’t always the case.
Some brands focus on providing a natural product instead, where the main ingredient is just peanuts that have been roasted and then ground. Perhaps there’s some salt added too, but that’s it.
There’s a tradeoff though. While natural peanut butter is delicious and doesn’t rely on additives, it can also be chunky and the oil separates over time. These features can make the peanut butter less enjoyable. Plus, texture variations make this type of peanut butter frustrating when used in recipes.
What Is Peanut Butter Spread?
You may even see peanut butter spread from time to time. This term is used because peanut butter must contain at least 90% peanuts and must adhere to a set ingredients list – and peanut butter spread doesn’t quite meet those standards.
In particular, peanut butter spread often relies on hydrogenated vegetable oils. These oils help to create a smooth product that’s more consistent and easier to spread than natural peanut butter.
If you choose a good brand, then peanut butter spread isn’t that different than regular peanut butter. You might even prefer it if you want something smooth for eating and using in recipes.
Still, be sure to check the ingredients label to make sure you’re comfortable with the additives used. Keep an eye out for added sugar too as, honestly, peanut butter really doesn’t need sugar.
Is Almond Butter Healthier Than Peanut Butter?
Almond butter does seem like it should be better than peanut butter. After all, almonds are renowned for their health benefits, as they are packed with protein and nutrients.
The catch, however, is the price. Almond butter is much more expensive than peanut butter, which could make it harder to buy regularly.
Nutritionally, the two types of butter are pretty similar. They both contain many nutrients and a similar amount of fat. Almond butter does, however, have a better fat profile, containing less saturated fat per serving. It also does slightly better for vitamins and minerals.
Plus, almond butter avoids the controversies surrounding legumes and is less likely to be contaminated with aflatoxin.
Aside from price, the only area peanut butter wins in is protein, as it contains a little more protein per serving than almond butter.
These differences confirm that almond butter really is better. But, there’s a critical point to be made – the differences are small. Almond butter is slightly healthier than peanut butter and can be much more expensive. If your budget is tight, you’d see more benefits by sticking to peanut butter and using the extra cash for some nutrient-dense vegetables instead.
If your budget isn’t tight, then you could simply choose whichever type of nut butter you prefer, whether it’s peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, or something else. Most of the benefits will be similar regardless of the type you choose, so why not focus on one that you enjoy?
Does Peanut Butter Make You Gain Weight?
Peanut butter is relatively high in calories and it’s easy to overdo it. You might assume, then, that it promotes weight gain. This isn’t necessarily the case. Instead, as is the case with nuts, peanut butter could even lead to weight loss.
For one thing, peanut butter is filling, keeping you satisfied much longer than a sugary spread will. This effect can decrease your hunger and craving for sweets, meaning that you actually consume fewer calories over time, rather than more.
Of course, portion size is everything here.
If you eat large amounts of peanut butter, then you’ll gain weight. There’s little doubt about that. The easiest way around this problem is to measure out your peanut butter before you use it. Doing so guarantees that you won’t overdo it.
At first glance, peanut butter might seem bad for you. It’s high in fat and calories, after all, and is often heavily processed as well. Yet, if you stick to the natural products, the ones that rely just on peanuts and perhaps some salt, then peanut butter can be a healthy choice.
Honestly, the most powerful feature is the price. Peanuts are less expensive than other nuts and provide many of the same health benefits. This effect makes peanut butter powerful.
Just keep an eye on your serving size. Peanut butter is calorie dense and tastes amazing, so it’s far too easy to overdo it.