Peanut Butter: Is It Good for You?

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on August 13, 2023
8 min read

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 in 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.

Who invented peanut butter?

Peanut butter has been around for a very long time. The Ancient Incas and Aztecs would grind roasted peanuts into paste. But peanut butter today is a bit different. Modern types require a different production process.

The tools used to make modern peanut butter are credited to three inventors. Marcellus Gilmore Edson patented peanut paste (that's made from milling roasted peanuts between two heated surfaces) in 1884. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who created Kellogg's cereal, patented the creation process of peanut butter made from raw peanuts in 1895. Then, Dr. Ambrose Straub patented a machine that made peanut butter in 1903.

Two tablespoons (32 grams) of natural peanut butter includes:

  • Calories: 190
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 16 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 7 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Sugar: 1 gram

Peanut butter is a good source of:

  • Vitamin E
  • Niacin (vitamin B3)
  • Manganese
  • Vitamin B6
  • Magnesium

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 of osteoporosis and heart disease.

Is peanut butter gluten-free?

Peanuts and peanut butter are both gluten-free in their natural forms. Most brands of peanut butter in grocery stores are also gluten-free. But there may be a few brands that add other ingredients that contain gluten. This is especially true in more processed peanut butter. While it's not common, it's still important to check the labels before you buy peanut butter. Make sure you see that the package says gluten-free. Some brands that make peanut butter could also produce other items that process wheat. There should be a label on the jar, if this is the case. Look out for these labels too, to be extra careful if you have celiac disease.

Is peanut butter vegan?

Yes, peanut butter is also vegan. But sometimes, some types will add honey, which makes it not vegan. But this is pretty rare.

Natural peanut butter

Natural peanut butters are made with one ingredient: peanuts. They usually have less saturated fat, no sodium, and less sugar.

Creamy peanut butter

This style of peanut butter is ground into a paste. It's smooth and best for spreads, smoothies, or dips.

Crunchy peanut butter

If you want more texture, crunchy peanut butter is for you. This style has bits of peanuts to add crunch.

To keep your peanut butter last long, make sure you store it in a cool and dry place. Don't keep it under a ton of light or around anything that creates heat.

The shelf life of peanut butter depends on its condition:

  • Peanut butter that's unopened can last 6-9 months
  • Peanut butter that's opened can last 2-3 months in the pantry (then 6-9 months after in the fridge)

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

Is peanut butter good for you?

In moderation, 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 helps maintain good cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. Managing these levels in your body can lower the risk of heart disease.

Peanut butter also contains omega-6 fatty acid. This fatty acid lowers bad (LDL) cholesterol and increases good (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 lowers 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 lower 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 has anticancer effects and may lower the risk of obesity, heart disease, and cognitive decline.

Peanut butter for weight loss

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 lower our risk of overeating.

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

Peanut butter is rich in a variety of nutrients. But 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.

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 has higher calories than some other things because it's a nutrient-dense food. 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.

To make peanut butter, manufacturers follow these steps:

  1. Shell peanuts and roast them.
  2. Let them cool and remove the skins in water.
  3. Split the kernels and take out the heart of the peanut (but this isn't always done).
  4. Ground the peanuts into a smooth and even texture.
  5. Heat this mixture while they're being ground to about 170 F.
  6. Mix in liquid and cool the mixture to 120 F or lower.
  7. If the batch is crunchy, they'll add peanut pieces into it.

To make peanut butter, all you need is an electric blender or food processor and these ingredients:

  • 1 cup roasted and shelled peanuts
  • 1½ teaspoons of peanut oil
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt

Blend this all until it becomes a paste. Add ¼ of chopped and roasted peanuts after blending for crunchy peanut butter.

Peanut butter ingredients

The FDA sets the rules on what can and can't be included in peanut butter. They allow for blanched (skin off) peanuts or unblanched (skin on) peanuts. But if they are unblanched, the label must say that clearly.

The FDA does not consider artificial flavorings, artificial sweeteners, chemical preservatives, or added colors to be proper ingredients in peanut butter. If the butter includes oil, it should be partially or regular hydrogenated vegetable oils.

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, though 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 showed 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.

Peanut butter and almond butter have similar thicknesses and textures but slightly different tastes. Try each with your favorite snacks to figure out which flavor pairs best with what!

Besides the taste, almond butter has a few other different features. This butter has around 3 grams more of monounsaturated fats per serving than peanut butter. This could be an added benefit for heart health. Almond butter also is usually lower in sugar and has a bit more calcium.

PB2 peanut butter, also known as powdered peanut butter, is a nutrient-dense peanut product. PB2 has a similar taste to traditional peanut butter but is made differently and has a slightly different nutritional profile.

PB2 health benefits

PB2 is often marketed as a healthy alternative to traditional peanut butter. Although research hasn't proved that PB2 is more or less healthy than traditional peanut butter, it does have a range of health benefits.‌

May help prevent peanut allergies. One benefit of PB2 is that feeding it to young children may help prevent peanut allergies later in life. Peanut allergies are a common cause of severe allergic reactions.‌

It used to be that parents were warned to keep their children away from foods that could cause allergic reactions. But newer research has found that introducing allergens at an early age can help keep children from developing allergic reactions.‌

A recent clinical trial showed that PB2 was better than other forms of peanut butter at preventing peanut allergies. More research is needed, but it may be one reason to choose PB2 as an early food for infants.

‌Potential heart benefits. Powdered peanut butter is made from peanuts that have been pressed, removing the oil. Nuts like peanuts have been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. At the same time, they make the insides of your arteries more healthy.‌

Lower calorie consumption. One of the biggest claims PB2 companies make is that it has fewer calories per serving than per serving of traditional peanut butter.‌

If you're trying to cut back on calories, replacing traditional peanut butter with powdered may help. But it's important to remember not to eat more servings of powdered peanut butter than of traditional peanut butter, as you can quickly undo your hard work.