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by Truth Fry December 30, 2022 8 min read

When it was first introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, no one could have guessed just how far peanut butter would go.

Today, peanut butter is one of the most popular and versatile flavors in the US. It’s also my favorite flavor in almost every situation imaginable.

Think about how versatile it is. You’ll find it in such a variety of foods like:

  • Ice cream
  • Smoothies
  • Sandwiches
  • Specialty salads
  • Noodle dishes
  • Cookies

That’s just scratching the surface. Peanut butter has become an integral part of the modern American pallet.

That, of course, includes scooping and eating it straight out of the jar!

But for fitness buffs and health conscious people, flavor and versatility aren’t the only thing they’re worried about.

For them, there’s just one question that really matters: Is peanut butter good for you?

Many people wonder this, hoping that the peanut buttery goodness doesn’t just taste good, but is also not bad for you. The truth is, it has its benefits and drawbacks just like anything else. So, we can’t just put it into one category or another.

Let’s take a look at the facts.

Peanut Butter Ingredients

In this age of hidden ingredients and synthetic foods, it’s refreshing to see just how simple the ingredient list is for peanut butter.

It's usually roasted peanuts that have been ground down into a paste.

That’s it. That’s all you need to make peanut butter.

If you have the peanuts on hand, you could make it right now in your food processor ... just blend until you get the desired consistency.

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Of course, not every jar of peanut butter you see on the store shelf is so uncomplicated. The only ones that are have the “natural” designation on it, and the ingredients list is very short.

For example, most commonly bought jars of peanut butter at the grocery store might also contain plenty of other ingredients. Common additives are sugar and molasses, hydrogenated vegetable oils, emulsifiers to keep it from separating ... and of course salt.

But in spite of commercial variations, basic peanut butter really isn’t much different than eating a handful of peanuts. The biggest difference is that peanuts don’t spread as well.

In fact, there are many noteworthy health benefits to peanut butter and other nut butters. Although, there are also a couple of downsides you should be aware of too.

Here, we’re going to take a closer look at both the benefits and downsides of peanut butter. This way you’ll be better able to discern how much peanut butter you want in your diet.

1. Peanut Butter is a Good Source of Fiber

Dietary fiber is very important for us to get in our diets everyday, and for good reason. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that resists digestion and absorption, but still offers many benefits [2] like:

  • Helping to normalize bowel movements
  • Helping to maintain colon health
  • Helping to lower cholesterol levels
  • Helping with controlling blood sugar levels
  • Helping to lower the risk of coronary heart disease and different types of cancer

Those are just some of the benefits fiber can provide. It is recommended that women get 21-25 grams of fiber per day, and men get 30-38 grams per day [1].

So if you want these benefits I would look into getting some high fiber foods in your diet.

Peanut butter is a decent source of dietary fiber, but not great, coming in at 3 grams per serving. That’s roughly 10% of what we need to get in everyday, so it is helping you get the fiber you need.

With that being said though, I wouldn’t make peanut butter your main source of fiber. You do have to take in 16 grams of fat and 190 calories just to get those 3 grams.

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Those calories can stack up pretty quick too.

So I would also recommend looking into other high fiber foods. These are foods like chia seeds, split peas, or black beans for example to help you meet your fiber needs.

A good benefit of the fiber content, and having low sugar too, is that it makes peanut butter very low glycemic. Peanut butter is at a 14 on the glycemic index, which is a measurement of how foods affect your blood sugar levels.

White bread for reference, which spikes blood sugar levels much higher, is at a 100 on the glycemic index. Peanut butter, being low glycemic, is a good thing. That's because if you spike your blood sugar levels too often ... it certainly isn't good for you.

More fiber also means that peanut butter takes longer to digest. This helps dieters feel fuller longer, while also reducing their urge to snack. So overall, the fiber content in peanut butter is definitely a plus.

2. Peanut Butter Is a Good Source of Plant-Based Protein

Protein is one of the most important nutrients in your diet. We all need it, and if you exercise like you should be doing then it’s even more important.

Unfortunately, many of us don’t get the protein we need to maintain our health and support our fitness gains. We need increased levels of protein to maintain and build muscle, but also to support everyday needs like:

  • Fighting infections
  • Digestion
  • Blood clotting
  • Hormone production
  • Maintaining cell structure

...and much more.

Many peoples’ diets in the US are lower in protein and tend to lean heavier on carbs and fats. Now I’m not saying carbs and fats are bad for you, because they aren’t.

What I am saying is there is not enough emphasis on protein. Really I’m not just talking about protein intake though, but complete protein intake.

Complete proteins contain all 9 of the essential amino acids our body needs to repair damage and function at an optimal level. Most complete proteins come from animal sources like meat, fish, and eggs.

Peanut butter can contribute to you getting more protein in, which is good. But every serving of peanut butter only contains 7 grams of protein. On top of that, the main drawback is that peanuts are not a complete source of protein.

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So you’d have to get another protein source with it to ensure you get enough of the right amino acids you need.

While peanut butter is a decent source of protein, it’s not necessarily something I would make my go-to protein source. That, and it’s mostly a fat source because almost 76% of the calories come from fat.

With that being said though, peanuts are a good plant-based protein source. Vegans and plant-based dieters often eat peanut butter to avoid having to turn to meat or dairy.

It may not have every amino acid you need, but that doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial.

3. Peanut Butter Is Rich in Healthy Fats

There’s a lot of fat in peanut butter.

That can be a good thing… But it can also be a bad thing.

Gone is the black-and-white view of fat that led to the low-fat craze of the 1990s. Many people used to think fat was just outright bad for you. Obviously, this is not the case. In fact, we cannot survive without fat in our diet.

Different types of fats do have their benefits, some more than others, but even too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

The 2 most prominent fat types you’ll find in peanut butter are oleic acid (omega 9) and linoleic acid (omega 6). Oleic acid and linoleic acid are good fats to have in your diet in moderation ... but if you have too much it can cause issues.

For instance, linoleic acid can help with reducing cholesterol, blood pressure, and reduce the risk for coronary heart disease [3]. That’s when it’s used in moderation and replacing too much saturated fat intake though.

Other researchers have also looked into the overconsumption of omega 6 fats. This includes linoleic acid found in vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are often added to peanut butter to keep the ingredients from separating.

Keep in mind that the typical western diet is very high in omega 6 fats, and also quite low in omega 3 fats.

What they found was that this high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio contributes to an increase in the development of many diseases such as cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, and cancer [4,5].

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Now does that mean you should steer clear of omega 6 fats in peanut butter altogether?

No. Omega 6 fats are essential and we need them to thrive. We just need to avoid over-consuming them while under consuming omega 3 fats.

Most people already under-consume omega 3 fats regularly though, so keep that in mind when you’re choosing your fat sources. Ideally, we want a 1:1 ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats in our diet to control those risk factors mentioned in this section.

If you want my recommendation, check the ingredients list and shoot for a natural peanut butter ... one that doesn’t contain hydrogenated vegetable oils. Also, eat it in moderation.

4. Peanut Butter Contains a Range of Vitamins and Minerals

Not getting enough vitamins and/or minerals?

Once again, peanut butter can help you there.

In 32 grams of peanut butter (which, if you’re like many people and choose to eat it right out of the jar, is approximately 2 tablespoons), you’ll get:

  • Vitamin B1 (17% RDI)
  • Vitamin B3 (25% RDI)
  • Vitamin B5 (11% RDI)
  • Vitamin B6 (9% RDI)
  • Vitamin E (18% RDI)
  • Copper (43% RDI)
  • Folate (20% RDI)
  • Iron (22% RDI)
  • Magnesium (14% RDI)
  • Manganese (28% RDI)
  • Potassium (18% RDI)
  • Zinc (10% RDI)

*RDI = Recommended Dietary Intake

In other words, peanut butter is actually a pretty nutrient-dense food giving you plenty of vitamins and minerals.

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It certainly isn’t a multivitamin, and you need quite a bit more than this everyday. But hey ... I’m not complaining about getting more vitamins and minerals from eating one of my favorite foods.

5. Peanut Butter is High in Antioxidants

Finally, several of the nutrients in peanut butter are actually antioxidants.

This includes the B vitamins, vitamin E, and manganese, along with coumaric acid and resveratrol (both of which are abundant in peanut butter).

These antioxidants help maintain and restore cells, protecting them from damage.

They may also help protect against cancer, heart disease, and age-related cognitive decline.

Any Downsides?

There are definitely some benefits to peanut butter, and the taste is just one of them.

But that doesn’t mean that peanut butter is always the right choice.

One thing to be aware of is that peanut butter is fairly high in calories.

While calories aren’t always a bad thing (your body needs calories to produce energy), too many calories can lead to obesity and other complications.

Final Thoughts

Although peanut butter’s delicious taste makes it a natural pairing for cookies, chocolate, and other sweets ... the truth is that peanut butter is a nutritious food.

It’s not something you want to have too much of, but you can make it a part of a healthy balanced diet. So really, there’s no reason to feel bad for eating it.

As long as it isn’t causing you to overeat ... go ahead and get in that spoonful of peanut butter. You can thank me later!

If you are looking for an alternative ... try out our high protein nut butters! Each flavor is delicious and has 9-10 grams of complete protein coming from milk protein, almonds, and peanuts.

For any other questions you may have, don't hesitate to reach out! We have a full staff of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches who are happy to help ... all for FREE. Give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 or send an email to CustomerService@1stPhorm.com and we'll make sure you're well on track to reaching your health and fitness goals.

Customer Service - 1st Phorm

References:

[1] Mayo Clinic Staff. “How Much Fiber Is Found in Common Foods?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 5 Jan. 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/high-fiber-foods/art-20050948#:~:text=Women%20should%20try%20to%20eat,Facts%20label%20for%20fiber%20content.

[2] Mayo Clinic Staff. “How to Add More Fiber to Your Diet.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 6 Jan. 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983.

[3] “Dietary Linoleic Acid and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease.” Edited by Harvard School of Public Health, The Nutrition Source, 20 Nov. 2017, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2014/11/05/dietary-linoleic-acid-and-risk-of-coronary-heart-disease/#:~:text=Instead%2C%20linoleic%20acid%20itself%20plays,insulin%20sensitivity%20and%20blood%20pressure.

[4] Simopoulos AP. The importance of the omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio in cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2008 Jun;233(6):674-88. doi: 10.3181/0711-MR-311. Epub 2008 Apr 11. PMID: 18408140.

[5] DiNicolantonio JJ, O'Keefe JH. Omega-6 vegetable oils as a driver of coronary heart disease: the oxidized linoleic acid hypothesis. Open Heart. 2018 Sep 26;5(2):e000898. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2018-000898. PMID: 30364556; PMCID: PMC6196963.

Truth Fry
Truth Fry

BS Exercise Science NASM Certified Personal Trainer NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist