If you’re choosing a brand that’s free of salt and artificial ingredients, eating peanut butter in moderation isn’t bad for you - in fact, it’s good for you.
Some peanut butter is bad for you. There are varieties that are oversalted - they can up the amount of sodium in your diet, which over time can increase your risk of chronic disease. Ditto to those brands that come with hydrogenated oils; too much of that, and your arteries will eventually clog. Some peanut butter comes with artificial ingredients for color, taste, and preservation; those should be avoided in general.
Eating "natural" peanut butter helps to sidestep most of these problems - there's no salt, no preservatives, and no hydrogenated oils. Some natural brands are marketed as organic; they're more expensive, with dubious upsides compared to their non-organic shelfmates. Unsalted non-organic peanut butter is a safe and generally healthy choice.
One caveat: peanut butter comes with too many omega 6 fatty acids. They aren't bad for you provided that you're eating the right ratio - about 2 portions of omega six foods for every one portion of omega three foods. The ratio in peanut butter is way off, unfortunately - some varieties have 20 portions of omega 6 to everyone 1 of omega three. You'll want to up your omega 3 intake through foods like fish or flaxseed if you're eating a lot of peanut butter. An unbalanced ratio can put you at risk of inflammation, heart disease, and other chronic problems.
These problems aside, peanut butter isn't a particularly unhealthy choice. It's a great source of protein that you can eat without the environmental and health worries associated with meat or soybeans. It can speed up your metabolism. Chunky peanut butter is a great source of fiber, which you need for a healthy gut. The monosaturated fats in peanut butter are also healthy in moderation - they help with weight loss, vitamin absorption, and cholesterol.
The monosaturated fats in peanut butter, along with fiber and key nutrients, help to regulate insulin. That means that peanut butter may reduce your risk of diabetes. A large study of more than 80,000 women published in 2002 found as much. Eat a serving of peanut butter at least five times a week and you can drop your risk of diabetes by about a fifth, according to that study
Possible long-term side effects
- if eaten in excess:
- increased blood pressure
- increased cholesterol
- weight gain
- cardiovascular disease
Ingredients to be aware of
- partially hydrogenated oils
- artificial flavors
- added sugar
- saturated fat
- excessive amount of calories
- natural peanut butter, eaten in moderation:
- may help prevent cardiovascular disease
- may help prevent cancer
- may help prevent type 2 diabetes
- great source of protein
- promotes bone and muscle health