Is Peanut Butter Good for You? (3 Reasons to Proceed with Caution)

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.

Is Peanut Butter Good for You? Here are the Facts

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:

  • 16 grams of fat
  • 8 grams of protein
  • 2 grams of fiber
  • 5 grams of net carbs

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.

1. Peanuts Aren’t What They Seem

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.

2. Peanut Butter’s Fatty Acid Ratio Isn’t Best

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.

3. Peanut Butter May Contain Aflatoxin

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.

How to Choose Peanut Butter That’s Better for You

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:

  • Stick with commercial brands over peanut butter that’s freshly ground at the store. The latter may sit around longer before processing and be more susceptible to mold.
  • If you do buy freshly ground peanut butter without added salt, refrigerate it as soon as possible to slow rancidity.
  • Always inspect your nuts and nut butter closely and throw out anything that looks discolored, shriveled, or moldy.
  • And if you’re eating keto, just make sure it fits within your 20 grams of carbs or less per day. And avoid added sugars, artificial flavors, or hydrogenated oils.

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.

 

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