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Are Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Bad For You?



Short answer

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are one of the most popular chocolate candies that are high in fat, calories and sugar. There are some additional additives that are of concern and ingesting a large amount of this product can lead to excess weight, risk of type 2 diabetes, elevated cholesterol and triglycerides and risk of metabolic syndrome.



Recommended Alternative

Long answer

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in the traditional original variety includes milk chocolate, milk fat, non-fat milk and lactose.  Milk chocolate does not carry the benefits of dark chocolate but Reese’s does carry a dark chocolate variety.

Chocolate is derived from the cacao bean which is the unprocessed form of chocolate. These beans are considered a super food because they are powerful natural antioxidants, natural anti-inflammatories and contain essential minerals and vitamins. These are beneficial nutrients that support better health however the processing of chocolate for retail sales often strips these nutrients down, making them less effective for supporting internal health. Milk chocolate contains milk products and often times more sugar than dark chocolate thus significantly decreasing its nutrient value.  With the traditional Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups the ingredients are full of lactose and therefore not suited for someone who is lactose intolerant. Dark chocolate is less likely to be processed as heavily as the milk chocolate and tends to preserve its nutrient density better. However the Reese’s version of dark chocolate peanut butter cups is still full of added sugars and preservatives. Dark chocolate tends to be lower in fat, calories and sugar so if you are looking for a chocolate with more health benefits then choose a product that contains cacao at least 70 % or higher.

The main nutritional concern with Reese’s Peanut Butter cups is the added sugar. This sugar provides excess calories without any additional benefit. These types of added sugars are true empty calories and are linked with weight gain and chronic diseases that are linked to excess weight. It has become obvious that with processed high sugar containing snacks the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high blood lipids and tooth decay escalate. One Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup contains 11 grams of added sugar. According to the AHA (American Heart Association) a female should limit their daily added sugar intake to 24 grams daily and men around 36 grams daily. When you do the math the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is not worth the high amount of added sugar.  Homemade organic chocolate peanut butter cups are a better option.

Another ingredient in Reese’s Peanut Butter cups bars is soy lecithin which is used as an emulsifier. This is a popular ingredient in many unhealthy snacks that is usually genetically modified and may have left over hexane after processing. The FDA does not check for hexane levels so it is unclear if this chemical residue is present and may cause allergic reactions and/or gastrointestinal upset.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups contain PGPR (polyglycerol polyricinoleate). It goes without saying that “if you cannot pronounce it-you should probably not eat it!” This compound comes from castor beans and is also used as an emulsifier. This ingredient increases the shelf life of the product and decreases the thickness of the chocolate. It is much cheaper than cocoa butter and is becoming very popular in the chocolate snack world. The FDA states it is generally regarded as safe but long term studies are not available.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups contain TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhodroquinone) – another impossible ingredient to pronounce!  It is used to extend shelf life of foods but is also used in varnishes, lacquers, pesticides, perfumes and cosmetics. In low amounts the FDA deems it safe but this compound is contained in numerous food products and long term studies are not available.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are not a great snack option.  If you crave the peanut butter and chocolate combination there are organic options and many organic recipes that you can create on your own.  I would skip this product based on its preservatives, emulsifiers, high fat content, high caloric content and excess added sugars.

Possible short-term side effects

  • allergic reaction
  • gastrointestinal upset
  • elevated glucose levels

Possible long-term side effects

  • weight gain
  • elevated glucose levels
  • metabolic syndrome
  • toxicity from the preservatives

Ingredients to be aware of

Healthier alternatives

  • homemade organic dark peanut butter cups

Our Wellness Pick (what is this?)

Justin's Mini PB Cups

  • Organic ingredients
  • Rich dark chocolate
  • Peanut butter filling
  • Convenient mini size
  • 6 pack value
Learn More!

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Dr. Becky Maes
Published on: 07-16-2018
Last updated: 11-30-2023

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Dr. Becky Maes
Published on: 07-16-2018
Last updated: 11-30-2023

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