Peanut butter was, at one time, a staple item in every school kid’s lunch box. As adults, however, we have underestimated the health benefits of peanut butter.
Many of us have abandoned the creamy spread over concerns that it was too high in fat. Peanut butter, however, is full of vitamins and minerals that can support your health and may provide a surprising number of benefits.
The Health Benefits of Peanut Butter
While it may be high in fat, peanut butter also contains a number vitamins and minerals that are essential for proper functioning of your body. For this reason, the health benefits of peanut butter are numerous, and you should consider giving it a place in your diet.
1. It May Help Reduce Your Risk for Breast Cancer
A 2013 research study that followed nine thousand females from 1996 to 2010 found that those who ate peanut butter three days per week had a nearly forty percent decreased risk for developing breast cancer.
More specifically, the authors of the study found that eating peanut butter decreased the participants’ risk for developing benign breast disease. Benign breast disease is quite common and is a known risk factor for breast cancer.
Dr. Graham Colditz, senior study author, says that about one in four women have a benign lesion that doctors confirmed with a biopsy.
“It’s very clear there is a strong link between the benign lesion and the subsequent risk of invasive breast cancer,” he said .
Colditz said that they do not yet know why peanut butter has this protective effect. It is possible, he noted, that it is because of the protein content.
Other health benefits of peanut butter aside, if preteen and teenage girls are not allergic, they should not avoid peanut butter. Just a few tablespoons per week could lower their risk for breast cancer later in life.
2. It Can Help You Lose Weight
Many people avoid peanut butter because they are afraid the high fat content will make them gain weight. Interestingly enough, the opposite is actually true. One of the health benefits of peanut butter is that it can actually aid in weight loss.
The creamy spread is a great source of protein, with eight grams in just two tablespoons. It also contains nearly two grams of fiber, and twelve grams of healthy fats. This can help you feel full, reducing your need to snack later on .
Peanut butter is also very low in carbohydrates, so it causes a very low rise in blood sugar. Not only does this make it a great option for people with type 2 Diabetes, but it can also help prevent weight gain . With all that said, peanut butter is still high in calories, so don’t overdo it. Excessive calorie intake could easily undo any of the weight-loss supporting benefits of peanut butter.
3. It’s Good For Your Brain
Peanut butter can help promote brain activity and memory thanks to the numerous vitamins and minerals it contains. These include vitamin E, zinc, magnesium, and niacin. These vitamins have been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and age-related cognitive decline .
Additionally, peanut butter also contains the bioactive compound Resveratrol, which may improve blood flow to the brain by as much as thirty percent. This can reduce your risk for a stroke, and promote cognitive abilities .
4. It’s Rich in Antioxidants
Not only does peanut butter contain resveratrol, but it is also a source of other antioxidants, including p-coumaric acid. This antioxidant has been shown to reduce arthritis in animal studies .
In fact, peanuts are just as high in antioxidants as many fruits. These compounds can provide many health benefits, including reducing your risk for disease .
5. It Helps Your Muscles Recover
The protein content in peanut butter can help you recover after a hard workout. The International Society of Sport Nutrition says that you should consume high-quality protein within two hours following a workout.
Peanut butter can help you achieve this, and makes a great post-workout snack until you’re able to eat a full meal .
6. It Can Help Control Your Blood Pressure
Peanut butter contains magnesium and potassium, which both help control your blood pressure. The fiber and protein content also help achieve this. It is important, however, to choose peanut butter that does not have any added salt .
7. It Lowers Your Risk for Diabetes
In 2002, Harvard researchers found that women who regularly consume nuts and peanut butter had a lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes than those who didn’t. Researcher Rui Jiang, MD, of Harvard School of Public Health, said that the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in peanut butter can improve glucose and insulin stability.
Specifically, the study found that women who ate a tablespoon of peanut butter at least five times per week had a 21 percent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes than those who didn’t .
8. It May Help You Sleep
Peanut butter contains tryptophan, which helps increase your levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone, and serotonin, the happiness hormone. This can make you feel calm and promote a good night’s sleep .
9. It’s Good for Pregnant Women
Peanut butter is rich in folate, which can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects in your unborn baby . So if you’re pregnant and not allergic, consider adding some peanut butter to your diet.
Sure, there’s Health Benefits to Peanut Butter, but What About Aflatoxins?
Aflatoxins are a family of toxins produced by certain fungi on some agricultural crops, including peanuts. It can contaminate crops in the field, during harvest, and during storage. Exposure to these toxins can increase your risk of developing liver cancer.
No outbreaks have ever been reported in the United States, but they have occurred in other developing countries. To reduce your risk, only purchase nuts from major commercial brands of nuts and nut butters. If nuts look moldy, discolored, or shriveled, discard them .
In North America, however, you have very little reason to worry about aflatoxins in your peanuts or peanut butter.
The Bottom Line on PB’s Health Benefits
There are many health benefits of peanut butter. It is a fairly inexpensive addition to your grocery bill, and can improve your health in many ways. Of course, moderation is important, and due to its high calorie content you should avoid large quantities.
It is also important to keep in mind that some brands add a lot of extra ingredients, like sugar, salt, and hydrogenated oil. To avoid this, look for all-natural or “just peanuts” peanut butter.
Just a couple tablespoons a day, a few days per week, is all you need to reap the health benefits of peanut butter.Try these no-bake peanut butter granola cups, or frozen chocolate-dipped peanut butter banana bites to add a little peanut butter to your day.