Peanut butter is extremely popular, not just because most people find it delicious and nutritious, but because it is also affordable and highly versatile.
It can be used in sweet or savory applications and comes in different textures (smooth vs crunchy peanut butter) and even flavors (salted vs unsalted peanut butter, honey roasted, etc.).
But is peanut butter healthy? Does peanut butter help you lose weight?
In this article, we will discuss peanut butter nutrition, focusing on the pros and cons of peanut butter for weight loss, aiming to answer the question, “Is peanut butter good for weight loss?“
In this guide, we will look at:
- Is Peanut Butter Healthy?
- Peanut Butter Nutrition
- Is Peanut Butter Good for Weight Loss?
Let’s jump in!
Is Peanut Butter Healthy?
In most cases, peanut butter is considered a healthy food. It is rich in healthy fats and contains protein and fiber, along with some vitamins and minerals.
However, like many popular food products, there are many different kinds of peanut butter on grocery shelves.
Natural peanut butters are nothing more than ground peanuts.
In fact, many food stores and markets allow you to grind your own peanut butter right on site using just salted or unsalted peanuts, allowing you to have fresh ground salted peanut butter or fresh ground unsalted peanut butter with nothing else added to it.
These types of peanut butters are typically the healthiest peanut butter products because they do not contain any additional fillers. Particularly if you are using unsalted peanuts, you are getting nothing but nutritious ground peanuts.
However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, many popular commercial peanut butters contain all sorts of added sugar, hydrogenated oils, and salt.
These types of peanut butters can be unhealthy for anyone who needs to control their sodium intake and wants to consume as little added sugar in their diet as possible.
Hydrogenated oils help increase the shelf-life and stability of peanut butter so that each natural oil contained in the peanuts does not separate out into a layer on top of the peanut butter.
In fact, this can be a great way to determine whether the peanut butter you purchase is highly processed or more natural. Of course, you can look at the ingredient label, but the oils and terms on the ingredients label are quite confusing for many people.
Instead, if you see that the peanut butter is all uniform and does not require any mixing before you can eat it, and it is not fresh ground right out of the machine, there’s a good chance that the peanut butter contains hydrogenated oils or other stabilizers.
In contrast, if the peanut butter on the shelf has a layer of foil on top and requires stirring, it is a more natural peanut butter that probably does not contain hydrogenated oils or added oils.
The oil that you see on the top, while potentially unappetizing, is the natural oil from the peanut and is a heart-healthy oil. It is not an industrial oil or processed oil.
Peanut Butter Nutrition
According to the USDA, a typical 2-tablespoon (32-gram) serving of peanut butter provides the following nutrition:
- Calories: 190
- Total fat: 16 grams
- Saturated fat: 3 grams
- Carbohydrates: 7 grams
- Fiber: 3 grams
- Sugar: 1 gram
- Protein: 8 grams
- Manganese: 29% of the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI)
- Magnesium: 13% of the RDI
- Phosphorus: 10% of the RDI
- Potassium: 7% of the RDI
- Iron: 4% of the RDI
- Vitamin E: 10% of the RDI
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 22% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 7% of the RDI
- Vitamin B9 (folate): 7% of the RDI
Is Peanut Butter Good for Weight Loss?
So, given the typical peanut butter nutrition facts, is peanut butter good for weight loss?
Most studies that have looked at the potential weight gain vs weight loss benefits of peanut butter have found that peanut butter can indeed be good for weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.
For example, studies have found that diets that are rich in peanuts, which are a type of legume, and tree nuts, which have a similar nutritional profile to peanuts, are more effective at supporting healthy weight maintenance than diets that eliminate these foods.
Even more encouraging of the potential benefits of eating peanut butter for weight loss are findings that people who regularly eat peanut butter and peanuts tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who do not eat peanuts or peanut butter habitually.
Of course, this is merely a correlation rather than a causation, meaning that there is an association between eating more peanut butter and peanuts and a lower body weight, but the studies were not conducted in a way to definitively determine whether eating more peanut butter causes a lower BMI.
There can be other confounding variables that contribute to the association between eating more peanut butter and having a lower BMI. Perhaps the people that eat more peanut butter, which is typically seen as a healthy food, make other healthy dietary choices alongside their peanut butter consumption that also contributes to a healthy body weight.
So, is peanut butter good for weight loss?
Interestingly, although quite a number of research studies have demonstrated that peanut butter may help support healthy weight maintenance, the exact underlying mechanisms are still somewhat unclear.
Researchers think that one of the reasons why peanut butter may seem to help with weight loss or weight maintenance is due to the way that it is metabolized.
Some of the fats found in nuts may not be fully absorbed by the body, meaning that you may consume 200 calories worth of peanut butter, but the resultant caloric effect on your body may be well under 200 calories.
In this way, diets high in peanut butter and peanuts may not yield the caloric surplus you may think they would and may instead help you achieve a caloric deficit more easily.
One of the primary reasons that people have concerns about eating peanut butter for weight loss is the fact that peanut butter is a calorie-dense food. In other words, a very small serving in terms of the volume provides a lot of calories.
A typical 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter has about 200 calories.
Moreover, about 75% of these calories come from fat, and some dieters believe that consuming fat will increase body fat or at least make it difficult to lose weight.
However, at least in terms of the high-fat content of peanut butter, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that dietary fat does not increase weight or body fat any more than other nutrients. In fact, many studies have found that low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets may actually support weight loss more than low-fat, high-carbohydrate diets.
The exception here would be in cases where the dietary fat was primarily unhealthy processed oils and trans fats. However, the natural fats found in peanut butter are heart-healthy unsaturated fats, which have not been associated with weight gain.
With that said, the caloric density of peanut butter is something to be mindful of when eating peanut butter for weight loss.
Losing weight is primarily a matter of creating a caloric deficit, which refers to consuming fewer calories than you are eating.
You may increase your chances of overeating your target number of calories if you are consuming high-calorie foods such as peanut butter because the serving size is so small for the number of calories that you are consuming.
Some people tend to feel more satiated with higher-volume foods with lower caloric density, such as vegetables.
With that said, nutrient density also matters in the foods that you eat.
Peanut butter is high in calories, but it provides healthy fats, proteins, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Fiber, protein, and fat have been shown to be particularly satiating nutrients, meaning that food high in these nutrients may help you feel fuller for a longer period of time than eating the same number of calories in simple carbohydrates.
In other words, having 200 calories of nutrient-rich peanut butter may help control your appetite better than having 200 calories of jelly beans.
So, does peanut butter help you lose weight?
Indeed, studies have found that adding peanut butter to your diet may help curb appetite, which, in turn, could help you lose weight if you are indeed in a caloric deficit.
Overall, when eating peanut butter for weight loss, be mindful of portion sizes.
Pay attention to what ingredients are used to sweeten a peanut butter (if any), as well as the presence of any chemical ingredients, fillers, or other artificial flavors.
You can find many healthy peanut butters, as well as peanut butters that are loaded with sugar and are more along the lines of frosting meets peanut butter.
There are also defatted peanut butter powders that are much lower in calories but do not contain the healthy satiating effects of the normal oils found in peanut butter.
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