Peanut Butter: Can I eat it and lose weight?

Peanut Butter on a SpoonPeanut Butter on a Spoon

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As a child, I loved to eat peanut butter sandwiches after exercise.  I used to have 1-2 after each football and basketball practice.  It is a staple food of many children and teenagers in America, but somewhere after that age,  peanut butter becomes vilified as a calorie rich weight gain villian.   The questions is can you eat peanut butter and still lose weight and the answer is absolutely yes.  

Peanut Butter in Jar

Figure 1:  Peanut Butter in Jar

Trivia Question
Which two presidents were peanut farmers?  Read this post and I will reveal the answer.  

Benefits of Peanut Butter:

Figure 1: Peanut Butter Nutrition

Figure 2: Peanut Butter Nutrition: Simply Jiff

I know calling peanut butter a diet foot may seem like an oxymoron, but it is rich in nutrition.  It has fiber, protein, and health monounsaturated fats.  Peanut butter has a decent supply of vitamins and minerals.  It has 10% of you dietary requirements for Vitamin E.  Even though it is high in calories and fat, peanut butter is slowly absorbed and tends to stick around longer than many lower fat options.  Peanut butter is high in magnesium (as high as 12% of the RDA) and diets low in magnesium have been linked to a risk for Diabetes type II and insulin resistance [1].  

Peanut Butter on Bread

Figure 3:  Peanut Butter on Bread

We are talking about peanut butter but the same is true for many other nut butters and even whole nuts.  I would high recommend mixed butters and almonds / almond butters.  The uninformed like to vilify nuts and nut butters as being high in saturated fats and calories.  Although this was partially true prior to the ban on artifical fats that are formed by hydrogenation healthy fats.  The process of partially hydrogenating unsaturated fats to make them solid improves consitency and taste but makes them extremely unhealthy.  These artificial fats are a major cause of premature atherosclerosis (clogged arteries).  Peanuts never contained trans fats and peanut butter no longer contains them in America.  

Peanut Nutrition – Pros Vs. Cons

But I have heard that peanut butter is unhealthy.  Is this true?  Nothing can be further from he truth,  

Pros:

  1. Cardiovascular: Peanuts are high in monounsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats have been shown to be cardio-protective and lower LDL and raise HDL. There is a lot of research to back up the use of peanuts to lower your risk of coronary artery disease [2],[3].
  2. Diabetes Type II: Increased plant protein intake is associated with a lower risk of diabetes type II.  In one study of protein intake, substituting peanuts and peanut butter for processed meat resulted in the largest diabetes risk reduction (21%) [4],[5].
  3. Cancer: Nuts have been found to have a protective effect from various types of cancer.  Frequent nut consumption after diagnosis was associated with significantly reduced overall mortality from prostate cancer [6].  Also, nuts appears to provide  protective effect on colon and rectum cancer [7].  
  4. Brain Health: Peanuts have been shown to improve memory and quicken the mind.  Folate deficiency, in particular, has been tied to neural and behavioral health symptoms [8].  Vitamin E has been shown to help reduce mild cognitive deficits or prevent them from worsening [9].    Peanuts also contain high levels of resveratrol which may reduce nerve degeneration with age.  
  5. Nutrition:  One serving of peanut butter has 2 grams of fiber, 7-9 grams of protein, and they are a good source of vitamins vitamin E and Niacin.  Peanut butter is also high in magnesium with nearly 12% of the RDA.  
  6. Filling and Obesity: The fiber and moderate levels of fat slow digestion and are filling.  One study, found that eating peanut butter resulted in a lower desire-to-eat ratings among those in the study [10].  This is postulated to be due to Protein YY which promoted satiety [11]. Another study of children who eat peanuts and those who do not found that children who had peanuts in their diet had less obesity [12]. Fraser in 1992 found that there was a protective effect from nuts against coronary vascular event and reduced obesity [13]
  7. Lower cholesterol:  Peanuts, peanut butter, and peanut oil are high in heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  Diets high in this type of fats result in lower LDL and higher HDL [14].

Cons:

  1. Allergy: People who are allergic or have a family member who is allergic should avoid all nuts.  This is not a treatable allergy except by avoidance.  It is life threatening.
  2. High in calories:  Peanuts and peanut butter is dense in calories.  Some peanut butters have sugar added.  Read the labels!  It has a relatively small volume that can quickly add up.  Ten tablespoons of most brands of peanut butter has over 1000 calories.  
  3. Addictive:  Some people cannot stop at a single serving.  If you cannot stop, it will add up quickly.  

There are many benefits to adding peanut better to your diet.  I personally think that the benefits outweigh the negatives unless you happen to be allergic.  In this case you should avoid peanuts like they are the plague.  

Can peanut butter be a helpful addition to your diet for weight loss?  

Peanut Butter on a Spoon

Figure 4:  Tempting Peanut Butter on a Spoon

Yes.  There are no magic calories in peanut butter but as it has been said before, peanut butter is rich in calories.  As if the research above was no enough, peanut butter is health and can be quite fulfilling.  There is nothing as a satisfying as a serving peanut butter, but to some folks, they are unable to stop at one serving.  If it fulfills a craving and you can limit it to 2-3 serving a week, keep eating it.  Those who can’t stop, should remove it from their home. 

Enjoying the flavor and texture of peanut butter in moderation is our best bet. Whether trying to lose weight or simply trying to be more healthier, peanut butter can be a good choice for a meal or snack a few times a week.   You have to be able to stop at one serving.  If you find yourself going back for more after the first serving more often than not, it’s best to avoid peanut butter altogether.

Trivia Question and Answer
Which two presidents were peanut farmers?  Thomas Jefferson and Jimmy Carter.

 

Footnotes
[1]Larsson and Wolk, “Magnesium Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Meta-Analysis.”
[2]Albert et al., “Nut Consumption and Decreased Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death in the Physicians’ Health Study.”
[3]Bao et al., “Association of Nut Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality.”
[4]Malik et al., “Dietary Protein Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women.”
[5]Larsson and Wolk, “Magnesium Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Meta-Analysis.”
[6]Wang et al., “Nut Consumption and Prostate Cancer Risk and Mortality.”
[7]González and Salas-Salvadó, “The Potential of Nuts in the Prevention of Cancer.”
[8]Lim et al., “Nutritional Factors Affecting Mental Health.”
[9]Shinohara and Yamada, “[Vitamin E and Alzheimer’s Disease].”
[10]Reis et al., “Acute and Second-Meal Effects of Peanuts on Glycaemic Response and Appetite in Obese Women with High Type 2 Diabetes Risk: A Randomised Cross-over Clinical Trial.”
[11]Parry, Martorano, and Cotton, “Management of Life-Threatening Asthma with Intravenous Isoproterenol Infusions.”
[12]Moreno et al., “Peanut Consumption in Adolescents Is Associated with Improved Weight Status.”
[13]Fraser et al., “A Possible Protective Effect of Nut Consumption on Risk of Coronary Heart Disease. The Adventist Health Study.”
[14]Kris-Etherton et al., “High-Monounsaturated Fatty Acid Diets Lower Both Plasma Cholesterol and Triacylglycerol Concentrations.”

References:

Albert, CM, JM Gaziano, WC Willett, and JE Manson. “Nut Consumption and Decreased Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death in the Physicians’ Health Study.” Archives of Internal Medicine 162, no. 12 (June 24, 2002): 1382–87 [PubMed]
Bao, Y, J Han, FB Hu, EL Giovannucci, MJ Stampfer, WC Willett, and CS Fuchs. “Association of Nut Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality.” The New England Journal of Medicine 369, no. 21 (November 21, 2013): 2001–11 [PubMed]
Fraser, GE, J Sabaté, WL Beeson, and TM Strahan. “A Possible Protective Effect of Nut Consumption on Risk of Coronary Heart Disease. The Adventist Health Study.” Archives of Internal Medicine 152, no. 7 (July 1, 1992): 1416–24 [PubMed]
González, CA, and J Salas-Salvadó. “The Potential of Nuts in the Prevention of Cancer.” The British Journal of Nutrition 96 Suppl 2 (November 1, 2006): S87-94 [PubMed]
Kris-Etherton, PM, TA Pearson, Y Wan, RL Hargrove, K Moriarty, V Fishell, and TD Etherton. “High-Monounsaturated Fatty Acid Diets Lower Both Plasma Cholesterol and Triacylglycerol Concentrations.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 70, no. 6 (December 1, 1999): 1009–15 [PubMed]
Larsson, SC, and A Wolk. “Magnesium Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Meta-Analysis.” Journal of Internal Medicine 262, no. 2 (August 1, 2007): 208–14 [PubMed]
Lim, SY, EJ Kim, A Kim, HJ Lee, HJ Choi, and SJ Yang. “Nutritional Factors Affecting Mental Health.” Clinical Nutrition Research 5, no. 3 (July 1, 2016): 143–52 [PubMed]
Malik, VS, Y Li, DK Tobias, A Pan, and FB Hu. “Dietary Protein Intake and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women.” American Journal of Epidemiology 183, no. 8 (April 15, 2016): 715–28 [PubMed]
Moreno, JP, CA Johnston, AA El-Mubasher, MA Papaioannou, C Tyler, M Gee, and JP Foreyt. “Peanut Consumption in Adolescents Is Associated with Improved Weight Status.” Nutrition Research (New York, N.Y.) 33, no. 7 (July 1, 2013): 552–56 [PubMed]
Parry, WH, F Martorano, and EK Cotton. “Management of Life-Threatening Asthma with Intravenous Isoproterenol Infusions.” American Journal of Diseases of Children (1960) 130, no. 1 (January 1, 1976): 39–42 [PubMed]
Reis, CE, DN Ribeiro, NM Costa, J Bressan, RC Alfenas, and RD Mattes. “Acute and Second-Meal Effects of Peanuts on Glycaemic Response and Appetite in Obese Women with High Type 2 Diabetes Risk: A Randomised Cross-over Clinical Trial.” The British Journal of Nutrition 109, no. 11 (June 1, 2013): 2015–23 [PubMed]
Shinohara M, and Yamada M. “[Vitamin E and Alzheimer’s Disease].” Brain and nerve = Shinkei kenkyu no shinpo 67, no. 12 (December 1, 2015): 1509–13 [PubMed]
Wang, W, M Yang, SA Kenfield, FB Hu, MJ Stampfer, WC Willett, CS Fuchs, EL Giovannucci, and Y Bao. “Nut Consumption and Prostate Cancer Risk and Mortality.” British Journal of Cancer 115, no. 3 (July 26, 2016): 371–74 [PubMed]
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About the Author

ChuckH

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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