Peanut Butter Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits
Peanut butter is one of the most popular foods in the United States, with an average consumption of three pounds per American per year. It is also one of the least expensive sources of plant protein.
Peanut butter is high in fat and calories. Just 2 tablespoons deliver a quarter of your recommended daily intake of fat, some of it saturated. Moreover, peanuts are one of the eight most common food allergens in the United States, affecting 1.4% of the population (or roughly 4.6 million people).
Even so, peanut butter's nutritional benefits most often outweigh its drawbacks, particularly for people who don't get enough protein in their diets.
Peanut Butter Nutrition Facts
Peanut butter nutrition includes 190 calories per 2 tablespoon serving, with 16g of fat, 8g of carbs, 2g of fiber, and 7g of protein. Peanut butter is high in healthy fats, folate, potassium, vitamin E, and B vitamins. The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for 2 tablespoons (32g) of smooth peanut butter with added salt.1
- Fat: 16g
- Sodium: 136mg
- Carbohydrates: 8g
- Fiber: 2g
- Sugars: 3g
- Protein: 7g
Peanuts butter is relatively low in carbohydrate. The carbs in a serving of peanut account for only 13% to 16% of their total weight, translating to a glycemic index (GI) of only 14. A serving of peanut butter is less likely to affect blood sugar than higher-GI foods like the white bread (75 GI per slice) used to make a PB&J sandwich.
Most of the carbohydrates in peanuts are complex, the type that the body breaks down gradually. Peanut butter has few of the simple carbohydrates that trigger spikes in blood sugar.
Even commercial peanut butter brands that add sugar tend to keep it to a minimum, adding no more than a gram or two to those naturally found in peanuts.
Although 16 grams of fat per serving may seem like a lot, most are "healthy" monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat. Only around 4% is from "unhealthy" saturated fat, the type that can clog your arteries.
The monounsaturated fats in peanuts are primarily from oleic acid (which positively influences cholesterol levels), while the polyunsaturated fats are predominantly from linoleic acid (which helps build muscle). Peanut butter also contains significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and associated with a reduced risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
However, some commercial brands contain hydrogenated oils that stabilize the peanut butter and prevent the natural oils from separating and rising to the top. Unlike monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, hydrogenated oil does affect blood lipid levels, causing "bad" LDL cholesterol to rise and "good" HDL cholesterol to fall.
Approximately 35% of peanut butter's total weight is from protein, making it a good source of plant-based protein. It provides 7 grams of protein per serving.
Vitamins and Minerals
Peanut butter is nutrient-dense and can help you meet your reference daily intake (RDI, or recommended daily amount) of vitamins and minerals. Peanut butter provides important B-complex vitamins as well as essential minerals and antioxidants.
Here is how 32 grams of peanut butter contribute to the RDI of key nutrients:
- Copper: 43% of RDI
- Manganese: 28% of RDI
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 25% of RDI
- Iron: 22% of RDI
- Folate: 20% of RDI
- Potassium: 18% of RDI
- Vitamin E: 18% of RDI
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 17% of RDI
- Magnesium: 14% of RDI
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 11% of RDI
- Zinc: 10% of RDI
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): 9% of RDI
Packaging often lists a single serving of peanut butter as 2 tablespoons (32 grams), roughly the amount needed to make a peanut butter sandwich. Like all other types of nut butter, peanut butter is high in calories, and has 191 calories per serving.
But the good news is that peanut butter packs a lot of nutrition into a small amount of food. And, because peanut butter can make you feel fuller faster, you don't tend to eat a lot. What you do consume can support health.
Beyond its nutritional value, peanut butter contains compounds that can potentially promote weight loss and reduce the risk of heart disease.
May Help Support Weight Loss
Peanut butter is believed to aid in weight loss by promoting satiation (the sensation of feeling full soon after eating) because of its protein and fat content. By curbing your appetite, peanut butter may help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of obesity.
Whether peanut butter can actually help you shed pounds is less certain. An eight-year study from Harvard University evaluated the medical histories of over 50,000 women and found that a higher consumption of nuts corresponded to a lower incidence of weight gain and obesity when compared to women who never ate nuts.2 But it did not show a direct association between nut consumption and weight loss.
While peanut butter may help curb your appetite, it's important to watch your portions. Two servings account for 50% of your daily fat and 20% of calories in a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet.
May Help Reduce Risk of Heart Disease
Evidence that peanuts or peanut butter can reduce the risk of heart disease is mixed. For example, the FDA noted that eating 1.5 ounces of nuts per day may be beneficial to the heart, but not that it could prevent heart disease.
Some scientists disagree. A 2016 review of studies from France suggested that an antioxidant in peanuts, known as resveratrol, can reduce cardiovascular inflammation and relax blood vessels, increasing circulation and lowering blood pressure.
Resveratrol has also been shown to decrease LDL oxidation, which contributes to the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and coronary artery disease.3
Consuming 2 ounces of nuts (not just peanuts) per week may have a cardioprotective effect if used as part of a low-fat diet with routine exercise.4
Helps Manage Blood Sugar Spikes
A 2018 study examined the effects of adding peanut butter to a high-glycemic index breakfast to see if it would help in minimizing blood glucose spikes. The study, performed with 16 adults, determined that two tablespoons of peanut butter, paired with breakfast, can help to prevent sudden blood glucose rises following the meal.5
May Help in Muscle Building
Magnesium is a critical nutrient in muscle management and strength building. A single serving of peanut butter (2 tablespoons) contains anywhere from 14% to 16% of magnesium, making the food a beneficial dietary addition for a strength routine.6 Protein is also important in muscle-building, and peanut butter provides that too.
May Improve Memory
A study published in Clinical Nutrition in 2021 explored the effects of peanut butter on cognitive function and stress. A total of 63 adults participated in the study and researchers discovered that consuming peanuts and peanut butter on a regular basis could improve memory function and even reduce anxiety.7
Peanut allergies are one of the most common and potentially dangerous food allergies, affecting no less than 1% of the U.S population and 2% of children.
Peanut allergies can range in severity from mild to life-threatening. In rare cases, it can lead to an all-body reaction known as anaphylaxis, characterized by a severe rash or hives, shortness of breath, wheezing, rapid heart rate, and the swelling of the face, tongue, or throat. If left untreated, anaphylaxis can lead to shock, coma, heart or respiratory failure, and death.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) recommends that peanuts and other allergens be introduced into a child's diet at as early as four to six months of age. This can sensitize them to peanuts and help them avoid developing an allergy.8
While uncommon, the resveratrol in peanut butter can inhibit blood clotting if consumed in excess. This can amplify the side effects of blood thinners like Coumadin (warfarin), causing nosebleeds, easy bruising, abdominal pain, blood in the urine (hematuria), and heavy menstrual bleeding.
The occasional or even daily consumption of peanut butter shouldn't be problematic as long as you limit your intake to one to two servings.
There are many varieties of peanut butter available. Natural peanut butter, for example, is made from peanuts and peanuts alone. Both natural peanut butter and organic peanut butter contain peanuts and nothing else. The peanuts used in organic peanut butter must be produced without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents.
Other peanut butter varieties may have additives including salt, sugar, oil, xylitol (which is dangerous for dogs) or other artificial sweeteners. You'll also find crunchy, extra crunchy, or smooth peanut butter options.
If you love peanut butter but don't like the number of calories, you can use a peanut butter protein powder. Blend it into drinks or bake it into muffins, cookies, or pancakes. You can even mix it with water to make a reduced-calorie, low-fat spread. A 2-tablespoon serving provides 50 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbohydrate, and 6 grams of protein.
Storage and Food Safety
Because it doesn't contain any stabilizers, the natural oils in natural peanut butter can separate from the solids and need to be stirred back in before eating. This also means that natural peanut butter should be kept in the refrigerator since the oils can spoil and turn rancid at room temperature.
The average shelf life of natural peanut butter is two to four months in the pantry and three to six months if refrigerated. Regular peanut butter can be stored in the pantry or refrigerator for up to one year.
Sight is usually the best way to tell if peanut butter has gone bad. If it has become darker, harder, or drier, it is best to toss it. If peanut butter has lost its buttery aroma or smells off, it is better to throw it out regardless of its use-by date.
Never eat peanut butter with any signs of discoloration or mold. One type of mold common to peanut butter, called aflatoxin, is classified as a carcinogen. Animal studies have shown that long-term exposure to aflatoxin can increase the risk of liver cancer and other types of cancer.
How to Prepare
As a quick snack, peanut butter can be eaten on its own or spread on a celery stick, banana, or cracker. It is also tasty swirled into vanilla yogurt or blended into a smoothie or protein shake. It works in savory meals like noodle dishes and curries. And of course, there is always the PB&J sandwich, adored by children and adults alike.
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