You can eat peanut butter at any time of the day, from breakfast to a late-night snack. It goes well with many foods, and you can also enjoy it plain. There's plenty of healthy protein and fiber in peanut butter, but it's calorie-dense and can be your enemy if you're trying to lose weight.
Peanut butter has protein, fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals that are essential to your diet. The high calorie count means it might not be good for your waistline, but peanut butter has health benefits.
Difference in Brands
Different brands of peanut butter have different benefits. Some brands, like Skippy, add B vitamins to their product to bolster the nutrition content. Added vitamins are a big plus, but you also need to be wary of unwanted ingredients, like sugar, that are included in many brands.
Partially and Fully Hydrogenated Oils
Normally, peanut butter is oily at room temperature. Most fats are liquid at room temperature, and the fat in peanuts is no different. To make peanut butter more appetizing and easier to deal with, some companies add hydrogenated oils to their products.
Hydrogenated oils go through a process to add extra hydrogen, which makes them solid at room temperature, according to an article from Smart Balance. There are two types of hydrogenated oils found in foods: fully and partially hydrogenated.
Fully hydrogenated oils are harmless and turn into saturated fats as you digest them. Partially hydrogenated oils are dangerous, because they contain transfats. There's a definite link between transfats and heart disease, according to an article from the American Heart Association.
Check the ingredients list on the jar before you buy peanut butter. The negative effects of partially hydrogenated oils are well-known, so companies have mostly switched to fully hydrogenated — but you can never be too careful. According to an article from Berkeley Wellness, if a product contains partially hydrogenated oils, the label can say that there are no transfats as long as it contains less than 0.5 grams per serving. Over time, that adds up, so it's best to avoid partially hydrogenated oils altogether.
Sodium and Sugar
Many brands add sodium, sugar or both to their peanut butter. Without additives it can be rather bland, so it's not a big deal that they add a little salt and sugar. Because peanut butter naturally contains carbohydrates, you have to check the label to see added sugars. Before you freak out over the carb count, remember to subtract the amount of fiber per serving from total carbs, because you can't digest fiber.
Packed With Nutrients and Calories
One of the tricky things about reading the nutrition label on a jar of peanut butter is the small serving size. Generally, a serving of peanut butter is 2 tablespoons. That's not very much, especially if you go nuts for peanut butter. Keep this in mind when you're reading the nutrition label. If you have two servings of peanut butter, that's an extra 380 calories for the day, according to the nutrition facts on Smucker's Natural Creamy Peanut Butter.
Peanut Butter Nutrition
It seems crazy that a measly 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contains 190 calories, but the fat content is the culprit. Fat contains 9 calories per gram, over double the calorie cost of carbohydrates or protein, which are 4 calories per gram. Peanut butter contains around 16 grams of fat per serving, which is substantial.
If you're on a diet, eating too much peanut butter can put you over your calorie target for the day. As difficult as it is, try to exercise self-control and stick to one serving. Aside from the extraordinarily high fat content, peanut butter is packed with protein, healthy carbs and fiber. There's around 8 grams of protein per serving and 2 grams of fiber. As a delicious and healthy source of protein, peanut butter can help you round out your diet.
Peanut butter also contains potassium and calcium, two minerals that are incredibly important for your health. Some brands even have more potassium than sodium per serving, which helps even out the negative side effects of eating sodium.
Peanut Butter for Weight Loss
Because one serving of peanut butter is packed with calories, it might seem strange that it could actually help you lose or maintain weight. A 2014 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that peanut butter is filling enough that the test subjects didn't eat an excessive amount. The fiber and protein in peanut butter is very satiating and might even discourage you from eating excess calories.
Peanuts and Heart Health
In general, adding nuts to your diet is a good thing — unless you're allergic. A 2015 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that eating peanuts was a cost-effective way to improve cardiovascular health. Peanut butter has fiber, which can help prevent cardiovascular diseases.