A deceptively simple concoction, peanut butter is essentially roasted peanuts whipped up into the consistency of a spreadable paste.
Whether smooth or chunky, salted or sweetened, peanut butter is a staple in kitchen pantries everywhere – perhaps because it lends itself equally well as a spread, sauce, dessert, snack, and smoothie. There are hundreds of recipes that use PB to balance and compliment sweet and savory flavors. Or maybe you prefer to eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon.
Per ½ cup serving, peanut butter provides plenty of protein (50% of the daily value), dietary fiber (24%), and healthy fats (78%). Although peanut butter is quite calorie-dense, it is a good source of vitamin E, niacin, vitamin B6, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and iron.
More than half of all peanuts grown in the US are made into peanut butter. Read on to discover the myriad health benefits of this rich, nutty spread.
7 Health Benefits Of Peanut Butter
1. Peanuts are Rich in Antioxidants
Like other plant foods, peanuts are enriched with antioxidants that support good overall health.
Resveratrol, most notably found in red grapes and wine, is a powerful free radical scavenger. Although human research on this polyphenolic compound is still ongoing, it shows promise for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative diseases. Resveratrol is present in both the nut and seed coats of peanuts.
Peanuts are also a good source of p-coumaric acid, a phytochemical found widely in the plant kingdom. Not only is p-courmaric acid a robust antioxidant, pre-clinical trials have shown that it is a capable anti-inflammatory, it improves the efficiency and survival of probiotics in the gut, and it prevented induced blood clots from forming.
And as a bonus to peanut butter lovers, the amount of p-courmaric acid is boosted when peanuts are roasted before being consumed.
2. Eating Nuts Lowers Risk of Death From Major Diseases
Even though peanuts are legumes and not true nuts, eating them along with other kinds of nuts had the effect of lowering the risk of mortality from many common diseases, according to a large cohort study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Beginning in 1976, researchers tracked the dietary habits of 118,962 men and women over the course of 30 years. Those whose diets regularly included nuts were leaner, more likely to exercise and take multivitamins, and were less likely to smoke. The nut group had reduced rates of deaths due to cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease.
They also found that the more nuts you eat, the better: people who consumed nuts seven or more times per week had a 20% lower mortality rate than those who did not eat nuts at all.
3. Eating Nuts May Help You Lose Weight
Considering that each ½ cup serving of peanut butter consists of 588 calories, it seems counterintuitive that it could help with weight loss. And yet, eating a diet rich in nuts is associated with lower body mass index according to a 2003 review.
Taking together all the existing evidence, the reviewers found that there is no relationship between eating nuts and weight gain. In one study from 2002 for example, 15 healthy adults of normal weight added 500 calories per day of nuts to their normal diets for several weeks. Though they were expected to gain an additional eight pounds due to the extra calories in nuts, on average the subjects gained only two pounds.
There are several possible reasons why eating nuts doesn’t make us fat. Nuts are high in fiber, protein, and energy, which have the effect of improving satiety, making us feel full. Nuts are also rich in healthy fats which help boost the amount of calories burned at rest. People who enjoy nuts tend to be more physically active too. And we lose some of the fat content in nuts every time we poop – as much as 4 – 7% of dietary fat in peanut butter is excreted in stool.
4. Peanuts Protect Brain Health
Niacin – or vitamin B3 – is needed to turn food into energy. It helps repair DNA and keeps the nervous system, digestive system, and skin healthy.
Though our bodies naturally produce niacin, eating foods rich in niacin keeps the brain healthier for longer, according to large cohort study involving 6,158 participants aged 65 and older. Eating a niacin enriched diet was associated with a protective effect against cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. The higher the intake (up to 22.4 mg per day), the slower the annual rate of decline in cognitive abilities like thinking and memory.
Peanut butter is a good source of niacin, supplying 13.4 mg per ½ cup or 67% of the daily value.
5. Peanuts Lower the Risk of Gallstone Disease
Gallstones – ranging in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball – are hardened bits of digestive fluid that can form in the gallbladder. Although some people with gallstones are asymptomatic, others may experience intense pain in the upper right abdomen, requiring surgery to have the gallbladder removed entirely. We still do not know what causes gallstones to form.
Because nuts possess several compounds that protect against gallstone disease, researchers tracked the eating habits of over 80,000 women for 20 years. They found that those who consumed five ounces of nuts (including peanuts and peanut butter) per week had a significantly lower risk of developing gallstones that required surgery than women who never or only rarely ate nuts.
6. Peanuts Have Anti-Cancer Properties
Peanuts are a good source of beta-sitosterol, a type of plant sterol that is chemically similar to cholesterol.
However, phytosterols are frequently added to processed foods and refined vegetable oils like margarine, and consuming too much of them can actually increase the risk of heart disease. But obtaining it from natural sources, like peanuts, is a safe and healthy way to include these cancer fighting plant sterols in your diet.
7. Peanuts Reduce the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder marked by high blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and lack of insulin in the body. A major risk factor is diet; including lots of saturated fat and trans fats in your foods can impair the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose and eventually become less responsive to insulin.
But healthy fats, like unsaturated fat found in nuts, have a beneficial impact on metabolic health. In a 16-year study involving nearly 84,000 women, consuming nuts regularly was inversely associated with diabetes risk. Eating at least 5 ounces of peanuts per week offered significantly greater protection.
How to Make Peanut Butter At Home
Nuttier and more flavorful than conventional peanut butter brands, making peanut butter at home is insanely easy. All you need are a good supply of unsalted, roasted, and preferably organic peanuts (such as this bulk bag) and a food processor.
To make a half cup of peanut butter:
- Pour 2 cups of roasted peanuts into a food processor or blender.
- Process for about 5 minutes or until peanuts become creamy.
- For sweeter peanut butter, add 2 teaspoons of honey.
- For saltier PB, add ½ teaspoon of sea salt.
- For a creamier spread, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of peanut oil.
- For crunchy peanut butter, pulse 1 cup of peanuts separately and stir into the finished PB.
Transfer your homemade peanut butter to a glass container and store in the refrigerator.
3 Best Organic Peanut Butter Brands
Or if you prefer to purchase natural peanut butter, these brands are about as pure as it gets:
Spread The Love – Made without salt, sugar, or palm oil, this jar contains just one ingredient, certified organic peanuts.
PBfit – This peanut butter protein powder makes it easy to get your daily PB fix. Use it to make protein shakes and smoothies or just add a touch of water to turn it into a creamy spread.