Is Peanut Butter Good or Bad for You? (Evidence Based)

Is Peanut Butter Good or Bad for You? (Evidence Based)

Peanut butter is a delicious peanut spread that is enjoyed by millions of people. The question if peanut butter is good or bad for you is hotly debated. Peanut butter can be healthy for you because it contains vitamin, minerals, fiber, and is a good source of protein. However, some say that peanut butter is bad for you as it contains a lot of calories and fat.


What is the truth behind the health benefits of peanut butter? What can eating peanut butter do for your body, and should you be worried about the amount of fat it contains?

In this article, you will learn about scientific research into the health benefits and concerns of peanut butter. You will also find out which is the healthiest type of peanut butter to enjoy and the recommended portion size.

What is Peanut Butter?

Peanut butter is made from peanuts that have been ground into a spreadable paste. Real peanut butter should only contain peanuts and can come in smooth or chunky varieties.

Peanut butter was first produced in the 1890s as a high protein food that was easy to consume. Peanut products, including peanut butter, contain monounsaturated fatty acids as well as some saturated fats. Studies have shown that eating peanut butter in moderation can be a good source of healthy calories. (1)

The Journal of Food Science and Technology says that peanut butter is made by roasting peanuts, blanching them to remove the skins, and grinding them to make a fine paste. (2)

The health concerns about peanut butter are generally related to unhealthy added ingredients in some varieties. Some peanut butter brands contain added sugar, salt, oil or other additives to modify the flavor. However, these ingredients can turn peanut butter into a food that is bad for you.

Peanut butter has a shelf life of around 3 months once opened and longer if kept in a refrigerator. In time, peanut butter can go rancid where its bitter taste is a sign that it has gone bad.

Peanut butter also comes in a powdered form called powdered peanut butter. This is sometimes referred to as PB2 powder. Powdered peanut butter may contain little fat and fewer calories, but it also contains fewer nutrients and vitamins that peanut butter contains.

In this article, we will focus on the question if regular peanut butter is a healthy food or is it best avoided.

Is Peanut Butter Good or Bad for You?

The quick answer to the question: “is peanut butter good or bad for you?” depends on the type of peanut butter you choose.

Some of the reasons why real peanut butter is good for is because it contains healthy fats and protein. A small amount of peanut butter can give you a lot of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Many studies have linked peanut butter consumption with a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. (2)

Because it has a lot of calories, eating too much peanut butter is not good for your waistline. Also, cheaper, commercially produced peanut butter is not good for your health. These cheap peanut butter brands can be high in added sugar, saturated fats, unhealthy oils, and salt.

Peanut Butter Nutrition

The nutritional value of peanut butter shows that it is a functional food that can be enjoyed in moderation.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one serving of smooth peanut butter (2 tablespoons) contains 190 calories. This 32-gram serving of peanut butter also contains 7 g of protein. (3)

Smooth and chunky peanut butter are also good sources of dietary fiber. Two tablespoons of peanut butter have 1.6 g of fiber which is 7% of your recommended daily intake (RDI).

Peanut butter nutrition information also shows that it contains 50 mg of magnesium (12% RDI), 115 mg of phosphorus (11% RDI), and 0.5 mg manganese (23% RDI). The nutritional value of peanut butter nutrition also comes from trace amounts of calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and copper.

Because peanuts are naturally high in vitamin E, peanut butter is also a good source of this antioxidant. One serving of peanut butter contains 15% of your daily vitamin E needs (2.9 mg).

Natural peanut butter contains 3 grams of sugar. However cheaper varieties may have added sugars that are not good for you. So, it is important to check the labeling to see if your peanut butter contains healthy amounts of naturally-occurring sugar.

Peanuts are also a rich source of polyunsaturated omega fatty acids. Research has found that peanuts are high in omega-6 linoleic acid. Peanut butter has negligible amounts of omega-3 fatty acids (in the form of alpha-linolenic acid). (15) Later on the article will discuss why too much omega 6 and low amount of omega 3 is not good for you.

Peanut butter and saturated fat

When it comes to the saturated fat content in peanut butter, it is important to remember that some saturated fat in your diet is necessary.

Peanut butter contains good fats and a small amount of saturated fats. Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health say that 2 tablespoons of peanut butter have 3.3 grams of saturated fat. The recommended daily intake of saturated fats is no more than 13 grams daily. (4, 5)

Of course, peanut butter can be bad for you if you eat too much of it regularly.

Two tablespoons of peanut butter contain 12.3 grams of healthy unsaturated fats. Some studies have shown that diets high in monounsaturated fats, like the kind in peanut butter, are good for your cardiovascular health. (6)

Peanut Butter Portion Size

What is the proper portion size of peanut butter to make sure it is good for you?

Eating natural peanut butter is good for your health when you consume it in moderation.

One study found that a serving of 1 tablespoon of peanut butter was good for lowering your risk of heart disease. (7)

Even though peanut butter is a calorie-rich food, consuming 2 tablespoons a day is only 190 calories which give you 9% of your daily energy needs. Also, with this portion size, peanut butter gives you 7 g of protein and only 7 grams of carbs. This healthy portion size of peanut butter will help keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Peanut Butter Health Benefits: Why it is Good for You

There are many benefits to your health by adding a tablespoon or 2 of peanut butter as part of a healthy diet.

Studies have shown that increasing peanut butter consumption doesn’t increase your risk of dying from chronic disease. (8)

Let’s look in more detail at why eating peanut butter is good for your health.

Peanut butter is low in carbs

Two tablespoons of peanut butter only contain 7 grams of carbohydrates and nearly 2 grams of fiber.

One study involving over 83,000 women found that consuming peanuts or peanut butter helped to lower the risk of diabetes by 21%. (9)

Because peanut butter packs a punch when it comes to protein and fiber, it is digested slowly. This means it is a good source of energy if you are on a low-carb diet or have diabetes.

Find out more information about low-carb diets and why some forms of carbohydrates are necessary for your health.

Peanut butter contains healthy fats

One of the reasons why eating peanut butter is good for you is that it contains healthy fats.

Studies have shown that 50% of the fat content in peanuts is monounsaturated fatty acids. Diets high in monounsaturated fats have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease. Even though there are saturated fats in peanut butter, researchers say that peanut butter contains a “heart-friendly combination” of fats. (1)

In fact, consuming natural peanut butter can be better for your cholesterol levels than following a low-fat diet. (1)

Peanuts are high in oleic acids which are known to have many heart benefits. Studies have shown that consuming 30 grams of nuts and peanuts daily promotes good heart health. This is the equivalent of 1 tablespoon of peanut butter a day. (10, 11)

Olive oil is also a rich source of oleic acid, and you can learn more about its health benefits in my article about scientifically proven health benefits of extra virgin olive oil.

Peanut butter can help with weight maintenance

Eating a spoonful of peanut butter a day can help maintain a healthy weight.

Of course, because a tablespoon of peanut butter has nearly 100 calories, eating too much peanut butter can be fattening. However, eating moderate amounts of peanut butter on a diet can have a positive effect on your weight.

Some studies have shown that increased peanut consumption helps maintain weight due to their high protein and fiber content. (12)

Other studies have found that increasing nut intake and peanut consumption can help reduce weight gain and prevent obesity. (13)

So, peanut butter can be useful on a diet if you only eat it in moderation and watch your overall intake of calories from other foods.

If you are battling the bulge, find out what else you can do to get a slimmer waist. You may want to incorporate some of these fat-burning foods into your diet.

Peanut butter can help curb hunger

Because peanut butter has fiber and is an energy-dense, protein-rich food, it helps keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Some reports indicate that people who eat peanut butter regularly tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI). Other studies have found that consuming peanut-based snacks increases satiety and this can result in less snacking. (1, 14)

Peanut butter promotes good heart health

Having a spoon of the healthiest varieties of peanut butter can lower your risk of coronary heart disease.

One study found that women with type 2 diabetes could lower their chances of cardiovascular disease by consuming a tablespoon of peanut butter daily. (7)

The Nutrition Journal reported that regularly eating peanut butter can help to lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease by 44%. (15)

Other studies into the heart-benefits of peanut butter have found that peanut butter is just as healthy for your heart as eating whole peanuts or other nuts. (16)

Learn more about heart-healthy foods such as peanuts that can help to improve your cardiovascular health.

Peanut butter is a diabetes-friendly food

Natural peanut butter is a healthy food to eat if you suffer from diabetes and need to watch your carbs.

The journal BMJ reported that increased consumption of peanut butter has a protective effect against diabetes. The study found that over a 16-year period consuming up to 140 grams of nuts and peanuts a week helps lower the risk of diabetes by 27%. Peanut butter was also good for helping to prevent diabetes. (17)

Other studies have found that women with diabetes can benefit from peanut butter. Having peanut butter at breakfast time regulated blood glucose response after eating and helped control appetite. (18)

One study found that consuming 2 tablespoons of peanut butter controls blood glucose spikes and can help control glucose levels. (19)

Learn about more foods that help manage diabetes and won’t cause spikes in your blood glucose.

Is Peanut Butter Bad for You?

Of course, peanut butter contains a lot of fat. So, eating too much natural peanut butter can have side effects of weight gain and higher cholesterol.

However, there are some varieties of peanut butter that are definitely unhealthy and are best avoided.

Commercial peanut butter can contain added sugar, salt, and fat

Some of the worst peanut butter spreads contain added ingredients such as vegetable oils, sugar, and salt.

For example, true nut butter should contain at least 90% nuts of the ingredients. Of course, the healthiest kinds of peanut butter only contain 100% peanuts. However, the amount of peanuts in some peanut spreads may be as little as 40% of the total ingredients. (20)

Cheaper, commercially-produced peanut butter or spreads can contain salt, sugars, emulsifiers, and stabilizers. This can result in an unhealthy peanut butter that doesn’t have the nutritional value of pure peanut butter. Some bad peanut butters can contain up to 5% of hydrogenated vegetable oil and 6% sugar or sweeteners. (20)

Two tablespoons of unhealthy commercial peanut butter may contain around 140 mg of sodium. This is about 6% of your recommended daily intake. This is compared to 5 mg of sodium in healthy, natural peanut butter. (21, 3)

Find out about warning signs of consuming too much salt in this article.

Some peanut butter varieties contain trans fats

One of the reasons why consuming some types of peanut butter is not a good idea is that they may contain trans fats.

Trans fats in your diet increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Sometimes trans fats are listed as hydrogenated vegetable oils on product labels. (22)

Scientists warn that trans fats are dangerous for your health even at low levels. Some manufacturers add hydrogenated vegetable oils containing trans-fatty acids to peanut butter. In some cases, this could be as much as 2% of the ingredients. Even though the trans fats weren’t detectable in the finished product, many people choose to avoid these kinds of potentially-unhealthy peanut butter. (23)

Learn more about the dangers of trans fats and how these types of foods can increase your risk of inflammatory chronic disease.

Peanut butter is a potential source of aflatoxins

Although natural 100% peanut butter is generally a healthy food, it may contain harmful substances.

Researchers have found that peanuts can contain a mold called aflatoxins. Some commercial plant butters have high levels of these fungal pathogens. Aflatoxins have been linked to liver and kidney cancer and impaired child growth. (24, 25)

However, you shouldn’t be too alarmed at this fact. Studies have shown that the roasting and blanching of peanuts to create butter reduces aflatoxins by nearly 90%. This reduces aflatoxins to well within acceptable levels. (26)

There is no evidence to suggest that short-term consumption of aflatoxins has a detrimental effect on health. However, there is not enough evidence to say what any long-term consequence could be. Aflatoxins can also occur in rice, cereals, and corn. (27, 28)

Peanut butter may increase omega-6 fatty acid consumption

One of the disadvantages of peanut butter is that it contains high levels of omega-6 fatty acids and low omega-3.

Some studies indicate that too much omega-6 in the body can lead to inflammation and increase the risk of chronic disease. A diet rich in omega-6 and low in omega-3 can lead to obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. (29)

One serving of peanut butter has 4,413 mg of omega-6 but only 24 mg of omega-3 in the form of alpha-linolenic acid.

However, not all studies have linked high levels of linoleic acid omega-6 that is found in peanuts to increased inflammation. (30, 31)

One way to make sure that peanut butter is healthy for you is to take omega-3 fish oil supplements. This will help to balance the ratio of omega-3 and omega-6.

Peanut butter allergy

One of the reasons why peanut butter can be bad for some people is if they have an allergic reaction to peanuts.

Peanut allergies are very common and some reports indicate they cause the majority of allergic food reactions. Allergies to peanut-based foods can cause itching, wheezing, gastrointestinal upset, and anaphylaxis. These symptoms can appear up to 8 hours after consuming peanuts or peanut butter. (32)

If you have an allergy to peanuts, it’s important to completely avoid peanut butter and any other foods that may contain peanuts.

How to Choose the Healthiest Peanut Butter

If you are looking for a healthy peanut butter, then it is important to choose the varieties that have no fillers. The best and healthiest peanut butter should only contain 100% peanuts and naturally-occurring sugars.

To avoid peanut butters that are bad for you, don’t buy products that have added vegetable oil, sugar, salt, or other additives.

If possible, always choose organic varieties of healthy peanut butter that only contain peanuts and nothing else. It is good to remember that some organic varieties also contain added oil in the form of organic palm oil or soybean oil.

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