Nut butters are a great way to get healthy fats and protein into your plant-based diet. Among the many types of nut butters, peanut butter is a classic pantry staple. But is peanut butter good for you? Three common concerns about peanut butter are their nutrients, toxins, and pesticides. Let’s take a look at the evidence.
Nutrients in Peanut Butter
Like other nut butters, peanut butter is a good source of plant-based protein. It’s also a good source of vitamin E and fiber. And yes, peanut butter is high in fat, but in healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. In an average diet, including 18-22 grams of unsaturated fats per day is good for your cholesterol and heart health.
Trans Fats in Peanut Butter
Many commercial peanut butters contain added, processed fats to improve shelf life and texture. In the past, these added fats were usually partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of artificial trans fats in our diet. Trans fats increase your risk of developing heart disease, raise LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, and create inflammation in the body.
Recently, companies have shifted towards using fully hydrogenated oils in peanut butter because of the FDA’s decision in 2015. Partially hydrogenated oils are not considered safe by the FDA, and manufacturers are no longer allowed to add them to food products.
Fully hydrogenated oils are not trans fats, but we do not have enough research to know their long-term health effects.
Added Salt and Sugar in Peanut Butter
Many commercial brands also add salt and sugar to peanut butter for taste. We know that having too much salt or added sugar is not good for your health either. Luckily, many brands now offer peanut butter without any added sugar, salt or fats. Make sure you read the ingredients list – choose products with peanuts as the only ingredient listed!
Toxins in Peanut Butter
There is a type of fungus called Aspergillus spp. that likes to grow on peanut plants, corn, and cottonseed. This fungus produces a toxin called aflatoxin which has been linked to an increased risk of liver cancer and liver damage.
The good news is that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regularly tests for aflatoxins. There have been no reported outbreaks of aflatoxin-related illnesses in the US to date. The National Cancer Institute recommends buying major commercial brands of peanut butter to reduce your aflatoxin exposure. And if you grind your own peanut butter, make sure to toss out peanuts that look moldy, discolored or shriveled.
Pesticides in Peanut Butter
Farmers spray crops with pesticides and herbicides to prevent the Aspergillus fungus from growing on their peanut plants. This raises concerns about chemical residues in peanut butter. Fortunately, in addition to testing for aflatoxins, the FDA also tests for chemical residues. In 2016, the FDA tested 33 samples of peanuts and peanut products. All samples had either no chemical residue or had trace amounts within the limits considered to be safe.
So Is Peanut Butter Good for You?
Yes, peanut butter is good for you. Peanut butter is a convenient source of healthy fats and protein in a plant-based diet. Choose a major commercial brand of peanut butter without any added sugar, salt or fat to reap the benefits. Although peanut plants do attract a dangerous fungus, the FDA does a good job of making sure our food supply is safe. Go ahead and enjoy that peanut butter sandwich!
Is peanut butter a staple in your household? Or do you prefer another type of nut or seed butter?
The content of this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Edible IQ urges you to seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition. Edible IQ advises you to never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the Website.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or local emergency service immediately. Edible IQ does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the website. Edible IQ does not guarantee the accuracy of information on the Website and reliance on any information provided by Edible IQ is solely at your own risk.