Raw peanuts and peanut butter are both healthy choices on a diabetes diet. Choose plain raw peanuts and unsalted peanut butter. Either option can fit comfortably within a diabetes meal plan and help fulfill your protein requirements. Peanuts, peanut butter and other nuts and nut spreads provide excellent sources of plant-based protein.
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Protein and Calories
Both peanuts and peanut butter belong to the protein foods group. In general, you should consume about 2 to 5 ounces of protein at each meal on a diabetes diet. One half ounce of raw peanuts or 1 tablespoon of peanut butter is equivalent to 1 ounce from the protein foods group. Peanuts and peanut butter are energy-dense, meaning they contain a high amount of calories in a small portion. Peanut butter is slightly higher in calories, containing about 94 calories per serving, while peanuts contain about 80.5 calories per serving. Because peanuts and peanut butter are high in calories, keep your portions small to help maintain a healthy weight on a diabetes diet.
Nuts contain very small amounts of carbohydrate. Consuming a serving of them will not cause your blood glucose levels to rise. Foods that contain 5 grams of total carbohydrate or less per serving are considered a free carbohydrate on a diabetes diet. One serving of raw peanuts -- 1/2 ounce -- contains 1.76 grams of total carbohydrate. One serving of plain peanut butter, without added sugar – 1 tablespoon -- contains 3.18 grams of total carbohydrate. Peanut butter is higher in carbohydrates than raw peanuts; however, since both options contain so few carbohydrates, either choice will help promote stable blood glucose levels.
Sugar, starch and fiber compose your total carbohydrate intake. Raw peanuts have less total carbohydrate, but more fiber than peanut butter. For this reason, raw peanuts have a slight edge over peanut butter. Fiber, unlike sugar and starch, does not break down into glucose and will not elevate your blood sugar levels. Dietary fiber also helps prevent type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, according to a review in the August 2012 issue of "Metabolism." Researchers note that fiber delivers an added benefit of boosting the immune system. A 1/2-ounce serving of raw peanuts contains 1.2 grams of fiber, and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter contains 0.95 grams of fiber.
Peanuts and peanut butter both provide excellent sources of heart-healthy unsaturated fats. A 1/2 ounce of raw peanuts contains 3.46 grams of monounsaturated fat and 2.2 grams of polyunsaturated fat; 1 tablespoon of peanut butter contains 3.79 grams of monounsaturated fat and 2.21 grams of polyunsaturated fat. But while peanuts and peanut butter contain nearly identical amounts of healthy unsaturated fats per serving, peanut butter is significantly higher in unhealthy saturated fat. One tablespoon of peanut butter contains 1.64 grams of saturated fat, nearly twice as much fat as the 0.9 grams in 1/2 ounce of raw peanuts. The amount of saturated fat in both is low compared to most sources of animal protein.
- American Diabetes Association: Food and Fitness – Protein and Vegetarian Diets
- American Diabetes Association: Food and Fitness – Lean Meats
- University of California at San Francisco: Diabetes Diet Exchange Lists
- American Diabetes Association: Food and Fitness – Carbohydrates
- Metabolism: The Health Benefits of Dietary Fiber: Beyond the Usual Suspects of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, Cardiovascular Disease and Colon Cancer