Peanut Better?
Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Peanut Better?

I love peanut butter. I feel really sorry for people who have an allergy to peanuts because there is nothing like peanut butter, especially with chocolate. I had an aversion to sweets during my pregnancy (which is quite odd for me because I have a mean sweet tooth), but as soon as Basil was born, the sweet tooth came back and it had nothing but peanut butter and chocolate written all over it. Luckily the craving has subsided, but I still love peanut butter.

Is peanut butter good for you? I get asked this question quite often. People are so fearful of carbs and they learn about the glycemic index so they think they can't eat a banana by itself (high glycemic) so they slather peanut butter all over everything to bring the glycemic index down.

Peanut butter (PB) is high calorie at 190 calories per 2 T. serving (some brands are as high as 210 calories). Many think of it as a source of protein, but it is really more fat than it is protein. Most PBs have 16 grams of fat and 7-8 grams of protein. Most also have about 2 grams of fiber. Most of the fat that is in PB is monounsaturated, the "healthy" fat, but it is still fat and calories which can eventually end up around your midsection. About 3 grams of the 16 grams is saturated fat, the artery clogging type (about 15% of your max for the day). Some PBs add hydrogenated vegetable oils, but usually they are only 1-2% of the total weight and not enough to contribute a level of saturated fat that registers on the food label (it needs to be 0.5 grams to register).

Peanuts do have nutritional benefits. They do have protein, fiber, magnesium, Vitamin E, niacin, and riboflavin. Researchers have actually found peanuts to be as high or higher in antioxidants than many fruits and vegetables. One of the antioxidants in peanuts is resveratrol, the same one that is in red wine. These antioxidants may have heart disease and cancer preventing benefits.

Interesting facts:
  • By law PB must contain 90% peanuts. Some brands add sugar, salt, hydrogenated oils, or stabilizers to make up the other 10% of the ingredients by weight.
  • Natural PB does not have added hydrogenated oils or stabilizers. The result is often PB that separates and oil collects at the top. Don't pour it off because you will get PB that is too stiff to spread. Mix it back in for best results.
  • Some natural PB companies are now using patented techniques to mix their PB to keep it from separating without using the hydrogenated oils or stabilizers.
  • One serving of 2 Tablespoons is roughly the size of a golf ball.
  • Reduced fat peanut butter is NOT reduced calorie. Most have added sugar and sodium to make up for less fat. They also have more hydrogenated oils.
  • If you are looking for fewer calories in your PB, look for Whipped PB. It is similar to the whipped tub vs block cream cheese. The trick is that more air is whipped in, so for a 2 T. serving it has fewer calories. It is also easier to spread, so you end up using less while saving even more calories!
  • About 50% of the peanuts consumed in the US are in the form of peanut butter
  • Peanuts are not really a nut, but rather a legume and are grown underground!

Flavored PBs are all the rage. Right now at home I have deep chocolate PB, caramel PB, banana PB, and raspberry PB. I got them from a company called Peanut Better. Yes, I stole their name for the title of this blog.
They have other flavors such as sweet molasses, vanilla cranberry, and even savory flavors like rosemary garlic, thai ginger, spicy southwestern, and hickory smoked. They have recipes and ideas of what you can do with these unusual flavors such as dips, sauces, desserts, and even in soups. Check it out!

Another interesting PB is called "PB2". It is powdered peanut butter and only has 54 calories per 2 T. serving with 3 grams of fat. You can find it at Bell Plantation I also have some of this at home and I will mix it into smoothies or into my Greek Yogurt. It is actually tasty and has far fewer calories than regular PB. You can also mix it with water and have a normal PB and J sandwich.

I know not everyone can eat peanut butter, so tomorrow I will talk about other nut butters and alternatives to peanut butter for you allergy sufferers. Stay tuned!

Photo courtesy of Dr Stephen Dann
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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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