If you’re like most Americans you grew up eating PB&J. It is estimated that children consume about 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by the time they graduate high school. But the love of peanut butter knows no age limit as 89 percent of households in this country consume it regularly.
Despite it’s popularity, there seems to be some debate about whether it’s really good for you. Some call peanut butter a superfood, while others believe it’s too high in fat and calories to be healthy. We’ll give you the facts and let you decide.
What is Peanut Butter?
By law, any product labeled "peanut butter" in the United States must be comprised of at least 90 percent peanuts. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a physician wanting to help patients eat more plant-based protein, patented his procedure for making peanut butter in 1895.
Benefits of Peanut Butter:
- Peanut butter is a good source of vitamin E, vitamin B6, folate, niacin, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, copper, and manganese – which are vitamins and minerals essential for our body’s strength and health.
- Peanut butter is chock-full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. A recent study found that insulin-resistant adults who ate a diet high in monounsaturated fat had less belly fat than people who ate more carbohydrates or saturated fat.
- Peanut butter is naturally cholesterol-free and trans-fat free.
- Peanut butter has been found to contain phytochemicals (or plant chemicals), which are thought to be beneficial to health. In fact, resveratrol, a phytochemical that is also found in grapes and red wine, is present in peanuts and peanut butter.
- Peanut butter is an excellent source of protein, which your body needs to keep your muscles, skin, bones and other tissues healthy.
- Peanut butter can help you lose weight. It has the enviable combination of fiber (2 g per serving) and protein (8 g per serving) that fills you up and keeps you feeling full longer, so you eat less overall.
- Research shows that eating peanuts can decrease your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions.
- Once study found that consuming 1 ounce of nuts or peanut butter (about 2 tablespoons) at least 5 days a week can lower the risk of developing diabetes by almost 30%.
How to Buy the Best
Most brands have about the same amount of fat and calories, but there are some other factors such as sodium, sugar and fat-substitutes that make some a better pick.
- Look for brands that contain about 40-60 mg of sodium per 2-tablespoon serving. Too much sodium can mask the peanut flavor.
- Natural brands usually have 1-2 grams of sugar per serving—that’s about half as much as commercial brands. If you are using peanut butter for making savory sauces like satay or combining with a sweet ingredient like jelly, you can save a few calories by choosing an unsweetened brand.
- Choose natural or organic brands for the best peanut flavor.
A Little Goes a Long Way
At about 190 calories for 2 tablespoons, the only potential downside to peanut butter is its calorie count. So, watch your portion sizes and savor every gooey bite.
For more information about the health benefits of nuts, read our Healthy Tips article about the top five healthiest nuts
National Peanut Board