7 Benefits of Peanut Butter for a Healthy Body and Mind
In the United States today, the average person consumes nearly three pounds of peanut butter per year. This incredibly versatile spread was first patented by Marcellus Gilmore Edson in the late 19th century, and Doctor John Harvey Kellogg, better known for his still famous cereal brand, popularized peanut butter as a great source of protein for those who have lost teeth or have other dental problems.
Though peanut butter has evolved since its inception, the average child in the United States consumes over fifteen hundred peanut butter sandwiches before they turn 18. However, not many are aware of the different benefits of consuming peanut butter. Here are some of them.
7 Health Benefits of Peanut Butter
Peanut butter may help you lose weight.
Nearly two-thirds of American adults and one-third of American children are classified as obese or overweight. Being overweight or obese carries a host of different health risks, including a heightened risk of diabetes, stroke, and heart problems.
Peanut butter is a fantastic food for those who are trying to lose weight for two main reasons. Even though a serving of peanut butter is fairly high in fat, it contains fiber and healthy fats, which help to keep you feeling full longer and prevent overeating, as well as fueling your workouts. Peanut butter is also a good source of protein, which helps to promote lean muscle growth, which in turn helps to burn fat and lose weight. (1)
For those who are looking to use peanut butter for weight loss, it is important not to rely on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for weight loss, as bread is high in carbohydrates, and white, non-whole grain bread does not provide much nutritional value. If a sandwich is your favorite, make sure you are utilizing whole-grain bread, or add peanut butter to your apples or celery for a lower-calorie option.
2. Peanut butter promotes cardiovascular health.
Every year, nearly one in four deaths are related to heart disease. Heart disease increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and diabetes, and can result from obesity, smoking, and genetics. Currently, heart disease is the number one cause of death of women both men and women in the United States. A healthy diet, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and not smoking, or quitting smoking, are all great ways to prevent the development of heart disease. (2)
Recent studies have also shown that peanut consumption is a great way to cut down on the risk of developing heart disease. Peanuts are a great source of ‘healthy’ fats that are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, which keeps high ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in check. Peanuts are said to have the same benefits on heart health as many more expensive nuts, such as pecans and walnuts. (3)
3. Peanut butter promotes brain health.
Brain health becomes increasingly important, as dementia, Alzheimer’s and other nervous system concerns become more common. However, it is important to keep your brain healthy throughout your life. Peanuts are great for brain health for two different reasons. Peanuts are high in folate, which is a vitamin in the B family. Also known as folic acid, this vitamin is particularly important for small children and women who are pregnant, but recent studies have also shown that a folate deficiency can lead to depression. Peanuts are also high in magnesium, which plays a role in keeping the NMDA receptors in the brain from overuse. These receptors play a large role in learning and memory, and damage to these receptors lead to memory loss. (4)
4. Peanut butter can keep your gallbladder healthy.
For many people, the gallbladder is an organ that they only think about when it is causing problems. The gallbladder is a small organ that works closely with the liver to store bile, which is then used to help break down fatty foods. Statistics show that by the age of sixty, ten percent of men and twenty percent of women have had trouble with their gallbladder.
While peanuts are technically considered to be a legume, which should generally be avoided for those who are struggling with gallbladder issues, peanuts have actually been shown to help prevent gallstones by up to thirty percent, as they are a good source of protein. Always consult with a physician if you have gallbladder concerns about what constitutes a healthy diet in your specific situation. (5)
5. Peanut butter is a good source of antioxidants.
In recent years, antioxidants have been in the forefront of many conversations about what to include in a healthy diet and how to promote a long life. Antioxidants are chemicals found in plant based foods that help to fight free radicals in the body. Free radicals are naturally occurring molecules that form from extra, unstable oxygen atoms. While these are naturally occurring, an overabundance of free radicals can cause structural DNA problems, which can lead to premature aging, heart disease, cancers, and a host of other ailments. Peanuts have levels of antioxidants that are similar to many fruits. Peanuts specifically have the power to lower the risk of stroke, keep the heart healthy, and lower the risk of stroke. (6)
6. Peanut butter may support hormonal balance and boost testosterone levels naturally.
Zinc is a nutrient that helps with the release of growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), and testosterone, all of which help build muscle and maintain a healthy metabolism. Peanut butter is a good source of zinc, and may help to increase testosterone levels naturally, if eaten consistently. In addition, studies show that men who eat plenty of monounsaturated fats have higher testosterone levels than those who don’t. (7)
7. Peanut butter delays gastric emptying.
Meals are digested more slowly when they contain fat, and the volume and composition of food influences the rate of gastric emptying. A glass of water would have a higher rate of gastric emptying than say, a double cheeseburger with fries. Fats such as the ones found in peanut butter, delay gastric emptying and suppress appetite as a result of digestion. If you are on a lower-carb diet, having higher fats can keep you feeling satiated for longer as a result of delayed gastric emptying. (8, 9)
How To Choose the Best Peanut Butter
There are many different types of peanut butter in any grocery store, but it is important to choose the peanut butter that will reap the maximum benefits without adding any extra fat, sodium, or sugar.
Many large grocery stores and health food stores have machines that crush peanuts into peanut butter without any additives. This is the best option for a healthy peanut butter, and means that if you do add a little bit of honey or jelly to your peanut butter, you won’t want excessive amounts of sugar and fat.
The next best option is to look for a natural option that has a minimal number ingredients, ideally with only peanuts and a small amount of salt for preservation. Avoid commercial peanut butters that have many ingredients, and are high in added sugar and fat.
Peanuts have been consumed by humans for at least four thousand years, and probably originated in Brazil or Peru. In the United States, it wasn’t until the Civil War that humans consumed peanuts regularly as a non-perishable source of protein, and thanks in part to the Barnum Circus, peanuts became popular as a snack in the last part of the nineteenth century.
Today, peanuts and peanut butter are a massive industry, and are used in foods from candies and desserts to healthy options. Whether you consume peanut butter as an occasional treat or as a regular staple, peanut butter is a fantastic food with a variety of different health benefits.