16 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Eat Peanut Butter
In 1884, Canadian Marcellus Gilmore Edson became the first person to patent peanut butter. It’s been a staple in North American homes for most of the 131 years since, and it’s easy to understand why. While we know the sandwich staple is delicious, many people can’t help but ask, is peanut butter good for you?
Good news: peanut butter is both nutritious and delicious. It pairs well with everything from fruits to chocolate and jelly to celery. High in healthy monounsaturated fats and nutrient-rich, it’s one of our favorite foods for weight loss. So how exactly does it promote a flat belly, and what else does PB do to your body? We went straight to the experts, and some of what they told us could surprise you.
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You Lower Your Death Risk
According to a 2015 Vanderbilt University study, eating nuts every day is linked to a lower total death risk. What gives nuts the ability to deter the reaper? Their density of health-promoting and protective nutrients. “Nuts have a healthy fat profile—including mono- and polyunsaturated fats—are rich in antioxidants, contain nutrients like potassium that help maintain a healthy blood pressure, are rich in fiber, and contain heart-healthy plant phytosterols,” says Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids have been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, lowering the risk of metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
You’ll Feel Fuller
Peanut butter’s monounsaturated fat and protein are highly satiating. “Having peanut butter either on toast for breakfast, on a sandwich for lunch, or on an apple for a snack can prevent you from overeating,” says Ilyse Schapiro MS, RD, CDN. “But always consume it in moderation.” A good serving size is two tablespoons. You can also creatively work PB into your meals.
You’ll Reduce Diabetes Risk
Eating peanut butter may help reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Jacobson cites a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found that consuming one ounce of nuts or a half-serving of peanut butter (about one tablespoon) at least five days a week can lower the risk of developing diabetes by over 20 percent.
You’ll Get an Energy Boost
“The protein, fiber and healthy fat in peanut butter can give you that kick you need to start the day or as a pick-me-up midday,” says Ilyse Schapiro. “It also helps to keep blood sugar stable, which prevents those crashes later on.” Start your day off right with this healthy breakfast staple to ward off afternoon cravings.
You’ll Shed Weight
Even when you’re on a calorie-restricted diet, studies have shown that including nuts can help with weight loss. Why? For starters, peanuts contain more protein than other nuts—that’s 7 grams in 2 tablespoons. Add that to the high healthy fat and fiber content, and you’ve got a tasty snack that will keep you fuller longer. The result may be less caloric intake later in the day. “Most people find eating 200 calories of peanut butter is more satiating than, say, 200 calories of pretzels,” says McDaniel. According to a study in the International Journal of Obesity, peanuts can even increase your metabolic furnace. In that study, subjects’ metabolic rate jumped by 11% when they ate about 500 calories of peanuts daily for 19 weeks.
You Could Gain Weight, Too
Want a quick way to pack on pounds? Disregard the delivery method of your peanut butter. “Many of the health benefits of nut butters can be negated if they’re only consumed with white bread or crackers and jelly or chocolate,” says McDaniel. She adds that certain processed peanut butters contain unhealthy additives and too much salt. “Reduced-fat peanut butters often up the sugar,” says McDaniel. “And avoid peanut butters that have artery-clogging hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list.” Schapiro often recommends nut butters for clients who are trying to gain weight because they’re so calorically dense. “Just one tablespoon has about 100 calories, and if you’re digging into a jar, it’s not likely you’ll stop at just a spoonful,” she says. “Most peanut butters also contain added sugar for flavor. Combining sugar and fat creates a hormone symphony for fat storage.”
You’ll Have Healthier Muscles and Nerves
Magnesium is an essential mineral that powers more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Peanut butter is high in magnesium: About 12% of your RDA in one serving. That means PB can assist in body-temperature regulation, detoxification, energy production, the formation of strong bones and teeth, and maintenance of a healthy nervous system.
You Could Cause Inflammation
“Peanuts are rich in omega-6 fats, which stimulate the production of inflammatory mediators,” says Miriam Jacobson RD, CDN of foodcoachnyc.com. Peanuts have no omega-3 fats, which normally help counteract that inflammation. So make sure your diet contains a wealth of omega-3-rich foods, including oily fish such as salmon, healthy oils like flaxseed, chia seeds and these surprising sources of omega-3s for fat loss!
You Get Smarter
According to McDaniel, studies have found that the monounsaturated fats found in foods like nuts and olive oil are protective of brain health and function. How? Nuts’ antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties help reduce stress (or oxidative damage) to the brain.
You’ll Keep Calm and Carry on
“Eating peanut butter may help you fight the effects of stress,” says Jacobson. PB contains beta-sitosterol, a plant sterol. In studies involving endurance athletes, beta-sitosterol was shown to normalize high cortisol levels and bring them back into balance with other hormones during times of stress. Beta-sitosterol can also help improve immunity.
You Could Consume Mold
Jacobs typically doesn’t recommend peanut products because of their susceptibility to invasions by fungi and mold. Aflatoxin, a fungus, can cause developmental delays in children, and over time it can lead to a higher risk of liver cancer. Light roasting helps to protect peanuts against aflatoxin. The best way to completely avoid exposure is to choose different nut butters such as almond or cashew.
You Could Prevent Peanut Allergy
Eating PB during pregnancy may actually help lower the risk of your child having a peanut allergy. “If you yourself don’t have a peanut allergy, a scoop a day might keep a food allergy away!” says McDaniel. A recent study found that non-allergic mothers who ate peanuts or tree nuts five times a week or more were less likely to have a baby with a nut allergy. “Mothers don’t need to avoid any of these allergic foods,” adds Frank R. Greer, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin. “If anything, they might be beneficial.”
The Wrong Brand Could Affect Your Penis
Some farmers can go heavy on the pesticides. The problem is that peanuts have a very light shell, so the chemicals can easily leach in. Pesticide exposure has been linked to birth defects and impaired fertility in men. Your best bet? Choose an organic variety.
The Wrong Brand Could Damage Your Cells
“Many processed peanut butters used hydrogenated vegetable oils as an emulsifier for more consistency, which is why you don’t need to stir your jar of Skippy,” says Jacobson. The problem is that hydrogenated oils are “damaged” fats which displace healthier fats in cellular membranes, causing inflammation and making it harder for your hormones to communicate with cells. “Cell membranes are essential for radiant skin and metabolic processes like weight loss,” says Jacobson, who recommends natural varieties of peanut butter without hydrogenated oils, such as Smuckers Naturals.
You’ll Combat Toxins and Aid Bone Health
Peanuts’ mono- and polyunsaturated fats help fat-soluble vitamins like E and K be absorbed by the body. Vitamin E protects against toxins such as air pollution and soothes premenstrual syndrome. It also combats eye disorders such as cataracts and neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. Vitamin K is essential for normal blood clotting and aids in the transport of calcium throughout the body, which is helpful for bone health.
You’ll Turn off Your Fat Genes
Now you know that peanuts give you belly-slimming monounsaturated fats, tummy-filling fiber, and metabolism-boosting protein. But peanuts have a hidden weapon in their weight-loss utility belt: Genistein, a compound that acts directly on the genes for obesity, helping to turn them down and reduce your body’s ability to store fat. (Beans and lentils have the same magic ingredient, albeit in a slightly less delicious form.)
EAT THIS! TIP
Says Gina Hassick: “When buying peanut butter, try to choose one that has peanuts as its only ingredient. If you prefer to purchase one with some added oil or salt, be mindful of the ingredients used. Choose one that uses a healthier oil, not one that uses a hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil. Also, avoid peanut butters that are “light” or “low-fat”. When there is less of one ingredient, there is often another ingredient added. Light and low-fat peanut butters almond always have added sugar in place of the fat that was eliminated.”