Peanut butter is the first thing that comes to our mind when we think of breakfast spreads. Relatively low in carbs, it’s ideal in a Keto diet and you can consume it without much concern of getting kicked out of ketosis.
Tastewise, peanut butter is delicious. According to connoisseurs, peanut butter has a unique texture that first sticks and then melts in your mouth.
But, it’s peanut butter, and not everyone enjoys peanuts. Some people are allergic to it to such an extent that even a teaspoon full of peanut butter is enough to kill them. The percentage of people allergic to peanut butter is relatively small, but the risk is always there.
So, what about the other 99% of people who aren’t allergic to peanut butter? Is it unhealthy for them as well?
Let’s find out whether peanut butter is healthy or unhealthy for human health.
What’s Peanut Butter?
It’s an unprocessed food made from roasted peanuts. Peanut butter is made from ground whole peanuts until they transform into a paste.
However, commercially, peanut butter isn’t made in such a straightforward manner. Usually, manufacturers add other ingredients like vegetable oils, sugar, and even trans fat to enhance the flavor.
Consuming added sugar or trans fat isn’t a healthy habit. It leads to many health issues like cardiovascular disease.
So, instead of buying the commercially made peanut butter, it’s better to eat homemade peanut butter. Ideally, peanut butter shouldn’t contain anything else but peanuts and a pinch of salt.
The health effects of whole peanuts are identical to those of the peanut butter as its only ingredient is ground peanuts.
Peanut butter is a paste made using roasted, ground peanuts. The commercial brands of peanut butter aren’t as healthy for your heart because of the added sugars and vegetable oils.
A Great Protein Source
Peanut butter is a reasonably balanced source of energy. It supplies nearly all the three macronutrients.
In 100 grams of peanut butter, you’ll get:
- Carbs: 20 grams (6 grams come from fiber)
- Protein: 25 grams
- Fat: 50 grams
13% of the calories come from the carbs while 15% come from protein, and 72% of them come from fat. In comparison to other plant foods, peanut butter has a fairly high amount of protein. However, it’s low in methionine, an essential amino acid.
Peanuts are part of the legume family. Beans, lentils, and peas are part of the same family from where peanuts come. Legume protein, generally, is low in methionine and cysteine while animal protein has a high amount of it.
Those relying solely on peanut butter or beans for protein intake are at risk of developing methionine deficiency.
Conversely, studies reveal that there’re some health benefits of low methionine intake. Such as, it extends the lifespan, as was noticed in experiments on rats and mice. However, it’s unclear if humans will also show similar results.
There is about 25% protein in 100 grams of peanut butter, which make it an excellent source of plant-based protein. However, the drawback is that it’s low in methionine, an essential amino acid.
A Perfect Low-Carb Option
Pure peanut butter has only 20% carbs. This is a fantastic feature as it makes peanut butter an excellent low-carb food option. Since its low in sugar as well, so consuming peanut butter won’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Hence, peanut butter is good for people having type-2 diabetes.
An observational study identified that females who eat peanut butter at least five times a week are at a 21% reduced risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
This feature of peanut butter could be because of the presence of oleic acid. It constitutes a majority of the fat content in peanuts. Antioxidants may also contribute to making peanut butter good for people with diabetes.
Peanut butter is the perfect low-carb option for dieters and health conscious people. People with type-2 diabetes can also eat it as it doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
A High Proportion of Healthy Fats
Fat content in peanut butter is relatively high than many plant-based foods. A 100 gram serving of peanut butter contains approx. 588 calories.
However, it’s a good option if you’re on a weight-loss diet. That’s because eating peanut butter in moderate amounts is perfectly fine. It’s just like eating whole peanuts.
Almost half of the fat content in peanut butter comprises of healthy monounsaturated fat called oleic acid. Olive oil also has a high amount of oleic acid.
There’re many health benefits of oleic acid. For instance, it improves insulin sensitivity.
Moreover, peanut butter also contains an essential omega-6 fatty acid called linoleic acid. A majority of vegetable oils contain sufficient quantity of linoleic acid.
According to some studies, consuming omega-6 fatty acids in high amounts can increase the risk of chronic disease and inflammation. But, other, more reliable studies indicate that linoleic acid doesn’t raise the inflammatory markers’ blood levels. Hence, scientists are divided over the role linoleic acid plays in inflammation.
Pure peanut butter is an excellent source of healthy fats like oleic acid and linoleic acid. However, the omega-6 linoleic acid content can increase the risk of inflammation and chronic disease, but research is limited in this regard.
A Rich Source of Vitamins and Minerals
Peanut butter is a nutritious spread. In 100 grams portion of peanut butter you’ll get vitamin E (45% of the RDA), Niacin or Vitamin B3 (67%), Vitamin B6 (27%), Copper (24%), Folate (18%), Magnesium (39%), and Manganese (73%).
Peanut butter is high in biotin and has decent amounts of selenium, potassium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B5.
However, you’ve got to be careful about the calories. Peanut butter calories aren’t as nutritious as are in other plant-based foods such as broccoli or spinach.
Peanut butter contains many vital minerals and vitamins, but the drawback is that it offers plenty of calories.
An Antioxidant Rich Food
As are many other pure foods, peanut butter also contains many biologically active nutrients, apart from essential minerals and vitamins. This further enhances the health benefits of peanut butter.
Antioxidants like p-coumaric acid are present in peanut butter, which may contribute to a reduction in arthritis in rats.
Peanut butter also contains resveratrol, which can prevent cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases, as identified in some animal-based studies.
There’re many other health benefits of resveratrol, but there aren’t many researches that involve human subjects. Hence, the impact of resveratrol on humans isn’t clear as yet.
Antioxidants like p-coumarin and resveratrol are found in peanut butter and offer many health benefits when tested in animals.
Peanut Butter Is a Potential Source of Aflatoxins
Overall, peanut butter is very nutritious. However, there’re some harmful substances like aflatoxins that affect its super-healthy attribute.
Aflatoxins are harmful to human health. Peanuts grow under the ground, so, an ever-present mold called Aspergillus naturally colonizes peanuts. Aspergillus is a source of aflatoxins, which are highly carcinogenic.
Humans can tolerate the short-term effects of aflatoxins, but can they deal with its long-term effects, it isn’t clear as yet.
But, the good news is that according to a study creating butter by processing peanuts reduces the aflatoxins levels by 89%.
Besides, the USDA already monitors aflatoxins amounts in foods and ensures that these remain within the recommended limits.
Varying levels of aflatoxins are present in peanut butter. Aflatoxins are toxic compound created by Aspergillus, a kind of mold. If consumed in high amounts, aflatoxins can cause liver cancer and stunted growth in children.
The Bottom Line
Peanut butter has its fair share of positive and negative attributes.
It’s a good source of protein and has many essential nutrients including fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, just 100 grams of peanut butter has 588 calories, which is a relatively high amount of calories.
Moreover, peanut butter is a potent source of aflatoxins that can be harmful to human health in the long run.
So, it’s better not to make peanut butter a dominant source of food in your daily diet. Eating it in small amounts is perfectly fine though.
But, peanut butter is hard to resist, which makes eating it in small amounts a bit difficult for us.
However, from health’s perspective, it’s important not to eat peanut butter in large quantity.
If you can’t resist eating more peanut butter after having a spoonful already, it’s better to avoid it altogether. If you can eat in moderate quantities, freely enjoy it once in a while.
Eating peanut butter in reasonable quantity won’t let you feel any significant adverse health outcomes. Follow a balanced diet and cut down on trans fats, junk food, sugary sodas, and other processed foods to ensure optimal health and wellbeing.