Peanut butter provides you with a variety of nutrients with health benefits. It also contains substances that activate neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals, to stabilize your moods. Many people consider peanut butter a comfort food as well. The emotional and physical responses you get from peanut butter may help you deal with anxiety.
Anxiety often results from stressful events. Anxious feelings can help you overcome difficulties by making you look for solutions to problems. Other times, anxiety may feel overwhelming and interfere with your daily life. Foods that relax you help during these periods. The carbohydrates and amino acids in peanut butter contribute to the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that provides calming effects. Doctors use medication, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, to alter levels of serotonin in the brain to improve moods.
Peanut butter contains tryptophan, an amino acid that plays a role in producing serotonin, which may stabilize moods, according to MedlinePlus. Tryptophan enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain where it converts to serotonin. Carbohydrates also boost tryptophan by releasing insulin into the bloodstream, Psych Central explains. Other amino acids from foods often crowd tryptophan out. Insulin, however, clears those amino acids away so they absorb into the body and leaves tryptophan alone so it can move on the pathway to the brain.
Peanut butter also contains high amounts of protein, which helps energize you. Protein foods break down into amino acids, such as tyrosine, which travel to the brain and increase levels of dopamine and epinephrine, neurotransmitters that enhance mental alertness and energy, according to Middle Tennessee State University. Eating too many carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, may bring on feelings of fatigue. Peanut butter provides protein and carbohydrates to balance the effect, helping you to relax without feeling tired. Spreading peanut butter on whole-grain bread or crackers makes a healthy alternative to caffeine, which may stimulate you excessively and cause further anxiety.
The fiber and nutrients in peanut butter provide you with improved health to feel better about yourself, making it easier for you to deal with anxiety. Although peanut butter contains some saturated fat, it has more unsaturated fat, which provides you with heart health. A serving of peanut butter, about 2 tbsp., contains about 3 g saturated fat compared to 12 g unsaturated fat, according to the “Harvard Heart Letter,” which adds that people who eat nuts or peanut butter regularly are less likely to develop heart disease.
- MedlinePlus: Tryptophan
- Psych Central: Frequently Asked Questions About Serotonin
- Middle Tennessee State University: Food, Mood and Neurotransmitters
- Harvard Health Publications: Ask the Doctor: Why is Peanut Butter “Healthy” if it Has Saturated Fat?; Walter C. Willett, M.D.; July 2009
- HealthCentral: Diet and Anxiety