If you’re anything like me, the first thing you’ll think of when I mention peanut butter is the well-known classic: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Truthfully, I’ve never eaten a peanut butter sandwich in my life (perhaps because I live in the UK), but I’ve heard they’re extremely popular over in the US; especially with schoolchildren. In fact, Wikipedia states that according to a survey carried out in 2002, the average American will eat 2,500 of these before graduating from high school. That’s a lot of peanut butter.
In recent years though, peanut butter has managed to gain a bit of a reputation as an “unhealthy” food. The reason for this is simple: peanut butter is high in fat and extremely calorie-dense and therefore, it’s become one of the scapegoats of a nation suffering from an obesity epidemic.
Clearly though, just because something is high in fat and calories doesn’t make it unhealthy. In fact, peanut butter is extremely good for you, and here’s a few reasons why this is the case:
#1 – Peanut butter is extremely nutritious
Peanut butter is absolutely packed with nutrition. Just a couple of tablespoons of the stuff contains almost 3 milligrams of Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that assists in skin repair among other important processes. Some studies have even found vitamin E to help prevent things like heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
It’s also full of magnesium (around 49 milligrams), potassium (around 210 milligrams) and a variety of other vitamins, all of which play vital roles in maintaining a healthy body. There was even one Harvard Nurses’ Health study which found that eating just one tablespoon of peanut butter (or any kind of nuts such as almonds) five or more times a week could decrease the risk of developing type two diabetes by 21%.
#2 – Peanut butter can help you lose weight
Like I mentioned earlier, peanut butter has developed a bit of a negative reputation as a food that is fattening because of the raw nutrition facts. It contains around 188 calories per 2 tablespoon serving (according to NutritonData.com), it might seem a little counterintuitive that it can actually help you to lose weight.
Although calorically dense, peanut butter is high in fiber and protein. Per serving, it contains around 8 grams of protein and 2 grams of dietary fiber. To put that in perspective, it’s recommended to consume somewhere in the region of 18 – 23 grams of fiber per day.
Fiber plays an important role in the diet as it relates to digestion. Reaching your daily recommended serving of fiber helps to protect against things like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. But, fiber plays another important role for those on a calorie restricted diet, it creates a feeling of fullness and helps to curb appetite.
#3 – Peanut butter can help you gain weight
I know this point appears to contradict my last point, but when I talk about gaining weight, I’m talking about muscle rather than fat.
Being so protein-rich, peanut butter is a fantastic food for bodybuilders and those looking to gain weight. As many of you already know, protein is essential for building and repairing muscles and I imagine that any individuals looking to build muscle are already on a relatively high-protein diet.
Sure, it’s not as protein-dense as chicken breast or turkey, but if you combine it with a couple of slices of ezekiel bread and a glass of milk, you’ll probably be consuming around 30 grams of protein and some decent carbs too.
Peanut Butter is also pretty cheap, especially when compared with energy bars and protein shakes.
#4 – Peanut butter contains healthy fats
We live in a world that is absolutely terrified of fat. If you head down to your local supermarket, you’ll likely see aisles of foods labelled “low fat” or “fat-free” but let me enlighten you, fat isn’t necessarily unhealthy.
Fat is one of the three primary macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrates) and is absolutely vital to maintaining health. The problem is that most common fast foods and snacks are loaded with unhealthy types of fat. I’m talking about saturated fats and trans-fats (which are generally considered to be the worst).
Peanut butter is different. It’s packed with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats predominantly, which are considered to be heart-healthy fats. Monounsaturated fats have also been found to lower belly fat and lower the chances of suffering from metabolic syndrome.
Tip: Don’t bother buying the “reduced fat” peanut butter as usually, it contains almost the same amount of calories as regular peanut butter. It’s just that the fat is substituted for carbohydrates in most cases. These carbohydrates also tend to be sugar. Therefore, you’re trading heart-healthy natural fats for unhealthy processed sugars in most cases.
There’s no doubt about it, peanut butter is exceptionally healthy. It contains a great source of heart healthy (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) fats which are not only good for you, but can also help provide nutritional support for your athletic endeavors.
Peanut Butter also contains a good source of vitamins and minerals, some of which help to prevent diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. It’s packed with protein for muscle growth and recovery and also fibre to help you feel fuller for longer.
The bottom line is this: don’t let anyone fool you into thinking that peanut butter is unhealthy. Sure, it’s pretty calorie-dense and also contains a substantially high amount of fat, but don’t let that scare you. When consumed in moderation, peanut butter can only have a positive effect on your health (unless you have a nut allergy of course!)