If there is one thing peanut butter gets praised for, it is for the versatility. While the popular spread can be used to enhance a variety of meals and snacks, it also deserves some due credit for its health benefits.
One standard serving of unsalted peanut butter, which is around two tablespoons, contains 191 calories. The rest of its nutritional profile includes 16 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein, 7 grams of carbs, 5 grams of sodium, 4 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of fiber.
“Nuts and nut butter, including peanut butter, used to get a bad rap because we were so fat-phobic for years,” said registered dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, creator of Better Than Dieting. “Actually, it could keep you more satiated and stop you from snacking on worse things.”
Indeed, peanut butter contained unsaturated fat which can be a part of a heart-healthy diet. Dr. Walter Willett, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, noted this type of fat “will reduce blood cholesterol and risk of heart disease.”
It was only in recent years when the food industry has taken adequate measures to reduce trans fatty acids and alter their products. As a result, studies examining older data (i.e. from the 1980s and 1990s) to this failed to find health benefits in peanut butter consumption even though having nuts was linked to lower mortality rates.
The American Heart Association recommended reducing the intake of saturated and trans fats, opting for unsaturated fats instead. Besides peanut butter, other sources include avocados, salmon, olives, walnuts, trout, liquid vegetable oils, and more.
As for what variety to use, it all comes down to reading the nutrition label thoroughly. Experts recommend brands that mostly use peanuts and include less of added ingredients like sugar. It is also best to avoid brands that contain hydrogenated vegetable oils, which are unhealthy fats. Whether the peanut butter is smooth or crunchy does not make a difference.
“Just remember to check the label for ‘0’ trans fats and preferably ‘0’ added sugars,” advised Linda V. Van Horn, registered dietitian and a professor at Northwestern University. She added “there is no concern with ground-up peanuts… otherwise known as ‘natural’ peanut butter.”