Food cravings are very common. Unlike hunger, cravings are characterized by an intense desire for a specific food, such as peanut butter. Restricted eating and dieting have both been linked to an increase in food cravings. In some instances, a food craving may be your body’s way of letting you know you’re deficient in a certain nutrient, such as a vitamin or mineral.

Peanut butter is a nutritionally-rich food, which contains phytonutrients, such as beta-sitosterol. One study on animals indicated that beta-sitosterol may have value as an antidepressant.

Anecdotal evidence also indicates that beta-sitosterol helps reduce feelings of anxiety, possibly by stabilizing cortisol, a hormone released during times of stress. Stress has also been shown in animal studies, to trigger cravings of high-fat foods. You might find yourself reaching for a jar of peanut butter if you’re feeling anxious, stressed out, or depressed, in an attempt to reduce those feelings.

There may also be an underlying nutritional deficiency, you’re trying to fill. Peanut butter contains many nutrients, including:

  • unsaturated fat
  • protein
  • antioxidants
  • amino acids
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • folate
  • niacin
  • vitamin E
  • calcium

If you’re on a low-fat diet, you may not be getting enough healthy fats. This might cause you to crave peanut butter.

Peanut butter is also thought to be a common craving among people on low-carbohydrate eating plans. Low-sugar varieties of peanut butter are an approved food on many low-carb diets. People eating low-carb diets may crave peanut butter as a carbohydrate substitute, because of its slightly sweet taste, satisfying texture, and nutritional makeup.

Craving peanut butter does not represent an underlying medical condition or a health hazard. However, if you feel the need to discuss your cravings with your doctor or with a nutritionist, you should do so.

If you think craving peanut butter might be the way you’re tackling depression, anxiety, or stress, talking to a therapist may be a good idea.

Because it’s calorie dense, eating large amounts of peanut butter may not be the best food choice for someone trying to lose weight. However, peanut butter is not filled with empty calories, so there’s no reason to eliminate it from your diet completely.

Reducing your cravings and the amount you eat may be accomplished by adding other foods into your diet which contain healthy fats, high-fiber, healthy carbohydrates, and significant nutritional value.

Foods which might help reduce your peanut butter cravings include:

  • avocado
  • sunflower seeds
  • dark chocolate
  • olive oil
  • coconut oil
  • cheese
  • carrots
  • apples
  • low-sugar yogurt
  • whole grain bread
  • sourdough bread

If stress or depression are behind your peanut butter craving, lifestyle modifications may help. These include:

  • exercise
  • yoga
  • meditation
  • talking with a therapist
  • creating a support system, or socializing more often

Cravings for certain foods, such as peanut butter, are very common. Food cravings differ from hunger, and often have an underlying cause. Determining the root cause of a food craving can help you understand how best to deal with it.

Peanut butter is a healthy food that does not pose a health risk. It is, however, calorie dense, and eating large amounts may not be appropriate for everyone. There are many foods which may help to alleviate a peanut butter craving, particularly if it’s caused by a nutritional deficiency. If anxiety, stress, or depression are causing a peanut butter craving, lifestyle modifications, or talking to a therapist, may help.