Is Peanut Butter Good for You?

Your peanut butter should really only include two ingredients.

We all know and love it. The gooey, creamy, sometimes crunchy, nutty spread can amplify almost any sandwich or cracker. 

Peanut butter—the perfect companion to chocolate, jelly, bananas, apples, or even just a spoon—is a staple in many meals, snacks, and desserts.

Additionally, peanut butter can be quite healthy. It has many vitamins and minerals—including vitamins E and B6, magnesium, iron, and selenium—that can prevent heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Here's what you need to know about the vitamins and minerals in peanut butter and how incorporating the tasty treat into your meals and snacks can help improve your overall health.

Peanut Butter Nutrition

Incorporating more peanut butter into your diet has health benefits and drawbacks. The safest bet is to eat the tasty treat in moderation.

"All you need to make peanut butter are peanuts," Keri Gans, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in New York, told Health. That's because peanut butter comes from ground peanuts in its most basic form.

Past that, "salt is optional," explained Gans. "Some brands add sugar, molasses, vegetable oils and even corn syrup, [which] basically minimize the health value." However, stick to the basics. You can get all the peanut's nutrition without the unnecessary additives. 

According to the Department of Agriculture, one ounce of peanuts contain the following:

  • Calories: 161 calories
  • Protein: 7.31 grams
  • Fiber: 2.41 grams
  • Sugars: 1.34 gram
  • Fat: 13.9 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 4.56 grams

Peanut butter is a great source of plant-based protein, which is important for people who stick to a vegetarian or vegan diet.

What's more, peanut butter packs antioxidants that help decrease your risk of several chronic diseases, like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and support a healthy immune system. Peanut butter is a good source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which support a healthy heart. And peanuts don't have many carbohydrates, so the spread is perfect for people with prediabetes.

However, on the flip side, peanut butter contains many calories. So, the spread may not be ideal if you are watching calories. 

Also, unprocessed peanut butter may contain aflatoxins, a harmful substance. Aflatoxins come from mold that potentially reaches peanuts when they grow underground.

Still, that does not mean you must avoid peanut butter at all costs. But remember to be mindful when purchasing and consuming the delicious treat.

Health Benefits of Peanut Butter

"Peanuts are a great source of protein, fat, niacin, magnesium, vitamin E, biotin, and copper," Laura Iu, RD, a registered dietitian nutritionist in New York, told Health

As a rich source of vitamins and nutrients, peanut butter can help prevent heart disease and type 2 diabetes, among several other health benefits.

Here are a few ways that eating peanut butter can positively affect your overall health.

Satiates Hunger

Peanut butter is a great source of fiber and protein, both of which help satiate your hunger pangs.

"Sometimes peanut butter gets a bad [reputation] because of its fat content, but fat is an essential component to feeling satisfaction," explained Iu. "This means that having pretzels or fruit with peanut butter can help you feel fuller longer than if you were to just eat the pretzels or fruit by itself."

Helps Build and Repair Muscles

Peanut butter packs a lot in to help build and repair muscles. Peanuts contain all 20 amino acids. The legumes are nutritionally equivalent to meat and eggs for human growth and health.

Some of the nutrients found in peanut butter that help build and repair muscles include:

  • Source of protein: Some evidence suggests that protein intake contributes to muscle strength and preserves muscle mass throughout a lifetime. "The protein [found] in peanuts, around eight grams per serving, may help build and repair muscle," explained Gans.
  • High in calories and unsaturated fat: Peanut butter may be an ideal snack for people who want to gain weight.
  • High in magnesium and potassium: These are essential minerals for muscle function and development. Particularly, magnesium and potassium help prevent muscle cramps and fatigue. Additionally, potassium plays a key role in muscle recovery.
  • Great source of phosphorus: Two tablespoons of peanut butter contains 107 milligrams of phosphorus, which is about 15% of your daily needs for phosphorus. Adults need about 700 milligrams of phosphorus daily. Phosphorus helps synthesize protein to grow, maintain, and repair cells and tissues.

Reduces Your Risk of Chronic Diseases

Peanut butter is a source of healthy fats. And eating healthy fats, like the ones found in peanut butter, can help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

"Peanuts are packed with monounsaturated fats, which are [often] associated with a decrease in cholesterol and heart disease," explained Gans. 

When those healthy fats replace saturated fats in your diet, they can help lower your LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels. One example of those fatty acids found in peanut butter is omega-6.

For example, oleic acid is a type of fat found in peanut butter that also has positive effects on the following risk factors for type 2 diabetes:

  • Cholesterol
  • Blood pressure
  • Blood sugar

For example, oleic acid helps decrease insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar.

Additionally, research has found that peanuts are an excellent source of compounds called phytosterols that block cholesterol absorption from the diet.

Improves Gut Health

"[Peanuts] contain around two grams of fiber per serving, which has been shown to be beneficial for gut health," explained Gans.

That's because dietary fiber boosts your gut microbiome, the balance of healthy and harmful bacteria in your digestive tract. Your gut microbiome regulates digestive health, helps support a strong and healthy immune system, and lessens inflammation, per one study published in 2022 in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Further, a healthy gut microbiome protects against harmful pathogens that you might consume through contaminated water or food, making you sick.

Helps Reduce Your Risk of Cancer

Peanuts pack a lot of antioxidants—including manganese and vitamins E and B. Antioxidants protect cells from free radical damage. Free radicals contribute to chronic diseases and are often a precursor to cancer development.

"[Peanut butter] contains bioactive compounds like resveratrol, phytosterols, and p-coumaric acid, which can help fight cancer," said Iu.

For example, in one study published in 2014 in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, researchers reported that resveratrol fights off cancer cells by limiting their growth.

Promotes Skin and Hair Health

The following nutrients found in peanut butter may have some positive effects on your skin and hair:

  • Biotin: This B vitamin promotes healthy hair growth
  • Vitamin E: One ounce of peanuts provides about 15% of the daily recommended value of vitamin E, which helps protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) damage. UV exposure can decrease your skin's elasticity, leading to premature fine lines and wrinkles and increasing your risk of skin cancer.
  • Monounsaturated fats: Some evidence suggests that monounsaturated fats may also protect your skin against UV damage.
  • Lutein: This nutrient increases your skin's elasticity.

Supports Bone Health

Peanut butter also packs vitamin K and copper, which support bone health.

Vitamin K produces proteins that aid healthy bone development. And in one study published in 2022 in the journal Biological Trace Element Research, researchers found that increased copper intake increases bone mineral density. Also, the researchers found that copper decreases the risk of developing osteoporosis.

Soothes Symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome

Additionally, the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in peanut butter aid your body in absorbing vitamin E. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that might help ease premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms.

In one study published in 2016 in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, researchers reported that vitamin E might help reduce the physical symptoms of PMS. Often, those symptoms include abdominal cramps and tender breasts.

Helps You Sleep

Peanut butter contains tryptophan, an amino acid your body utilizes to make melatonin. Melatonin regulates your body's sleep/wake cycle. So, if you struggle to fall asleep at night, your body might not make enough melatonin.

The magnesium in peanut butter also has a calming effect on your body, which may help you fall asleep at night. One review published in 2022 in Biological Trace Element Research found an association between magnesium status and sleep quality.

Are There Any Risks Associated With Peanut Butter?

Although peanut butter has several health benefits, it also poses some risks. One of the most common and serious risks involves peanut allergies. If you have a peanut allergy, your immune system mistakes peanut proteins as harmful invaders. Your body releases chemicals into your bloodstream that cause symptoms to attack those invaders, such as:

  • Skin reactions (hives, redness, or swelling)
  • Itching
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Digestive problems (cramps, diarrhea, or vomiting) 
  • Anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction that requires an immediate epinephrine injection and will likely result in a trip to the emergency room

Allergies aside, less expensive brands that advertise as "no-stir" peanut butter often use palm oil to prevent the oils from separating. While palm oil will not hurt you, its production risks the environment, warned Iu.

"Ninety percent of the world's palm oil comes from burning rainforests, [displaces] indigenous peoples and endangered species, and contributes to greenhouse gases," explained Iu. 

So, if you don't mind stirring, choose a peanut butter that does not have palm oil, which is better for the environment.

If you have a peanut allergy or want to avoid the drawbacks of peanut butter, try some alternatives, like almond or walnut butter. Almond butter contains mostly monounsaturated fat, while walnut butter contains an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.

What Types of Peanut Butter Do Nutritionists Recommend?

The healthiest kinds of peanut butter will often advertise themselves as the "natural" kind—ones that contain peanuts, maybe salt, and nothing else.

"I suggest to my clients that they look for brands that have no more than peanuts and salt. Plain and simple," said Gans. Past that, though, your taste buds will likely be the deciding factor.

But if you're feeling daring and creative, making peanut butter is a cost-effective and healthy option, recommended Iu.

"All you need is a blender or food processor, peanuts, and a little salt," said Iu. Just be patient for all those ingredients to come together to make the familiar delicious treat (and try not to break your blender).

How To Eat More Peanut Butter

Remember to do so mindfully if you want to incorporate more peanut butter into your diet.

Spread a tablespoon of peanut butter onto a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. Or, add a tablespoon of the plant-based protein to a smoothie. You can also dip slices of apples or whole grain crackers into peanut butter as a snack.

A Quick Review

Peanut butter is one food that packs many good, health-promoting macronutrients that help keep heart disease and diabetes at bay. Plus, peanut butter can help keep skin and hair healthy, get a good night's rest, and help you feel full longer.

Load up on natural peanut butter to help protect the environment and maximize the health benefits.

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21 Sources uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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