There are certain foods that seem to be all the rage one year, and considered to be utter doom the next.
I remember when I was a kid and eggs were considered unhealthy. Now they’re considered good for you.
I also recall when we were all told to steer clear of frozen vegetables. And remember when you were told that potatoes were empty nutrition?
Oh, and don’t get me started on avocados.
Now there is peanut butter.
People are still debating the merits and drawbacks of peanut butter. Of course, oftentimes people will just give you their opinion without backing it up with any scientific evidence, leaving you to wonder whether peanut butter is healthy or not.
But when you hear enough times that peanut butter is awful for you, part of you starts to believe it. You begin to have second thoughts about picking up that tasty-looking jar in the grocery store. And maybe you should. Or should you?
Let’s Look at the Science
We can ask, “Is peanut butter good for you?” all the live-long day, but the only way to get an answer is to take a look at the nutritional contents.
So let’s start by talking about what peanut butter is and how it’s made.
Basically, if you are able to buy real peanut butter, the unprocessed, uncontaminated, organic variety, you are getting a very wholesome food. Peanuts are roasted and then ground down. After they are pulverized, they turn into peanut butter. And that’s basically all there is to it.
Unfortunately, a lot of the peanut butter you find for sale at the store is loaded with additives and a whole heck of a lot of sugar. This is the stuff you definitely want to steer clear of. All of that added sugar is really bad for you, on so many levels. It is bad for your overall health and is very fattening to boot.
Assuming you buy real peanut butter, however, the kind that only contains peanuts and maybe a little salt, is that kind of peanut butter good for you?
Health Benefits of Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is essentially peanuts, and peanuts are legumes. Interestingly enough, you never really hear people tell you (except perhaps strict Paleo dieters, who avoid legumes) that you shouldn’t eat peanuts. That’s because peanuts are quite good for you.
According to this data, 100 grams of peanut butter contains:
• 1088 calories (including 588 calories from fat)
• 50 grams of fat
• 6 grams of fiber
• 25 grams of protein
That’s undeniably a ton of calories from fat in peanut butter. It’s easy to see why this would turn a lot of people against it.
Dieters have long been skittish (even prejudicial) about fatty foods. Lately, however, many studies are beginning to support the idea that high-fat, low-carb diets are actually better for weight loss than low-fat diets. All that protein is seriously awesome!
Let’s take a look at the other nutrients in your 100 grams of peanut butter:
• Calcium: 43 mg
• Iron: 1.9 mg
• Magnesium: 154 mg
• Phosphorus: 358 mg
• Potassium: 649 mg
• Sodium: 459 mg
• Zinc: 2.9 mg
• Selenium: 5.6 mg
• Manganese: 1.5 mg
• Fluoride: 3.1 mcg
• Copper: 0.5 mg
• Vitamin E: 9.0 mg
• Vitamin K: 0.6 mcg
• Niacin: 13.4 mg
• Vitamin B6: 0.5 mg
• Folate: 74.0 mcg
• Pantothenic acid: 1.1 mg
• Choline: 63.0 mg
• Betaine: 0.8 mg
On top of that, peanut butter contains the following:
• Healthy antioxidants, including p-coumaric acid. Studies show that this antioxidant can reduce the risk of stomach cancer.
• Resveratrol. This nutrient helps you to metabolize energy, and may also be anti-carcinogenic. It is also associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Most people are familiar with resveratrol because it can be found in red wine. But peanut butter is actually one of the best sources following red wine and grape juice!
Does Peanut Butter Contain Anything Unwanted?
As you can see, peanut butter is quite nutritious, but it may contain a few potentially unwanted substances.
• Aflatoxins. These are carcinogenic fungus which grow underground and which may sometimes contaminate peanuts. We are pretty good at resisting their short-term damage, but studies do indicate they may be harmful over time with ongoing exposure.
Thankfully, according to this research, the processing required to break peanuts down into peanut butter actually helps to remove aflatoxins, reducing their presence by as much as 89%. So from that standpoint, it is actually healthier to eat peanut butter than peanuts.
• Peanut butter is unfortunately high in Omega-6 fatty acids. These are the “bad” fatty acids, the ones that increase inflammation and raise your risk for developing cardiovascular disease. If you eat fried, fatty foods, you are already probably getting too much Omega-6.
Of course, it makes more sense to toss the French fries than it does to throw out the peanut butter!
So … Is Peanut Butter Healthy? In Moderation, Yes!
So what have we learned here? What is the bottom line?
Peanut butter is actually nutrient-rich, and aside from those Omega-6 fatty acids and the high caloric content from fat, it is good for you. But therein lies the biggest problem with peanut butter—it is delicious, tempting, and those calories add up really fast.
In order to get a big nutritional boost from it, you have to eat a lot of it, and that can wreak havoc on your weight loss plan.
So as with any high-fat food, moderation is key. Peanut butter in moderate amounts is going to have a largely positive impact on your health. I know it’s delicious and has that amazing smooth, rich texture and flavor, but try to avoid going overboard.
Peanut butter is good for your health, but that isn’t a license to overindulge. If you’ve been avoiding it for years because of the scaremongering though, feel free to head to the store and pick up a jar. In fact, you can really benefit from making it a regular part of your diet!