Peanut butter is one of my favorite high-protein snacks. Everyday around 3 pm, I grab my whole-wheat crackers from my desk and spread my 100% natural peanut butter on them. As I sit there munching away, I give myself a mental pat-on-the-back for being so healthy. After all, what can be healthier than nutritious nuts and whole-wheat crackers? Knowing that there must be more to peanut butter than what meets the eye, I decided to check if my mid-afternoon snack was really so healthy after all.
Healthy or not?
Peanut butter contains a high level of protein – that’s why it’s such a filling snack. But it’s also high in fat, which makes it a high caloric food. One tablespoon of peanut butter contains about 100 calories.
Peanut butter is also high in unsaturated fat – that’s the one known as the “good” kind of fat – and can help improve glucose and insulin stability. It’s the same fat found in healthy olive oils, which can lower your risk of heart disease. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed over 80,000 women for 16 years and found that higher peanut butter consumption was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes in women.
Another healthy benefit: peanut butter contains tons of minerals and vitamins – like vitamin E, magnesium, folate, and resveratrol – ones that are all linked with a decreased risk of heat disease.
Peanut butter also contains another healthy additive for your diet: fiber. Each tablespoon of peanut butter contains roughly one gram of dietetic fiber. Fiber helps keep your bowel movements healthy and regular, and similar to protein, will keep you feeling full longer. In fact, a PurdueUniversity study found that people who ate peanuts every day did not overeat, because of its filling nature.
What’s the difference?
Browse your grocery store aisle and you’ll see a variety of different peanut butter types. In terms of ingredients, there’s not much difference between crunchy and smooth peanut butter, but there is a difference when it’s labeled 100% natural. You’ll notice those peanut butters will have only one item on the ingredient list: peanuts, whereas all other ones will have added oil, sugar and salt, which most of us already get quite enough of elsewhere in our diets. While the calorie count is about the same, its better to get the calories from the heart-healthy peanuts rather than the not-as-healthy additives. The flavor difference is also negligible, so try and go the all-natural route when you can.
While all this peanuty protein, fiber and vitamins sounds awfully appetizing, it’s better utilized when paired with whole-grain toasts, bananas, natural jams, and even a tall, cold glass of milk. Nothing tastes better.