Is Peanut Butter Healthy to Eat?

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Enjoy a peanut butter sandwich for lunch without guilt.
Enjoy a peanut butter sandwich for lunch without guilt. (Image: Karen Sarraga/iStock/Getty Images)

A smear of peanut butter on your toast, bagel or apple slice seems like an indulgence, given its rich, creamy taste. The spread, however, is actually much healthier than you might think. As long as you keep your portions in check, peanut butter can be a smart addition to your meal plan.

Nutritional Benefits

Peanut butter is packed with protein and fiber, as well as other micronutrients, making it a healthy part of your diet. Each 2-tablespoon serving contains 7 grams of protein, as well as 1.5 grams of dietary fiber. Additionally, peanut butter is a significant source of niacin, with 4.2 milligrams per serving, or 26 percent of the recommended dietary allowance for men and 30 percent for women. It also contains 107 milligrams of phosphorus, which is 15 percent of the RDA for adults, as well as trace amounts of potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, folate and vitamin E.

Ratio of Saturated Versus Unsaturated Fats

A serving of peanut butter is about 80 percent unsaturated fat, with approximately 3.3 grams of saturated fat and 12.3 grams of unsaturated fat. According to Walter C. Willett, M.D., on the Harvard Medical School website, this compares favorably with the ratio of fats in olive oil. However, double-check the nutrition labels on commercial peanut butters, which can contain unhealthy partially hydrogenated oils. Avoid this by purchasing "natural" varieties of peanut butter. Additionally, be wary of reduced-fat peanut butter. While it might have less fat, it will still contain the same number of calories and more sugar or carbohydrates.

Impact on Type 2 Diabetes

Regular consumption of peanut butter could have an effect on risk of diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. In a study published in 2002 in the Journal of the American Medication Association, peanut butter consumption lowers the risk of Type 2 diabetes in women if it replaces refined grain products or red or processed meats. In another study, published in 2013 in the British Journal of Nutrition, eating peanut butter at breakfast helped control blood sugar over a large portion of the day.

Health Considerations

Because peanut butter is fairly high in calories, at 191 per 2-tablespoon serving, it's necessary to watch the portion size to ensure you don't go overboard. In addition, standard peanut butter contains 136 milligrams of sodium per serving, or about 6 percent of what you should limit yourself to daily. However, the reduced-sodium variety has just 65 milligrams of sodium per serving. You can also limit the sodium by grinding the peanuts into butter yourself and not adding any extra salt.

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