At first glance, peanut butter’s place in the pantheon of healthy foods seems somewhat questionable, since it’s high in both fat and calories. However, take a step back and the wider picture reveals peanut butter’s merits, especially for anyone with an active lifestyle (and isn’t allergic to peanuts, obviously).
For the final word on whether peanut butter is good for you, we spoke to dietitian Alana MacDonald of the British Dietetic Association.
What are the health benefits of peanut butter?
Let’s start with the good news. There’s lots to like about peanut butter.
“Peanut butter is high in energy and protein,” says MacDonald.
“It also contains healthy fats, fat-soluble vitamins and fibre, and may help to satisfy your appetite and support your energy levels longer than a high-sugar or more refined spread.”
Are there any unhealthy ingredients or types of peanut butter to look out for?
Even healthy foods can contain hidden nasties if you don’t check the label.
“It is best to go for peanut butter that is as natural as possible, avoiding added sugar and added salt in particular,” says MacDonald.
Is peanut butter good for your heart?
“Peanut butter is a source of fibre and has monounsaturated fats which help control cholesterol levels, making them healthy for your heart,” says MacDonald.
“In addition, peanut butter provides fat-soluble vitamins and folate, both of which are important for health.”
Peanut butter gets the thumbs up for heart health then, but again be wary of added ingredients.
“Be careful that the peanut butter does not contain any added salt because this can be detrimental to heart health,” says MacDonald.
Is peanut butter good for your cholesterol?
Once again it’s good news for the nutty spread. “Monounsaturated fats can help to reduce cholesterol levels, as can the soluble fibre found in peanut butter,” says MacDonald.
Is it a good snack to eat if you’re aiming to lose weight?
Peanut butter is often said to be a better snack choice than chocolate biscuits or crisps for dieters. And despite being high in calories, it is indeed a worthy mid-afternoon treat.
“There is some evidence that indicates that small volumes of foods which are higher in monounsaturated fats can support weight loss by helping us stay fuller for longer,” says MacDonald.
“Choosing a no-added-sugar peanut butter will reduce the risks of blood sugars crashing, which can support weight loss.
“Two tablespoons of peanut butter does provide roughly 200 calories though, so it should be eaten in moderation and considered part of a healthy and balanced diet.”
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Is it good to eat if you’re aiming to put on muscle?
Nut butters have long been beloved of gym regulars aiming to build muscle, and for good reason.
“Peanut butter will enhance and maintain energy levels due to its nutritional balance – low in sugar, high in fat, slow-release energy,” says MacDonald.
“It will provide moderate amounts of protein, and certainly provides more protein than other spreads. However, it will not provide as much protein as drinking a glass of milk or eating fish, meat or a meat replacement such as Quorn or tofu.”
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5 Benefits Of Peanut Butter
1. Healthy fats
Peanut butter is fatty, but the ratio between saturated and unsaturated fat leans heavily towards the latter, which can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and lower your risk of heart disease. Because peanut butter provides so much monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat it can also reduce the appetite, and the healthy fats assist in the production of the muscle-building hormone testosterone.
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2. Packed with protein
There’s a reason peanut butter is a snacking staple for gym regulars: a couple of tablespoons of the stuff will bring in around 8g of protein, which will help your muscles recover from any exercise.
3. Full of fibre
Every two tablespoons of peanut butter contains 2g of fibre, a useful boost towards the RDA of 30g (most in the UK fall short of this target). Fibre is linked with a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and bowel cancer.
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4. Endless energy
Peanut butter is indeed high in calories, but that’s just a glass-half-empty way of saying it’s full of energy. Also, the magnesium in peanut butter provides slow-release energy to keep you fuelled for longer. If you’re looking to support an active lifestyle, peanut butter will provide the fuel.
5. Always adaptable
You can enjoy peanut butter’s brilliance in an unending variety of ways. Spread it on sandwiches, dip celery or something better than celery in it for a snack, mix it into curries, blend it into smoothies… or just spoon it in directly.
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