Before we started second-guessing this childhood staple (and all-time favorite), we went straight to the source, talking to experts in nutrition about the nuts and bolts of peanut butter. What we found might have you looking at your daily PB&Js a little differently. Here’s what the experts had to say, and for even more healthy eating tips, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
You’ll ward off cancer.
Nut consumption is associated with a decreased risk in several cancers including lung, pancreatic, endometrial, and colorectal, explained Hollie Zammit, RD, a registered dietitian with Orlando Health.
“In fact, per the American Institute for Cancer Research, a diet low in processed meat and rich in legumes, such as beans and nuts, can help lower your cancer risk,” says Zammit. “This is thanks to the great sources of various vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals that nuts contain.”
So, if eating great meals like this Crunchy Thai Ginger Salad with Peanut Butter Dressing recipe can be delicious and cancer-fighting, you tell me, is there anything peanut butter can’t do?
It can result in weight gain.
“Peanut butter is high in calories—two tablespoons have about 180 calories—so eating too much of it can lead to weight gain,” said New York City-based registered dietitian Natalie Rizzo, MS.
Don’t worry too much, though. You can combat potential weight gain by controlling your portion sizes. Stick to recipes and meal ideas that don’t go overboard on the creamy (or crunchy) stuff, and you will be just fine.
Keep reading to learn how, in moderation, peanut butter can actually help you lose weight instead.
You’ll see lower numbers on the scale.
“If you stick to the recommended portions, eating peanut butter may increase certain hormones that promote satiety and feelings of fullness,” says Rizzo, citing research published by the National Institutes of Health.
Felling full and satisfied can lead to less snacking later in the day. Starting out the day with a healthy dose of peanut butter can get you started on the right track. Try an easy breakfast recipe like these Peanut Butter Overnight Oats to have something to look forward to as soon as you are out of bed.
You’ll get hours back in your day.
One of the major struggles of eating healthy is the time it takes to prepare and cook full meals. Peanut butter takes the struggle out of meal prep without sacrificing any of the flavor or nutrition.
“Quick, easy, and convenient is the name of the game when it comes to a healthy, consistent diet,” says Laura Burak, MS, RD, CDN. “Peanut butter ranks right at the top as not only a nutritious and heart-healthy plant-based food, but in my opinion, one of the tastiest foods in existence!”
You’ll be happier.
“If I was on a deserted island and I could only bring one food, it would be a jar of peanut butter,” says Burak. “That’s how much I love it and how versatile it is when it comes to a healthy diet.”
While Rizzo cautions that if you don’t like peanut butter, there are plenty of other options out there to make sure you are getting in all of your nutrition needs in a given day. But if you enjoy peanut butter, there is no reason you shouldn’t be eating it every day in moderation.
The type of peanut butter matters.
Not all peanut butter is created equal. This might be less of an issue if you are eating it as an occasional treat, but if you are eating it every day, you need to make sure you know what you are putting into your body.
“No matter which brand you go for, always look at the ingredient list and choose one whose only ingredients are peanuts,” says Zammit. “Natural peanut butters are best. Avoid nut butters with additives such as added sugars and hydrogenated oils.”
For a little extra help choosing which variety is right for you, read through this ranking of peanut butter by nutrition.
You should eat in a variety of ways.
“What is more classic and delicious than a PB&J sandwich?” Burak asked.
While the classic combo is one tried-and-true way to incorporate peanut butter into your diet, if you are going to be eating it every day, don’t be afraid to mix it up a little and try some new recipes.
Zammit shared these ideas for new ways to enjoy peanut butter:
- Add a serving to whole-wheat toast and pair with sliced bananas or raspberries.
- Pair with 1 serving of fruit or vegetables. Apple slices or celery sticks are popular choices.
- Throw some into your favorite smoothie as a protein source.
- Enjoy 1 serving with your favorite rice cakes.
- Mix a serving into 1 cup of steel-cut oatmeal or cream of wheat.
- Spread onto a pita or pancakes and top with your favorite fruit.
- Have a multi-grain bagel with 1 serving of peanut butter.
When in doubt, Burak said, you can always go back to basics: “There are endless ways to incorporate peanut butter into a healthy diet, but just remember, you can stick a spoon in the jar and just eat plain and that’s always good enough for me!”
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