Peanut butter is a very popular and versatile food used in everything from sandwiches to dessert recipes to stir-fries and dressings. But is peanut butter actually good for you? And should you avoid it completely, or is it okay sometimes?
The answer is a little more complicated than “yes” or “no,” so below we’ll cover what you need to know about peanut butter and your health.
First, let’s look at how peanut butter stacks up in the nutrition department. A two tablespoon serving of peanut butter, without any added sugars, contains about:
Overall, the macros aren’t bad. But there’s more to consider here. Let’s look at some other concerns about whether or not peanut butter is good for you.
Despite their name, peanuts are not actually nuts at all! They’re categorized as legumes, putting them in the same family as soybeans, peas, and lentils.
Legumes are normally avoided on the Keto Zone Diet because they’re too high in carbs. However, the high-fat and fairy-low-carb nature of peanuts and peanut butter makes it an exception. This is why peanut butter is sometimes used in keto foods like fat bombs and keto smoothies.
Still, peanuts are higher in carbs than true nuts, so they should be eaten in moderation.
Peanuts are a good source of healthy monounsaturated fats. However, they contain way more omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega-3 fatty acids. Considering our omega-6 to -3 ratio should be around 2:1, this can make your intake unbalanced.
And too many omega-6s without omega-3s can be a contributor to inflammation in the body.
This is the biggest reason to be wary of peanuts.
Peanuts are often stored in warm and humid environments before being processed and packaged for consumption. During this time, they can be accompanied by the fungi Aspergillus parasiticus and Aspergillus flavus.
These fungi produce aflatoxin, a mold toxin that can contaminate the peanuts. This is a concern because aflatoxin is a carcinogen associated with an increased risk of liver cancer.
Thankfully crops are tested for aflatoxin, and there haven’t been any human liver cancer outbreaks linked to peanut butter consumption. However, since long-term data is not currently available on this, it’s probably still best to proceed with caution.
The best way to eat peanut butter is by eating a high-quality variety with a low risk of aflatoxin. The problem is, this is almost impossible to fully regulate.
That being said, if you buy organic and feel good eating peanuts, they can be okay in moderation. And here are some tips for minimizing your mold toxin exposure:
And for better choices, choose true nuts like almond butter, cashew butter, walnut butter, pecan butter, or macadamia nut butter over peanut butter. They don’t run the same risks as peanut butter and have much better nutrition and omega-6 to omega-3 profiles. (And keep in mind that even these should be used in moderation if you’re keeping carbs low.)
So, is peanut butter good for you? It does have some health benefits and can fit within a healthy diet, but it’s not the best choice and comes with some risks. So if you do have it, use in moderation and alternate with other low-carb nuts often.