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Is Peanut Butter Good For Weight Loss?

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There are few foods as popular in the fitness fraternity than peanut butter right now. Whether you are a crunchy or smooth person, it is a favorite snack of many people worldwide and best known for its beautiful pairing with jelly.

But is peanut butter really a good choice for those wanting to drop weight or go on a shred to drop body fat?

In this article we’ll take a look. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What is peanut butter?
  • The science – is it a good choice for weight loss?
  • How to choose a good peanut butter

What is Peanut Butter?

This much loved snack food, often referred to simply as ‘PB’, is made from ground, dry-roasted peanuts. Although referred to as a ‘nut’ the peanut is actually a legume [1].

It is used as a spread, in cakes and sweets and cookies. It is also combined with jelly to make the American favorite PB and J sandwich. It has been used in Chinese cooking for hundreds of years, and more recently used in Western cooking such as with eggs, bacon and burgers.

PB is available in smooth or crunchy varieties, however by law it can only be referred to as a ‘butter’ if it contains a minimum of 90% peanuts [2]. If not it is referred to as a ‘spread’.

There are now many brands available, marketed at the health-conscious community that are flavored with additional healthy ingredients such as coconut, pink Himalayan salt or cocoa, amongst many other ingredients. PB is also emerging as a popular whey protein shake and bar flavor too. 

PB is an excellent source of dietary fats with the majority coming from monounsaturated (MUFA) in the form of oleic and linoleic acids, and saturated fats (SFA) in the form of palmitic acid – a type of fatty acid.

Due to its high fat content it has modest amount of protein and low amounts of carbs, however it still provides a decent amount of dietary fiber.

In terms of nutrient profile, PB provides a good source of thiamin – vitamin B1 – that helps the body transfer carbs into usable energy. It also provides vitamin B6 and B3, as well as vitamin E and a range of important minerals such as potassium, iron and magnesium.

The inclusion of MUFAs from peanuts and/or PB in the diet has been found to both improve health status and reduce cardiovascular disease risk.

It has been found to reduce blood lipids by 24% in one sample [1], and 10% lower cholesterol as well as a 14% reduction in triacylglycerol – the main constituents of body fat in humans and animals – in another [3].

So can peanut butter help you weight loss? Let’s see what the studies say…


PB-and-Weight-Loss

Key Point: Peanut Butter is an unprocessed product that is high in monounsaturated fats such as oleic and linoleic acids.


The Science – Can You Lose Weight Eating Peanut Butter?

Per 100g, this snack is high in calories, coming in at just under 600kcal, so a typical 2-tablespoon serving will give you just under 200 calories. It is important that if you are aiming to hit an energy deficit – which you should be if you are aiming to burn fat – that you don’t go overboard on this snack.

Too much of any food can inhibit your weight loss goals being achieved, however this food is also well known for its high satiety value – it can keep you fuller for longer periods – which offsets calories from additional meals when consumed.

A study in the Journal of Nutrition [4] investigated the link between ground nut consumption and energy balance. 

They found an inverse relationship between how frequently nuts were eaten, and body mass index. They reported little or no weight change with inclusion of various types of nuts in the diet over a 1–6 month trial period.

They also suggested that when nuts were allowed on a weight loss diet – in moderation, better compliance and greater weight loss were achieved

Lastly, Pelkman et al [5] aimed to build on studies using normal weight volunteers by recruiting a group of overweight and obese men and women, in order to see how moderate fat diets would affect weight loss and lipid levels.

They controlled the diet of the volunteers and ensured that they ate a MUFA-based, moderate fat diet of ~35% of total daily calories. This came from PB, peanut oil and whole peanuts.

Weight loss was on average 1.2kg per week over a 6-week period – a significant amount. Despite careful monitoring and frequent adjustments to energy intake. Afterwards, many subjects continued to lose 0.18kg per week during a 4-week weight-maintenance period. 

The researchers suggested that the inclusion of popular food sources of MUFAs may promote better adherence to a calorie-reduced diet intended for weight loss. 


MUFA-and-Fat-Loss

Key Point: Research suggests that MUFAs eaten in moderation can improve cardiovascular risk profile and help you lose weight.


Choosing a Healthy Peanut Butter

Good quality PB is pretty much unprocessed – shelled, dry roasted and then ground into a paste. Unprocessed PB is not emulsified so you’ll find that oil will separate and sit on the top of the paste – you can just stir this in each time you use it.

Some poorer-quality PBs contain emulsifiers to stop oil separation and additives that make it smoother and creamier. This weakens its nutrition and health profile. One common additive is that of sugar – you can pretty much guarantee that if your PB is ‘low fat’ then it’ll have added sugar. Aim for whole food version or organic if possible and avoid low-fat varieties.

Look out for added cheap oils such as vegetable oil too, particularly partially hydrogenated oils that are made by pumping hydrogen into monounsaturated oils. These are man made and should be avoided.


Key Point: Aim for whole food peanut butter that has no additional ingredients.


Summary – Can Peanut Butter Help with Weight Loss?

Peanut butter is a legume-based product made from ground, dry-roasted peanuts. By law, it can only be referred to as a ‘butter’ if it contains a minimum of 90% peanuts.

It is a popular snack which is used in a variety of products in both savory and sweet foods. Within the last few years it has become particularly popular in health foods markets and the fitness industry.

Research suggests that the monounsaturated fat content of the food can improve risk factors of cardiovascular disease including blood lipids such as triglycerides and cholesterol.

The inclusion of nut-based products can also help to boost weight loss due to its satiety value, however as a calorie dense food it should only be consumed in moderation due to risk of over-consuming energy.


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References

  1. Alper, CM et al. Peanut consumption improves indices of cardiovascular disease risk in healthy adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 2003; 22(2): 133-41.
  2. Blitz, M. Why Midcentury Lawyers Spent 12 Years Arguing About Peanut Butter. Atlas Obscura15 October 2015.
  3. Kris-Etherton, PM et al. High–monounsaturated fatty acid diets lower both plasma cholesterol and triacylglycerol concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999; 70(6): 1009-1015
  4. Mattes, RD et al. Impact of Peanuts and Tree Nuts on Body Weight and Healthy Weight Loss in Adults. J. Nutr. 2008; 138(9): 1741S-1745S
  5. Pelkman, CL et al. Effects of moderate-fat (from monounsaturated fat) and low-fat weight-loss diets on the serum lipid profile in overweight and obese men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004; 79 (2): 204-212