Peanut Butter – Health Food or Junk Food?

Peanut Butter – Health Food or Junk Food?

The great debate has raged on for a long time over whether peanut butter is healthy or junk food. Is this something that we are supposed to be eating or not supposed to be eating? You could put anything with peanut butter and make a sandwich: peanut butter and jelly, peanut butter and marmalade, peanut butter and bananas. But is the peanut butter part of it good for you? My staff was trying to get me to commit to the jelly portion, but the answer to jelly is no, jelly is not healthy for you. There is no debate there. 

Peanut butter is at least 90% peanuts by trade, so the first thing we need to figure out is: are peanuts good for you? A 2021 study found that increasing daily nut intake by five grams lowered the overall risk for cancer by 3%, pancreatic and colon cancer specifically by six and 25%, respectively, and then lowered overall cancer mortality by 4%. I understand that peanuts are legumes, but they were added to that study. So, it’s worth noting that adding peanuts and nuts in general to your diet is good for you. If it reduces cancer, I would say that goes into the health category. There are no real downsides to it with few caveats, for example, if you have colitis, Crohn’s disease, or any other conditions involving your intestines not getting along well with the protein part of peanuts. That would be not good for you. If you have a peanut allergy, you don’t want to eat peanuts, but peanuts are good for you outside of those and a few other conditions.

So does that confer to the butter part? When you smash it all together, Does peanut butter retain some of those health benefits? Well, one serving is two tablespoons in the average jar of peanut butter, and it’s got 190 calories, 16 grams of fat, seven grams of carbohydrates, and eight grams of protein. These numbers mean nothing. But peanuts have a higher protein content than almost every other nut. That’s important. Protein is good for us. Protein helps build strong bones and various other connective tissues, and it’s good for your brain. Peanuts also have 11% of our daily fiber, which is good for gut health. It’s got zinc and phosphorus, both good for nerves, muscles, and bones. As a chiropractor, I like things with these different minerals because they’re good for bones and joints. 

But my favorite part about peanut butter is there’s a variety of research that speaks to the satiety. Satiety is the word for the feeling of fullness that you get when you eat certain things. And peanut butter, it turns out, is excellent at fulfilling these needs. So it’s got this satisfying ratio of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to it, which makes you feel full, which leads to less snacking and smaller meals. That’s huge! That means a lot when you think about it. If you can have a snack that keeps you full without another snack, you’ve saved calories, even though 190 calories seems high. If that ratio prevents you from having other calories, it’s a win. So, satiety is good for you, and peanut butter has that in mass. 

The problem with peanut butter is what’s added besides the peanuts. We have another 10% of the peanut butter, which is the butter part, right? It’s not peanuts, and I think it gets tricky here. Across the board, peanut butter no longer has one of the nastiest things we used to have in our diets up until 2015: partially hydrogenated oils. Remember the trans fat debacle that happened? That showed that when you’re eating these trans fats, it causes scarring in your arteries, which then causes the rates of cardiovascular events to increase. These are no good for us, and in 2015, the FDA intervened and said these are no good for us; let’s not do these anymore, which was fantastic! I hope this research helps you make the healthiest choices for you.

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