Peanut Butter: Is It Good for You?

Peanut butter is a protein-packed spread popular around the world. It’s made of ground peanuts — often roasted first — blended into a thick paste. 

The final product contains a range of nutrients that may offer health-boosting benefits. However, it’s important to check the label when buying peanut butter. Many brands today add ingredients like sugar, vegetable oil, and trans fats that can reduce its nutritional value. 

Natural peanut butter is available at health food stores and specialty grocers, and can be easily found online. Look for a product that contains no additives other than a little salt. 

You can also make peanut butter at home by blending peanuts in a food processor until you reach your desired texture.

Nutrition Information

A quarter-cup of peanuts (the approximate amount in a 2 tablespoon serving of peanut butter) contains: 

  • Calories: 207
  • Protein: 9 grams
  • Fat: 18 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 6 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sugar: 1 gram

Peanut butter is a good source of: 

Peanut butter is also a good source of copper, a mineral that helps maintain our bone health, immune function, and blood vessels. Some research suggests that getting enough copper in your diet may reduce your risk for osteoporosis and heart disease

Potential Health Benefits of Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is a concentrated source of nutrition that may offer potential health benefits. One study showed that eating peanuts every day can decrease the overall risk of death by up to 21% – and reduces the occurrence of heart disease by 38%. 

However, peanuts are high in calories and, while they contain “good fats,” too much can be a bad thing. Moderate your intake to avoid unwanted weight gain or health problems caused by excessive fat intake

As long as you exercise portion control, research suggests peanut butter offers the following health benefits: 

Improved Heart Health

One of the main fats in peanut butter is oleic acid. When substituted for other fats in your diet, oleic acid is shown to help maintain good cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. Managing these levels in your body can lower the risk of heart disease

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Peanut butter also contains omega-6. This fatty acid lowers bad (LDL) cholesterol and increases protective (HDL) cholesterol. In addition, peanuts are a natural source of arginine, an amino acid that may prevent heart and vascular disease by promoting good blood vessel function. 

Reduced Risk of Diabetes

Oleic acid also been shown to reduce the body’s insulin resistance, a condition that raises your blood sugar and leads to diabetes. Research shows that peanut butter’s omega-6 content may have this same effect as well. 

Anticancer Properties

Peanuts are a great source of antioxidants like manganese, vitamin E, and B vitamins. These compounds act to prevent and repair cell damage in your body, and this effect can reduce your risk of chronic diseases like cancer.

One of peanut butter’s most powerful antioxidants is coumaric acid — and research found that its activity is boosted by 22% if you roast peanuts before whipping them into a butter. 

It also contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that’s been shown to have anti-cancer effects and may lower the risk of obesity, heart disease, and cognitive decline

Aid in Weight Management

The healthy fats in peanut butter are called monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. These fats are associated with a lower risk of weight gain and obesity when consumed as part of a healthy diet. 

Foods high in healthy fats, proteins, and fiber — like peanut butter — also take longer for our bodies to digest, which can keep us feel fuller for longer and reduce the risk of overeating. 

While weight loss and management depend on a healthy diet and lifestyle, the research suggests that peanuts can assist with these goals.  

Potential Risks of Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is rich in a variety of nutrients — but it’s also rich in calories and fat. While the healthy fats in peanut butter are nutritious, you should consume them in moderation to avoid unwanted weight gain or potential health problems.

Commercial peanut butter brands often have added sugars, oils, and fats. For the best health benefits from peanut butter, look for all-natural products without these added ingredients.

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Peanut butter can be a great addition to your diet if you limit your portions to the recommended amount. Some possible health risks of peanut butter include: 

Peanut Allergy

Some people have peanut allergies, which can be fatal in some cases. Avoid all peanut products if you have a peanut allergy. 

High in Calories

Peanut butter contains a high amount of calories per serving. Make sure to moderate your portions to avoid unwanted weight gain. 

High in Fat

While most of the fat in peanut butter is relatively healthy, peanuts also contain some saturated fat, which can lead to heart problems when consumed in excess over time. 

Mineral Deficiencies

Peanuts are high in phosphorus, which can limit your body’s absorption of other minerals like zinc and iron. If you are deficient in these minerals, a diet high in phosphorus can worsen this condition. 

Healthier Alternatives

Many nuts have a similar nutrient profile to peanuts, but some offer a better source of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. These alternatives may also be suitable for people with peanut allergies, although you should talk to your doctor to make sure a nut butter is safe for you. 

Nut butters that may be healthier alternatives to peanut butter include:

Almond Butter 

Almonds have the highest concentration of nutrients per ounce. They also contain omega-3s, which peanuts lack. 

Macadamia Nut Butter 

While they contain more calories than peanuts, macadamias have the highest amount of healthy fats of any nut. One study found that its nutrients may help prevent coronary artery disease. 

Walnut Butter 

Walnuts are a great source of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and contain less fat and calories than peanuts.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 29, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

American Heart Association: “Saturated Fat.”

Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “A review of the evidence: nuts and body weight.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Peanuts.”

Harvard Medical School: “No need to avoid healthy omega-6 fats.”

Harvard University: “A healthy approach to dietary fats: understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusion.”

Lipids: “Macadamia nut consumption modulates favourably risk factors for coronary artery disease in hypercholesterolemic subjects.”}. 

Mayo Clinic: “L-arginine.”

Medicina: “Multiplicity of effects and health benefits of resveratrol.”

Molecular Nutrition & Food Research: “Phytate in foods and significance for humans: food sources, intake, processing, bioavailability, protective role and analysis.”

Nutrients: “Nuts and Human Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review.”

Oleic acid: Production, uses and potential health effects: “Oleic acid and its potential health effects.”

Oregon State University: “Copper.”

QJM: An International Journal of Medicine: “Diabetes and the Mediterranean diet: a beneficial effect of oleic acid on insulin sensitivity, adipocyte glucose transport and endothelium‐dependent vasoreactivity.”

University of Florida: “Peanuts Rival Fruit As Source Of Health-Promoting Antioxidants, UF Researchers Say.”

Vanderbilt University Medical Center: “Peanut consumption associated with decreased total mortality and mortality from cardiovascular diseases.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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