Even with the wide variety of nut and seed oils on grocery store shelves, peanut butter still reigns supreme. This is usually the cheapest option and is preferred in smoothies, oatmeal and, of course, classic PB&Js. But is peanut butter good for you?
For one thing, nuts are known to be a great source of plant protein. On the other hand, you may have heard that peanut butter is high in sugar and sodium. So who is it?
Is peanut butter good?
Registered Dietitians Amanda Baker Lemein, RD, and Cara Harbstreet, RD, both say that peanut butter is actually full of nutrients that are good for the body. “Peanut butter is a delicious, affordable and accessible source of plant-based protein and important nutrients,” says Lemain, who has worked with the National Peanut Board. “It’s also very versatile and can be used in a variety of snacks and meals that fit into many different cuisines and cultural foods. Plus, as a zero-waste crop and the lowest water use of any nut, it’s a sustainable and healthy choice for both people and the planet.” In other words, she’s a fan, and peanut butter easily gets her registered dietitian .
What about the sugar and salt claims? If you choose natural peanut butter, you’ll likely get very minimal salt and sugar, if any. “The amount of added sugar and salt in peanut butter is a very small contribution compared to the most common sources of added sugar or high sodium foods,” says Lemain. She adds that it’s also important to consider someone’s diet rather than focusing on just one food. “It’s important to look at the whole picture of nutrition and the benefits that a food can bring to a well-rounded diet,” she says. Keep reading to see the full nutritional breakdown of peanut butter and learn more about its many health benefits.
Related: 11 Types of Nuts to Mix Into Your Meals
- Protein: 8 g
- Total fat: 16 g
- Carbohydrates: 7 g
- Fiber: 3g
- Calcium: 20 mg
- Iron: 0.7 mg
7 Health Benefits of Peanut Butter
1. This is an easy way to increase the protein in your snacks
As the nutrition facts above show, one serving of peanut butter has eight grams of protein. Harbstreet says that’s enough to be considered a major source of protein in snacks, but not necessarily in meals. “There is enough to contribute to total protein intake in meals and snacks, but there are other foods that are higher in protein,” she says.
So while you may want to top off your breakfast smoothie with another protein source, like protein powder or a side of scrambled eggs, it works as a powerhouse pre- or post-workout snack, or when the afternoon slump hits.
Related: Looking to Add More Protein to Your Diet? Skip the burger and opt for these high-protein foods instead
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2. Peanut butter is good for the heart
Both nutritionists say peanut butter is high in poly- and monounsaturated fats—the “good” kinds of fat. “These types of fats play a variety of beneficial roles in the body, including lowering cholesterol levels and providing fat-soluble vitamins,” says Lemain. Scientific studies have found that people who regularly eat foods with unsaturated fats are at a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
3. Eating peanut butter supports brain health
The unsaturated fats in peanut butter aren’t just good for the heart; they are also good for the brain. These fatty acids are critical to brain function and have even been linked to maintaining mental health. It’s not just the taste that makes peanut butter a mood-boosting food!
4. It’s good for your skin
Peanut butter is an often overlooked beauty food. Lemien says the reason it supports skin health is because it’s a good source of vitamin E. “Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s important for many aspects of a healthy body, including promoting healthy skin,” she says. . “It’s an antioxidant that can reduce the build-up of free radicals, including those that affect the skin.” She says one serving of peanut butter has about 15 percent of the daily recommended amount of vitamin E.
Related: 25 Foods That Are Good for Your Skin
5. Eating peanut butter supports the immune system
Another nutrient in peanut butter is magnesium. Harbstreet says magnesium benefits the body in several different ways, one of which is maintaining immune health. “Magnesium is found in many foods, but getting it from peanut butter can be an easy way to meet your recommended daily intake,” she says. Cover a slice of peanut butter toast with berries and you’ll support your immune system even more!
6. Helps to supply the body with energy
The protein, healthy fats, carbohydrates and magnesium in peanut butter help fuel the body. While you may know that protein, carbohydrates, and fat are used by the body for energy, what you may not know is that magnesium is as well. “Magnesium is perhaps best known for its role as an electrolyte, which is why it’s often included in sports drinks and hydration tools,” says Harbstith. Yet another reason why this nut butter is a great post-workout recovery snack.
7. Eating peanut butter is good for your gut
There is no peanut butter tone fiber, but there are three grams per serving, which is still a nice drop in the bucket. (You want to aim for between 25 and 35 grams per day.) Fiber is a key nutrient for keeping your digestive tract working properly, and it’s good for your heart, too.
For all these reasons, you can feel pretty damn good about dipping your spoon into a jar of peanut butter. Now that that’s settled, on to the next debate: whether peanut butter and banana or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the best staple of all time.
Then find out how peanut butter compares to almond butter in terms of nutrition.