Peanut Butter Nutrition and Health Benefits

Peanut butter is one of the most popular foods in the United States, with an average consumption of three pounds per American per year. It is also one of the best and least expensive sources of protein you can find. 

Despite its nutritional benefits, peanut butter is high in fat and calories. Just two tablespoons deliver no less than a quarter of your recommended daily intake of fat, some of it saturated.

Moreover, as a processed form of peanuts, it one of the eight most common food allergens in the United States, affecting 1.4 percent of the population (or roughly 4.6 million people).

Even so, the nutritional benefits of peanut butter most often outweigh the consequences, particularly for people who are nutritionally deprived or simply don't get enough protein in their diets.

Peanut Butter Calories and Nutrition

Peanut Butter Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 2 tablespoons (32 g)
Per Serving% Daily Value*
Calories 190 
Calories from Fat 144 
Total Fat 16g25%
Saturated Fat 2.5g13%
Polyunsaturated Fat 3.6g 
Monounsaturated Fat 6.6g 
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 140mg6%
Potassium 189mg5%
Carbohydrates 8g3%
Dietary Fiber 2g8%
Sugars 3g 
Protein 7g 
Vitamin A 0% · Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 2% · Iron 22%

*Based on a 2,000 calorie diet

Nutrition Facts

A  single serving of peanut butter is two tablespoons (32 grams), roughly the amount needed to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Like all other types of nut butter, peanut butter is high in calories and fat.

But the good news is that it packs a lot of nutrition into such a little amount of food. And, because peanut butter can make you feel fuller faster, you don't tend to eat a lot. What you do consume can be extremely healthy for you, especially for the heart.

If included as part of a reduced-fat diet, just 1.5 grams of nuts consumed daily may reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, according to research from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Carbs in Peanut Butter

Peanuts butter is relatively low in carbohydrate. The carbs in a serving of peanut account for only 13 percent to 16 percent of their total weight, translating to a glycemic index (GI) of only 14. What this means is that a serving of peanut butter is less likely to affect your blood sugar than higher-GI foods like the white bread (75 GI per slice) used to make a PB&J sandwich.

Most of the carbohydrates in peanuts are complex, the type that the body breaks don gradually for metabolism. On the other hand, peanut butter has few of the simple carbohydrates that trigger spikes in blood sugar.

Even commercial peanut butter brands that add sugar (like Jif, Skippy, and Peter Pan) tend to keep it to a minimum, adding no more than a gram or two to those naturally found in peanuts.

Fats in Peanut Butter

Although 16 grams of fat per serving may seem like a lot, most are "healthy" monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Only around 4 percent is from "unhealthy" saturated fat, the type that can clog your arteries.

The monounsaturated fats in peanuts are primarily from oleic acid (which positively influences cholesterol levels), while the polyunsaturated fats are predominantly from linoleic acid (which helps build muscle). Peanut butter also contains significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and associated with a reduced risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

However, some commercial brands contain hydrogenated oils that stabilize the peanut butter and prevent the natural oils from separating and rising to the top. Unlike monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, hydrogenated oil does affect blood lipids level, causing "bad" LDL cholesterol to rise and "good" HDL cholesterol to fall.

Despite the high-fat content, peanut butter itself is 100 percent cholesterol-free.

Protein in Peanut Butter

Approximately 35 percent of peanut butter's total weight is from protein, making it one of the better sources of non-meat protein. At 7 grams per serving, you can easily boost your daily intake if you are vegetarian or are simply not getting enough protein in your diet.

Micronutrients in Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is nutrient-dense and can help you meet your reference daily intake (RDI) of vitamins and mineral. It is packed with important B-complex vitamins as well as essential minerals and antioxidants.

Here is how 32 grams of peanut butter contribute to the RDI of key nutrients: 

  • Copper: 43% of the RDI
  • Folate: 20% of the RDI
  • Iron: 22% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 14% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 28% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 18% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 17% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin): 25% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 11% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): 9% of the RDI
  • Vitamin E: 18% of the RDI
  • Zinc: 10% of the RDI

Unlike tree nuts, peanuts and peanut butter offer nothing in the way of vitamin A or C. 

Health Benefits

Beyond its nutritional value, peanut butter contains compounds that can potentially promote weight loss and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Weight Loss

Peanut butter is believed to aid in weight loss by causing premature satiation (the sensation of feeling full soon after eating). By curbing your appetite, peanut butter may help maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of obesity.

Whether peanut butter can actually help you shed pounds is less certain. An eight-year study from Harvard Univesity evaluated the medical histories of over 50,000 women and found that a higher consumption of nuts corresponded to a lower incidence of weight gain and obesity when compared to women who never ate nuts. What it did not show was a direct association between nut consumption and weight loss.

While peanut butter may help curb your appetite, it's important to watch your portions. In the end, no food can be considered "diet" if two servings account for 50 percent of your daily fat and 20 percent of a 2,000-calorie diet.

Heart Disease

Evidence that peanuts or peanut butter can reduce the risk of heart disease is largely mixed. For its part, the FDA acceded that eating 1.5 ounces of nuts per day may be beneficial to the heart but wouldn't go so far as to say that it could prevent heart disease.

Some scientists disagree. A 2016 review of studies from France suggested that an antioxidant in peanuts, known as resveratrol, can reduce cardiovascular inflammation and relax blood vessels, increasing circulation and lowering blood pressure. It is also known to decrease in LDL oxidation, which contributes to the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and coronary artery disease.

These anti-atherosclerotic properties may have a cardioprotective effect if used as part of a low-fat diet with routine exercise.

Common Questions

Do You Have to Refrigerate Natural Peanut Butter?​

Natural peanut butter is made from peanuts and peanuts lone. Because it doesn't contain any stabilizers, the natural oils can separate from the solids and need to be stirred back in before eating. It also means that natural peanut butter should be kept in the refrigerator since the oils can spoil and turn rancid in left at room temperature for too long.

The average shelf life of natural peanut butter is two to four months if left in the pantry and three to six months if refrigerated. By contrast, regular storebought peanut butter can be stored in the pantry or refrigerator for up to one year. 

To soften natural peanut butter, remove from the refrigerator 30 to 60 minutes before use. 

Are Natural and Organic Peanut Butter the Same?

Both natural peanut butter and organic peanut butter contain peanuts and nothing else. Organic peanut butter has to be certified, meaning that the peanuts have to be produced without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents. To gain certification, the product must meet the standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

How Can You Tell If Peanut Butter Has Gone Bad?

Sight is usually the best way to tell if peanut butter has gone bad. If it has become darker, harder, or drier, it is best to toss it. You should also smell the peanut butter. If it has lost its buttery aroma or smells off, it is better to throw it out regardless of its use-by date.

Never eat peanut butter with any signs of discoloration or mold. One type of mold common to peanut butter, called aflatoxin, is classified as a carcinogen. Animal studies have shown that long-term exposure to aflatoxin can increase the risk of liver cancer and other types of cancer.

Recipes and Preparation

As a quick snack, peanut butter can be eaten on its own or spread on a celery stick, banana, or cracker. It is also tasty swirled into vanilla yogurt or blended into a smoothie or protein shake. And there is always the beloved PB&J sandwich adored by children and adults alike. 

If you are a peanut butter lover, here are some recipes you should definitely try:

If you love peanut butter but don't like the calories, you can use a peanut butter protein powder like PBFit. Both regular and chocolate-flavored peanut butter powders can be blended into drinks or baked into muffins, cookies, or pancakes. You can even mix it with water to make a reduced-calorie, low-fat spread.

A two-tablespoon serving of PBFit delivers only 50 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbohydrate, and 6 grams of protein.

Allergies and Interactions

Peanut allergies are one of the most common and potentially dangerous food allergies, affecting no less than 1 percent of the U.S population and 2 percent of children. The dangers are no less serious if you eat peanuts or peanut butter.

Peanut allergies can range in severity from mild to life-threatening. In rare cases, it can lead to an all-body reaction known as anaphylaxis, characterized by a severe rash or hives, shortness of breath, wheezing, rapid heart rate, and the swelling of the face, tongue, or throat. If left untreated, anaphylaxis can lead to shock, coma, heart or respiratory failure, and death.

While the very thought of a peanut allergy can strike fear into the heart of a parent, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) recommends that peanuts be introduced into a child's diet early—as early as four to six months—to sensitize them to peanuts and avoid the development of an allergy.

Drug Interactions

While uncommon, the resveratrol in peanut butter can inhibit blood clotting if consumed in excess. This can amplify the side effects of blood thinners like Coumadin (warfarin), causing nosebleeds, easy bruising, abdominal pain, blood in the urine (hematuria), and heavy menstrual bleeding.

The occasional or even daily consumption of peanut butter shouldn't be problematic as long as you limit your intake to one serving (or maybe two for a splurge).

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