Peanut butter is one of those foods that has been touted as good for you, or bad for you, or both; sometimes in the same article!
There’s no denying that peanut butter is high in calories, and if you buy cheaper versions, it can contain additives like palm oil, which is bad for health and the environment.
But it’s mostly made from peanuts, so if you consume it in moderation, with other health-boosting foods, you can actually reap some pretty good health benefits.
What is peanut butter?
Peanut butter is a paste made from ground dry roasted peanuts. It often contains other ingredients to give it a particular texture. The United States is one of the main producers and consumers of peanut butter. It is available in crunchy or smooth varieties. The crunchy texture comes from coarsely ground peanuts whereas the smooth texture is achieved by fully grinding all of the peanuts used in production. Obviously, the main ingredient in peanut butter is peanuts, but they are usually mixed with salt, sugar, and an emulsifier to bind the peanuts and peanut oil.
Peanut butter is an excellent source of protein, vitamin E, pantothenic acid, niacin and vitamin B6. Manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, thiamine, iron, and potassium are also present in good amounts. Peanut butter is also a source of the essential fatty acids oleic and linoleic acid.
It’s an ingredient in other foods
You probably have heard of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cookies, and various confectionery items containing peanut butter. Peanut butter goes well with many other foods, such as oatmeal, cheese, breads, and crackers.
The creamy taste pairs well with sweet fruits such as banana and apples, and it complements honey well. Peanut butter can even be a treat for animals. A common way to feed wild birds is by coating a pine cone with peanut butter. This is a good idea in the winter when nutritious food is hard to come by for wildlife.
The history of peanut butter
The use of peanuts as a foodstuff and a remedy for ailments dates back to the Aztecs and the Incas. The Aztecs reportedly used peanut paste to treat toothache.
Peanut butter was first patented in 1884, by Marcellus Edison in Montreal. He milled roasted peanuts and mixed them with sugar.
John Harvey Kellogg, of Kellogg’s Cereals fame made peanut butter by boiling the peanuts. He gave it to patients at his sanatorium.
In 1922, Joseph Rosefield, a chemist, invented a process for making smooth peanut butter. He managed to keep the oil from separating by using a partially hydrogenated oil.
The Health Benefits of Peanut Butter
It’s a great source of protein
2 tablespoons of peanut butter will provide you with 7g of protein. This is a decent sized serving which will keep you in the healthy consumption range too. Protein keeps you feeling fuller for longer, and it’s great for muscle building and repair, which makes peanut butter the ideal pre-or post-workout snack.
It’s good for your heart
Research done by Harvard Medical School showed that peanut butter can help to keep the heart healthy, and it has a lot to do with the essential fatty acids in the peanuts.
It’s rich in potassium
This balances the levels of sodium in the body, so it helps to keep blood pressure in check and protects against heart disease.
It contains healthy fats
Many people worry about the amount of fat in peanut butter, but it contains more healthy fat than saturated fat. The body needs healthy fats to keep the brain, heart, skin, and hair healthy.
It boosts energy
Peanut butter contains plenty of protein and healthy fats which will fuel the body enough to carry out your activities. It’s particularly good if you’re a gym bunny looking to build lean muscle.
It’s rich in fibre
2 tablespoons of peanut butter contain 2g of fibre. Fibre is essential for healthy digestion and it plays a role in heart health and weight management.
It can help you to lose weight
Yes, peanut butter is high in calories and fat, but it’s also packed full of fibre and protein which keep you feeling fuller for longer. This means that you will be less likely to snack and crave unhealthy foods, which means that you’re more likely to lose weight and keep it off in the long run.
It is packed with nutrients
Peanut butter is full of protein, healthy fats, antioxidants, zinc, and magnesium. 2 tablespoons of peanut butter will give you a large chunk of your daily allowance of vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin B6, all of which keep the skin and bones healthy, aid repair and recovery of the body’s tissues, and boost immunity.
It lowers the risk of colon cancer
Research studies have shown that peanut butter consumption may reduce the risk of colon cancer, especially in women, and this is thought to be down to the fibre content.
It helps to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and memory impairment
A study found that the B vitamin niacin reduced the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease by around 70%. Peanuts are very high in niacin.
It can help to prevent gallstones
2 studies showed that people who ate 5 or more servings of nuts per week had a 25-30% lower risk of getting gallstones than people who didn’t eat nuts.
It can help to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes
A study published in the American Medical Association’s journal found that eating peanuts can significantly reduce the risk of becoming diabetic.
It’s rich in antioxidants
Peanut butter is packed with a lot of nutrients, but did you know that they also boast a pretty impressive antioxidant content? They contain similar levels as some fruits. Resveratrol, the antioxidant believed to provide the health benefits of red wine, is also present in peanuts. It can prevent blood clots and damage to blood vessels, which means that it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Peanut butter contains more antioxidants than apples or carrots, and is on a par with blackberries and strawberries. Research conducted at the University of Florida found that consuming roasted peanuts, or peanut butter, can boost antioxidant levels in the body by more than 20%.
It’s a good source of magnesium
Magnesium is one of the most essential nutrients we can give our body. It is involved in over 300 chemical reactions in the body which keep our systems functioning as they should. Peanut butter has 170 mg of magnesium per 100g of product, which is around 42% of our recommended daily allowance of the mineral. Magnesium is involved in maintaining the health and development of our muscles and bones, plus the functioning of our immune system. It also has a role to play in the regulation of blood pressure and blood sugar.
It boosts circulation
The combination of iron, copper, magnesium, and potassium in peanut butter helps to maintain healthy circulation in the body.
It supports the metabolism
Many of the nutrients in peanut butter, particularly niacin and manganese, support the metabolic processes that take place in the body. Niacin promotes the growth and development of healthy cells, and manganese protects the cells from free radicals and oxidative stress.
It promotes healthy hair
The B group of vitamins are key to healthy hair growth, and peanut butter has them in abundance, especially vitamin B2.
Peanut butter is more than just a food though…
If you have gone through your life believing that peanut butter was simply a sandwich filler, this will make you think again. Here are some weird and wonderful ways that peanut butter can be used.
If you run out of shaving cream at an inopportune moment, fear not! Head to the kitchen for your jar of peanut butter. Smear a thin layer of peanut butter (smooth, not crunchy!) and shave your legs as you normally would. The oil in the peanut butter helps to prevent nasty razor nicks and moisturises the skin.
If you have cooked something rather pungent for dinner, such as fish, and you can’t get rid of the smell, Peanut butter can help to eliminate any nasty whiffs. Place a tablespoon of peanut butter in a frying pan and fry it for a few minutes, it will mask any strong odours.
Chewing gum remover
Chewing gum should come with a health warning. There are times when somehow it ends up in hair, on the carpet or on clothes and it’s so hard to remove. All you need to do is to rub some peanut butter into the chewing gum, let it take for a few moments then wipe it away with a cloth, as if by magic!
Yes, you did read that right! The idea of putting peanut butter in your hair might not seem so attractive but it can be very moisturising and nourishing for the hair, due to its nutrient and fatty acid content. Apply it to the hair, leave on for 15 minutes, then rinse off and follow with your usual shampoo.
You can make gorgeous tasting cookies, so simply. All you need is 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (smooth is best), a cup of sugar, or sugar substitute if you want to make them a little healthier, and an egg. Mix together and spoon onto a baking tray in circular shapes then cook for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.
Peanut butter makes a delicious popcorn topping. Boil half a cup of sugar, or sugar substitute, and honey. Add ½ cup of peanut butter and a teaspoon of salt to taste. Toss the popcorn into the mixture and mix until the popcorn is covered. Let it cool before eating. Crunchy peanut butter can be used if you want a crunchier texture.
CD/DVD scratch repairer
Yes, peanut butter can even get rid of scratches which prevent your CD’s and DVD’s from playing. Rub some smooth peanut butter on the scratch and wipe it away using a dry cloth.
A popular way to feed wild birds is to cover pinecones with peanut butter and roll them in birdseed. Hang these in your garden, they will be an invaluable food source when it is otherwise scarce in winter.
If you run out of butter when you are cooking, and the recipe requires it, you can use an equivalent amount of peanut butter instead to give your meal a wholesome, nutty taste.
Glue can be messy, and you will know this if you are into crafts, or you have children who are. If it has ended all over your hands and furniture, use peanut butter to remove it. Don’t try harsh chemicals or drying soaps to remove it. The oils in the peanut butter will help the loosen the glue and it should wash off easily.
Price sticker removal
Price stickers can almost never be fully removed from items, which can be irritating if the item is a gift for someone. A half left on price sticker can look shabby. All you have to do is to rub a little peanut butter around the sticker and rub it away using a cloth.
Bird poop, insects, and mud smears are just some of the delights that can grace your vehicle’s windscreen after you have been on a road trip. Rub some peanut butter into the grime and let it sit for 10 minutes. Spray it off with a hose if you can and the dirt should wash right away.
Delicious ways to enjoy it
If, however, you do prefer to eat peanut butter, here are some delicious recipes.
Peanut and Bean Salad
1 cup boiled kidney beans
¼ cup chopped onions
¼ cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons sliced spring onion greens
1/3 cup Peanut butter
1/2 cup plain yogurt
How to make it
Mix the beans, celery, and onion in a medium bowl. Mix the peanut butter and the yogurt in another bowl. Pour it over the bean mixture. Stir until well combined then refrigerate for 1 hour. Arrange the spinach leaves on individual plates. Top them with the bean salad.
Peanut oats porridge
1 cup old rolled oats
2 1/2 cups water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup Peanut Butter
2 medium ripe sliced bananas
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
How to make it
Mix the oats, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring from time to time till it starts thickening. Add the peanut butter, bananas, and cinnamon. Serve immediately.
1/4 cup Peanut Butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 teaspoons oil
1 cup shredded green cabbage
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
4 tortilla wraps
Salt and pepper to taste
How to make it
Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl until you get a smooth texture. Stir fry the vegetables in a wok together with the bean sprouts, and add salt and pepper. Spread a tablespoon of the dressing on each tortilla, fill with the vegetable stuffing and roll into a wrap. Serve immediately.
Forget the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you knew as a kid; peanut butter has evolved. Despite being high in calories and fat (mainly good fat, though), peanut butter has become a bit of a health hero.
It’s packed with peanuts so it contains all the benefits of nuts; it’s heart healthy, packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, and essential fats. It boasts a higher level of antioxidants than some apple and carrots, and it’s on the same level as strawberries and blackberries.
It’s unique nutrient content makes it popular with gym goers, especially those who want to build muscle, and the fibre content makes it a good choice for those who want to lose or manage their weight.
Aside from being nutritionally sound, it is also useful for other things. Hands up who knew that you can get chewing gum out of your carpet with peanut butter, or use it to eliminate the smell of wet dog from your home?
Peanut butter has never really been known as a ‘health’ food, as it has always been considered to be fatty and sugary. It is calorific, and so it must be eaten in moderation, but as we all know, the calorie content of food should not be our only consideration. The nutritional makeup of food should be considered. Yes, it’s true that peanut butter contains a lot of fat, and it is high in calories, but the fat is mainly monounsaturated fat, which is essential for the body and for good health.
Peanut butter is a nutrient rich addition to any overall healthy diet, and the bonus is that it tastes pretty good too. Delicious, healthy, and with no deprivation involved, we’ll take that.