Health Benefits of Peanut Butter
A peanut butter fan doesn’t need to feel guilty if he gets tempted to eat a tablespoon or two of the tasty buttery spread thinking that it’s too fatty. In addition to being delicious, peanut butter is nutritious too. Though a tablespoon of peanut butter contains 8 grams of fat and 85 calories, it also imparts a number of health benefits being high in monounsaturated fats and several other nutrients. What’s more, it’s one of the most ideal foods for weight loss.
What is a Peanut Butter?
Real peanut butter is just peanuts, usually roasted and ground till they become a paste. So, this is pretty unprocessed. However, the commercial brands are not of this type of real peanut butter. They contain various other ingredients including vegetable oils, sugar and even trans-fat. Eating trans-fat and sugar excessively can cause various health problems like heart disease. Thus, it’s better to buy real peanut butter which should contain only peanut and perhaps a little salt.
So, essentially all the health effects of peanuts should be similar to those of peanut butter. Here are some prominent health benefits of peanut butter.
It Lowers Death Risk
As per a Vanderbilt University study conducted in 2015, consuming nuts, including peanuts, daily is associated to lowering total death risk because nuts have intense protective and health-promoting nutrients. The fat profile of nuts is healthy and includes mono- and poly-unsaturated fats; nuts are packed with antioxidants too and contain nutrients like potassium that are helpful in maintaining a healthy blood pressure; nuts are also rich in heart-healthy plant phytosterols and fiber. Mono- and poly-unsaturated fatty acids have been proven to reduce LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. All these ingredients and their health benefits of peanuts are found in peanut butter too.
Makes One Feel Fuller
The monounsaturated fat and protein content in peanut butter are highly satiating. Having peanut butter during breakfast, lunch or dinner can prevent a person from overeating. However, it should be consumed in moderation. Two tablespoons are a good serving size.
Helps in Weight Loss
Even if someone is going through a limited-calorie diet program, he can eat peanut butter without worrying about increased caloric intake because as per studies, it helps in weight loss. This is because peanuts consist of more protein than other nuts i.e. 4 grams in 1 tablespoon. If high fat and fiber content are added to this, one can get a delicious snack that can keep one fuller for longer as mentioned earlier. Thus further caloric intake is reduced or eliminated in a day. Most people experience that 200 calories of peanut butter is definitely more satiating than 200 calories of pretzels for example. Also a study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders says that peanuts have also the power of increasing metabolism. The study found that the metabolic rate of subjects increased by 11% after eating around 500 calories of peanuts every day for 19 weeks.
Offers Healthy Fats
Peanut butter consists of fats; however half of its fat content is made of oleic acid, a healthy monounsaturated fat which also occurs in olive oil. Oleic acid has been found to impart many health benefits including improving insulin sensitivity.
However, another fatty acid, linoleic acid which is an omega-6 fatty acid present in peanut butter may increase the risk of inflammation (Read about this below in the “Risk Factors”) though not all the scientists agree to this.
Fights Obesity Genes
Peanuts and peanut butter have monounsaturated fats that slim the belly, fiber which makes one satiated and protein that boost metabolism. In addition to this, peanuts have also been found to have one more weapon for weight loss. It’s Genistein which is a compound that directly acts on one’s obesity genes, by turning them down and lessening one’s body’s ability to store fat. This ingredient occurs also in lentils and beans, but obviously some people may find it not so delicious.
Risk of Diabetes is Reduced
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that eating 1 ounce (around 2 tablespoons) of nut or peanut butter can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by nearly 30%. This benefit is partly credited to oleic acid, which is one of the main fats in peanuts.
Also, peanut butter consists of only 20% carbohydrates thus it can be well included in a low-carb diet. Its consumption causes a very minimal rise in blood sugar and therefore it’s an ideal option for those with type 2 diabetes.
Great Energy Booster
Peanut butter has a sufficient dose of fiber, protein and healthy fat that can give a person the energy needed to start their day or during the mid-day when they are down.
Rich in Magnesium
Peanut butter is loaded with magnesium which is essential for activating over 300 biochemical reactions in human body. One serving of peanut butter can provide around 49 mg of magnesium. So, peanut butter can regulate body temperature, form strong teeth and bones, detoxify the body, maintain a healthy nervous system and produce energy.
Increases Brain Power
Studies have found that the monounsaturated fats occurring in peanuts and other nuts and olive oil protect brain health because their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help diminish oxidative stress to the brain.
Peanut butter consists of beta-sitosterol which is a plant sterol due to which it helps one fight bad effects of stress. Studies conducted on endurance athletes found that beta-sitosterol brought high cortisol levels to normal like other hormones during events of stress. Beta-sitosterol is also known to boost immunity.
Prevention of Peanut Allergy
If a woman eats peanut butter during her pregnancy, the child will be born with reduced risk of peanut allergy. According to a new study, non-allergic would-be mothers who consumed peanuts or tree nuts as many as five times per week or even more had fewer chances to have a baby with a nut allergy.
Fights Toxins and Boosts Bone Health
The mono- and poly-unsaturated fats in peanuts help in the absorption of vitamins E and K in the body. Body needs vitamin E to protect itself against toxins like air pollutants and it also relieves premenstrual syndrome. It’s also essential for eye health by fighting disorders like cataract and neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and also diabetes. Vitamin K is necessary for the process of blood clotting and it helps in the circulation of calcium around the body, which is necessary for bone health.
Peanut Butter Nutritional Profile
A 100 gram portion of peanut butter provides the following nutrients:
Carbohydrate: 20 grams
Fat: 50 grams
Protein: 25 grams
Vitamin B3 (Niancin): 67% of the RDA
Vitamin B6: 27% of the RDA
Folate: 18% of the RDA
Vitamin E: 45% of the RDA
Copper: 24% of the RDA
Magnesium: 39% of the RDA
Manganese: 73% of the RDA
Note: RDA stands for Rrecommended Daily Allowance.
Peanut butter is also high in biotin and moderately contains vitamin B5, potassium, iron, selenium and zinc. However, it should be remembered that peanut butter is not as nutritious as low-calorie plant foods such as broccoli or spinach.
Peanut butter has omega-6 fatty acids and not omega-3. While omega-6 fatty acids stimulate the formation of inflammatory mediators and therefore peanut butter can cause inflammation, omega-3 fatty acids typically help lessen inflammation. So, if one is including peanut butter in their diet, they should also include foods rich in omega-3 fats such as oily fish like salmon, healthy oils such as chia seeds, flaxseed etc.
Peanut products like peanut butter are also vulnerable to the invasion by mold and fungi. A fungus known as Aflatoxin can delay development in children and over time can also increase the risk of liver cancer. A solution is to roast peanuts lightly due to which aflatoxin growth is deterred.
Even though peanut butter is quite rich in proteins, the quantity of the essential amino acid, methionine, is less in it. Peanuts fall into the legume family that includes peas, lentils and beans. Legume protein as such is very low in methionine and cysteine as compared to animal protein. So, for those who depend on peanut butter as a main protein source, methionine deficiency can be a risk.
Another risk factor is not actually with peanut butter but with the pesticides used during the farming of peanuts. Peanuts have a very thin shell, through which these heavily sprayed pesticides can penetrate in and when they are consumed, can cause birth defects and hampered fertility in men. The solution to this is to choose peanut butter made from organic peanuts.
One more risk factor is some processed brands of peanut butter that use hydrogenated vegetable oils which act as emulsifiers and increase the consistency of the peanut butter so that users don’t have to stir the jar. However, hydrogenated oils are actually “spoiled” fats which dislocate healthier fats in cell membranes, thereby causing inflammation and making the process of communication of hormones with cells difficult. Here too the solution is to choose the natural, organic varieties of peanut butter.
Thus, it’s best to buy the peanut butter which has only peanuts as its ingredient. If users want to choose brands with other ingredients, they should be watchful of those ingredients. The oil should be healthier and not a partially or fully hydrogenated one. Also, low-fat or light peanut butters should be avoided because if there is one ingredient less, probably there is one ingredient more. Thus, light and low-fat varieties often have sugar added in place of fats that were removed.
For Short: If you are not allergic to nuts and peanut butter, and your daily calorie intake allows it, feel free to add them to your smoothies - they are rich in healthy fats, protein, fibers and other macro- and micronutrients, just be aware of the calories.
Also, adding peanuts and peanut butter changes their taste and aroma - for better, much better :)