There’s so many people talking about using Peanut Butter as a weightloss tool. Unfortunately the unhealthy aspect of peanut butter is shrouded – probably intentionally – by supposed ‘health food’ propaganda.
But the truth cannot be hidden. Here I make a case for exactly what’s in the box, and why you should take due precautions while eating it (I never say ‘don’t eat’ – just ‘eat within healthy limits’ 🙂 )
I also regularly get e-mails from people asking me about peanut butter, so I thought I’d try to unravel what the ultimate health effects of it are. This article is about the other 99% of people, who can eat peanut butter without any noticeable adverse effects, at least in the short term.
How Peanut Butter is Made
Peanut butter is a relatively unprocessed food. It’s pretty much just peanuts, often roasted, that are ground until they turn into peanut butter. However, many commercial brands of peanut butter aren’t really just peanut butter. They often have sugar and other unnecessary additives.
I shall assume you know this already – that you diligently read labels – and believe what’s written on them. We’ll be speaking about about real peanut butter, nothing but peanuts, perhaps mixed in with a bit of salt.
For all purposes, the health effects of regular peanuts should be identical to the health effects of peanut butter… because real peanut butter is effectively just ground peanuts.
I’ll save the salt discussion for another time, but personally I wouldn’t be too worried as I think the “dangers” of it have been blown way out of proportion. In studies, restricting salt or sodium has no effect on cardiovascular disease or death 
I should also point out that peanuts are technically legumes, which means they forbidden among those on a strict “paleo” diet.
Nutritional composition: Some Protein and Lots of Fat
Peanut butter is a fairly “balanced” energy source in the way that it supplies all three macronutrients. A 100g portion of peanut butter contains:
- Fiber: 6 grams
- Carbohydrate: 14 grams of carbs
- Protein: 25 grams of protein (15% of calories), which is quite a lot compared to most other plant foods.
- Fat: 50 grams of fat, totalling about 72% of calories.
Along with this hefty dose of macronutrients are 588 calories (per 100g portion of peanut butter).
Even though peanut butter is fairly protein rich, it doesn’t have much of some essential amino acids like lysine. To make full use of the protein, you need to eat a lysine-rich protein source along with the peanut butter, such as protein rich animal foods like cheese (personally I love the Smoked Cheese to go with this; it really smoothes things out).
The fat in peanut butter is about 50% monounsaturated and 20% saturated. The rest of it (about 30%) is polyunsaturated fat, mostly the Omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid, which can be problematic and I’ll get to in a minute.
Let’s first cover the vitamins and minerals side of the equation:
- Vitamin E: 45% of the RDA.
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin): 67% of the RDA.
- Vitamin B6: 27% of the RDA.
- Folate: 18% of the RDA.
- Magnesium: 39% of the RDA.
- Copper: 24% of the RDA.
- Manganese: 73% of the RDA.
However, be aware that this is for a 100 gram portion, which has a total of 588 calories. Calorie for calorie, peanut butter actually isn’t that nutritious compared to low-calorie plant foods like spinach or broccoli.
Now the problem side
Even though peanut butter is quite nutritious, it may also contain substances that cause harm.
At the top of the list are so-called Aflatoxins.
Peanuts actually grow underground, where they tend to be colonized by an ubiquitous fungus called Aspergillus, a source of aflatoxins… which are toxic and highly carcinogenic.
Humans are actually fairly resistant to the acute (short-term) effects of aflatoxins, but what happens down the line is not fully known at this point.
However, some studies in humans link aflatoxin exposure to liver cancer, stunted growth in children and mental retardation (8, 9, 10, 11). But there are good news… according to one source, the processing of peanuts into peanut butter reduces the aflatoxins by 89% (12). But end of the day – you’re basically eating poison.
Peanut butter also contains a lectin called Peanut Agglutinin. Lectins are a diverse group of proteins that have the ability to bind carbohydrates.
Lectins are everywhere, they’re in all foods, but some people believe that lectins from particular foods can cause harm.
In one study, individuals on a diet high in peanut butter reduced their total cholesterol by 11% and LDL cholesterol by 14% (13). Another human study showed that adding peanut butter to the diet significantly reduced blood triglycerides (14).
However, animal studies have shown that peanut oil along with high doses of cholesterol can induce atherosclerosis (thickening of arteries, which can lead to heart attacks) in animals like monkeys and rabbits (15). So apart from the poison, you’re likely to end up with an increased risk of artherosclerosis… After all, excessive Omega-6 fatty acids in the diet are associated with inflammation and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (19, 20, 21).
Most people are already eating too many Omega-6s (which peanut butter is loaded with) and too few Omega-3s (which peanut butter lacks completely).
Conclusion – it’s simple!
If you have a tendency to binge on peanut butter, it may be best to just avoid it altogether. If you can keep it moderate, then by all means continue to eat peanut butter every now and then.
I highly doubt moderate consumption of peanut butter will have any major negative effect as long as you are avoiding the truly awful foods like sugar, trans fats and vegetable oils.
The sad fact is – end of the day, everyone dies. Personally I’d rather die healthy while enjoying my occasional dose of peanut butter 😀