Peanut butter contains fats, but mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These unsaturated fats do help lower LDL cholesterol, known as the “bad” cholesterol that can clog the arteries and lead to heart disease. You still need to eat peanut butter in moderation. The product usually contains some saturated fats, although the benefits from the unsaturated fats outweigh the unhealthy fats.
Excess amounts of LDL cholesterol form plaque on the inner walls of the arteries, slowing blood flow to the heart. Slowed blood flow can rob the heart of oxygen-rich blood and lead to heart disease. HDL cholesterol, known as the “good” cholesterol, removes excess cholesterol from the bloodstream and delivers it to the liver. You need low levels of LDL and high levels of HDL. Peanut butter helps improve cholesterol in both areas. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats have been found not only to lower LDL, but also raise healthy HDL, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.
Healthy Fats and Nutrients
The unsaturated fats in peanut butter help reduce LDL cholesterol and decrease your risk of heart disease, according to Dr. Walter C. Willet in the July 2009 issue of the “Harvard Heart Letter.” One serving, or 2 tbsp., of peanut butter contains 12.3 g unsaturated fat and 3.3 g saturated fat. The unsaturated fats account for about 80 percent of the fats in peanut butter. Peanut butter also contains healthy doses of fiber, vitamins and minerals, Willet adds.
Peanut butter contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that fights free radicals, which can lead to heart disease and cause cell damage in the body. A study of 15 healthy adults over a 30-week period found that peanut consumption in the diet decreased risk factors for heart disease, according to researchers at Purdue University. Regular peanut consumption helped reduce fats in the blood and also helped boost other nutrients in peanuts, such as fiber, magnesium and folic acid, it was reported in the April 22, 2003, issue of “Journal of the American College of Nutrition.”
In the Diet
Peanut butter can work with sandwiches or snacks in a diet to lower LDL cholesterol. Replacing unhealthy fats with unsaturated fats helps lower your cholesterol levels, MayoClinic.com notes. Reduce your intake of saturated fats, such as meat, poultry and dairy products, and eliminate trans fat found in some processed foods. Peanut butter contains no trans fat. Saturated fat raises LDL levels, while trans fat increases LDL and lowers protective HDL. Other than obtaining it from peanut butter and peanuts, you can get monounsaturated fats from peanut, olive and canola oils, almonds, pecans and hazelnuts. Walnuts, flaxseeds and fish contain polyunsaturated fat.