Is peanut butter good for you? The answer may surprise you! See why it’s good and why it’s bad in this article— plus which brands are best.
Peanut Butter: The Old School Nut
If you were born in the 70s or earlier, peanut butter is synonymous with school lunches. PB&J sandwiches were found in nearly every lunchbox; it was simple, cheap, and didn’t require any refrigeration.
It’s still a popular and convenient food for toddlers. In fact, most kids in the U.S. will eat around 1,500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by the time they reach college!
But is peanut butter good for you? Find out in this post and video.
Is Peanut Butter Good For You?
There’s no denying that peanut butter is tasty, and surprisingly, it can be good for you too!
- It tastes good. Toddlers usually love this stuff and so do adults. It almost has an addictive quality as I know many who struggle with not eating the whole jar.
- It does have nutrients. PB is high in niacin, vitamin E, and folate. Just one tablespoon of peanut butter can dish up 12-15 mcg of folate per serving, which is especially important for pregnant mamas. It’s also high in antioxidants, monounsaturated fats and polyphenols.
- It might help prevent certain diseases. In fact, in one study, those that ate peanuts 5 times a week, may lower their risk for coronary heart disease by up to 23%! It also shows promise against Type II Diabetes in women. But, let’s keep in mind, there are many other sources of antioxidants and polyphenols.
- It’s cheaper than other nut butters. PB is a budget-friendly option when it comes to nut spreads.
- It doesn’t require refrigeration. Assembling a PB&J sandwich is super easy!
A Word About Peanut Allergies…
Potentially prevent a peanut allergy by introducing early. If you’ve noticed that nut allergies in kids have increased in recent years, you’re not imagining it. Because it’s such an epidemic, many schools have adopted a nut-free policy.
However, the latest research shows the “avoidance approach” to allergens has actually increased the number of allergies. Several studies show that it’s better to introduce potential allergens at an early age.
Bottom line: PB can be an important part of your child’s rotating meal plans to help reduce the risk of developing allergies.
Is Peanut Butter Bad For You?
Even though peanut butter does have important nutrients like folate, not all types of the spread are created equally. In fact, some brands and flavors can be detrimental to your health.
- Most peanut butter contains aflatoxins or naturally occurring fungal toxins. These are metabolized by the liver, but in high doses, these toxins are considered to be a carcinogen (cancer causing). Early exposure to high levels of aflatoxins is associated with stunted growth in children. (source)
- Peanut butter is correlated with certain types of cancer. The spread contains peanut lectin. In isolated colon cancer cells, it promoted growth. High doses of aflatoxins are also linked to liver cancer. (source)
- Oils used in PB can contribute to clogged arteries. In fact, scientists showed that peanut oil can induce atherosclerosis in cholesterol-fed rats, rabbits and primates. (source)
- Peanut allergies can be deadly for some people. Peanuts are one of the top allergens and can cause life-threatening reactions.
How to Make Peanut Butter Healthy?
If you love peanut butter, there is good news: you can still enjoy it in a healthy way. In fact, there are several ways to make better choices.
- Eat peanut butter in moderation. Like so many aspects of a well-balanced diet, moderation is key.
- Rotate with other nut butters. Try almond butter, cashew butter, or even sunflower seed butter for a cross-spectrum of nutrients.
- Use the “big brand” options. Studies show that the big brands (i.e. Peter Pan, Jif and Skippy) contain the lowest levels of aflatoxins. Another big brand — and our favorite — also is low in aflatoxins: Smuckers Natural Peanut Butter. Not only does Smuckers taste good, and doesn’t add sugar or palm oil like the other big brands. Smuckers also tested at less than 1 ppb (parts per billion) of aflatoxin.
- Do not get health food store “grind your own”. Believe it or not, the fresh store-ground peanut butters tested highest in aflatoxins — a whopping 10 ppb! (source)
- When you eat it, ENJOY your peanut butter 🙂
What about peanut butter and babies. Is it safe?
Great question. It’s good to introduce peanuts (in minuscule amounts) to infants, but peanut butter is a choking hazard. How do you handle? Learn all about safely introducing peanuts in my article allergies in babies.
So, based on all of this, is peanut butter good for you? Overall, it’s not the best nut butter out there. However, I do give my kids here and there to prevent allergies and to rotate their food.
If you’re stuck in the PB rut, give almond butter, cashew butter, and macadamia nut butter a try. Delicious! (And we haven’t even tackle the seed butters out there like tahini and sunflower butter.) Yes, they’re more expensive, but hopefully we’re rotating our diets enough that we’re not eating daily.
How about YOU? Do you eat peanut butter? Do your kids? Have you found a tasty alternative?