A popular kitchen staple in cabinets and pantries around the US, and the world, peanut butter is an old-time favorite. In fact, about 90 per cent of American homes stock the tasty spread. But, did you ever ask yourself whether it could actually be healthy, not just a guilty pleasure? Or how best to buy it and use it? We take a look at the health benefits of peanut butter and uncover some nutritious recipes to try it in…
Calories – 100
Total Fats – 8 grams
Cholesterol – 0mg
Sodium – 3 mg
Total Carbohydrate – 3 grams
Dietary Fiber – 1 gram
Sugars – 1 gram
Protein – 4 grams
You might have noticed in the above nutritional section, we wrote ‘100% ground peanuts’. The problem with most peanut butter brands is the additives – namely cheap processed vegetable oils, salt, and sometimes, sugar. So, the simple way to make sure you’re not incidentally consuming nasty additives is to buy 100% peanut butter. That simply means, check the ingredients section of the label, and it should just say, ‘peanuts’. Thankfully, it’s not very difficult to find 100% natural peanut butter these days. In some supermarkets and health food stores, you can even grind your own peanuts into a container and pay per gram. Or, if you feel like grinding your own at home, simply put your peanuts into a food processor and blend until smooth! Peanut butter is actually quite quick and easy to make, compared to some other nut butters like almond, which takes much longer to grind into a paste.
Peanut butter is so much more than a delicious spread for toast. It is made from peanuts, a natural source of a number of important nutrients. As a result, it has a number of health benefits. And here they are…
Peanut butter is a decent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. It’s a nutrient that many Americans and other Westerners don’t get enough of. One tablespoon of peanut butter contains about 1 gram of fiber, 0.3 grams of which is soluble. The remaining 0.7 grams, therefore, is insoluble fiber. That moves through the digestive system almost completely unchanged, which reduces the risk of hemorrhoids and constipation.
Both soluble and insoluble fibers are good for you. They help regulate blood sugar levels, minimizing the likelihood of sugar crashes and cravings. However, before you rely on that little bit of peanut butter you might pop in your breakfast smoothie each morning to give you your daily dose of fiber, it’s important to make yourself aware of how much you actually need each day. A tablespoon of peanut butter gives you about 1 gram of fiber, but you actually need 21 to 38 grams per day. Your main dose of fiber will come from the fruits and vegetables you consume throughout the day, and it come in significant doses in foods like beans. But, every little ounce of fiber you consume is beneficial, and getting fiber in each meal so that your body digests that meal in a healthy way is important. So, don’t turn your nose up at the bit of fiber you do get from peanut butter either… It all adds up!
Peanuts contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which are often called ‘good fats’. They can help reduce bad cholesterol levels in the blood, and lower your risk of heart disease or stroke. Healthy fats provide nutrients that help develop and maintain the body’s cells. They also help your body absorb certain vitamins.
Peanut butter gives you a good dose of protein, providing four grams of the essential nutrient in one tablespoon. Protein is an extremely important nutrient that the body needs every day. It is then used by the body for strength and muscle building, and can aid with weight loss, especially when eaten with fiber. Because peanut butter provides fiber, as mentioned above, this is a great combo food! Protein and fiber fill you up and keep you fuller for longer, reducing the risk of sugar crashes and cravings.
We’ve touched on this above – the combination of healthy fats, protein and fiber can keep you fuller for longer, reduce cravings and sugar crashes, therefore aiding weight loss. That’s because you can reduce your calorie intake by eating smart, filling foods, like peanut butter, reducing your overall refined carbohydrate and sugar intake throughout the day. Because peanuts contain more protein than most other nuts and are high in healthy fats, they are one of the best nuts to snack on to keep you full. But, in order to reap the weight loss benefits of peanuts or peanut butter in your diet, you need to use it to reduce your overall calorie intake, otherwise you’re just adding more fat and protein into your diet!
Some other nut butters, like almond, provide much more vitamin E than peanut butter. But, having said that, peanut butter still gives you a decent dose! The fat-soluble vitamin occurs naturally in foods, including nuts, seeds and leafy greens. It is best known for its powerful antioxidant properties, which are great for overall health, but is particularly well-known for its benefits to the skin. That’s because it helps protect cells from free radical molecules. It is also important for immune health, and, because of its protection at a cellular level, it may also reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer development in the body.
Essential minerals are nutrients the body needs to function properly. However, the body cannot produce these nutrients itself, meaning you have to consume them through food or supplements. Essential minerals include calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper, phosphorus, selenium, manganese, sodium and fluoride. A tablespoon of peanut butter provides 0.5% of your daily recommended calcium intake, 1.5% of your iron and selenium intake, 6% of the magnesium you need, nearly 5% phosphorus, 3% potassium and zinc, 4% copper and 11% manganese. Calcium, magnesium and potassium are extremely important for bone health, development and strength.
Like anything, peanut butter should be eaten in moderation. It is high in fat, and yes, we mentioned the benefits of that fat, but too much of a good thing can be bad! Too much fat is not a good idea if you’re trying to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and weight. So, stick to that 1 tablespoon we’ve been talking about and don’t let a whole jar of peanut butter disappear in a day!
Time to step away from the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! The first thing to do is ditch your usual supermarket peanut butter that is full of additives for a natural 100% peanut paste. Jelly and white bread are full of refined sugar and refined carbohydrates, and they are definitely not a good breakfast or lunch option! So, what do you do with your peanut butter, you ask? There are so many options!
Here are some tasty, health recipes that utilize peanut butter for you to try…
Pumpkin & Peanut Butter Cups – Let’s get this recipe party started with some delicious homemade peanut butter treats! And what better way to start than with the classic indulgent flavor pairing of chocolate and peanut butter?! This recipe is quick and easy and even includes a vegetable! You’ll need pumpkin puree (make sure it’s natural), dark chocolate, smooth peanut butter and maple syrup or agave nectar. If you live in the US, pumpkin puree is easy to find, but some other places in the world can be a bit more difficult (especially if you don’t live near a city). In that case, you can boil pumpkin pieces and then blitz it into puree in a food processor. Make sure you choose good quality dark chocolate as well!
Vegan Peanut Butter Protein Pancakes – These quick, simple vegan pancakes are the perfect breakfast to fuel your day! The recipe calls for a chia egg, almond milk (make sure you choose unsweetened), chickpea flour, peanut butter, baking powder, vanilla extract, salt, coconut oil and toppings. Suggestions include fresh fruits, nuts and seeds, dark chocolate chips and maple syrup… yum! If you feel like making it a bit more gourmet, try whipping some coconut cream to dollop on top with strawberries and maple syrup.
Apple & Cinnamon Twirl – This low-fat drink snack is super easy to make and will give you a good antioxidant booster! The recipe calls for peanut butter, brown sugar (again, you can substitute for maple syrup or even stevia), apple cider vinegar, cinnamon and nutmeg. We’d suggest tweaking the recipe slightly and adding a little pinch of turmeric into it!
Peanut Butter Protein Bites – You can’t beat protein balls for a handy snack before the gym or with your coffee break! They are the perfect little easy homemade snacks to take with you to work and help you avoid the vending machine. This recipe calls for oats, walnuts, protein powder, peanut butter and dates, with an optional chocolate drizzle.
Peanut Butter Overnight Oats – Another super handy breakfast option, especially if you don’t like to get up early enough to whip up some protein pancakes in the morning! Overnight oats can be prepared in two minutes the night before and kept in the fridge, ready for you to grab-and-go on your way out the door. This recipe includes unsweetened almond milk, chia seeds, peanut butter, maple syrup and rolled oats.
Peanut Butter Banana Zucchini Bread – You can’t beat home-baked bread, and this one is packed full of wholesome ingredients and powerful nutrients. The recipe calls for unsweetened non-dairy milk (try almond or coconut), zucchini, banana, peanut butter, brown sugar (or you could substitute for maple syrup if you’re cutting back on refined sugar), and vanilla extract. Add to that some dry ingredients – brown rice flour, oat flour, corn starch, baking powder and baking soda.
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