Like most high-fat foods, peanut butter’s had a serious PR problem for the better part of a century!
When studies in the 1940s linked high-fat, high-calorie diets to an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, the world turned its back on all fat-rich foods. Whole food sources of healthy fats, such as nuts, seeds, olives and avocados were shunned with as much vigor and vitriol as cookies, cookies, oils, butters, margarines and lard.
Though researchers now know that it was a big mistake to lump processed fats and junk foods in with whole, healthy, high-fat foods, it’s taking a long time to restore the their good name. But a good name they should have! High-fat whole foods are excellent for your health.
Including peanut butter.
Today, in honor of National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day, we’d like to do our part to help peanut butter reclaim its rightful place as part of a healthy diet by sharing its most amazing health benefits with you!
Peanut butter can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Studies show those who eat nuts, including peanuts and peanut butter, regularly have lower BMIs than those who rarely or never do. Adding peanut butter to the diet when you are trying to lose weight can even help you lose weight faster and keep it off longer!
Researchers think a lot of it has to do with how filling peanut butter is. Compared to the same meal without it, adding just two tablespoons of peanut butter to a breakfast of whole grains has been shown to increase fullness and decrease the desire to eat for the entire rest of the day (a 12 full hours), which can help you eat less overall.
The satiating effect of peanut butter’s likely due (at least in large part) to the high levels of fiber, protein and unsaturated fat it contains. All three of these nutrients are excellent at triggering your intestines to release “fullness” hormones to send to your brain. Levels of the three most important fullness hormones (GLP-1, PYY, and CCK) were all found to be higher after a meal containing peanut butter than a peanut butter-free one!
Peanut butter can help protect you against diabetes.
Studies clearly show that peanut butter has a protective effect against type 2 diabetes. Even controlling for the creamy condiment’s ability to help keep you slimmer, those who eat more peanut butter have a far lower risk of developing diabetes. In fact, in a study looking at more than 80,000 women, those eating peanut butter five-times per week were 27% less likely to develop diabetes than women who rarely ate peanut butter.
Its protective effect against diabetes is likely the result of its ability to slow down the speed at which sugar gets into your bloodstream after you eat. This gives your body time to produce appropriate insulin and keeps your blood sugars from spiking too high after you eat.
Interestingly, it isn’t only able to do this for the meal you add it to. The next meal you eat, even if it’s a couple of hours later, also causes a smaller spike in your blood sugar! Researchers think this is an effect of the healthy fats, protein, and arginine in peanut butter, which can make your cells more sensitive to insulin. Better insulin sensitivity lets your cells draw the sugar out of your blood more quickly, keeping it from building up in your blood!
Peanut butter helps protect you from heart disease and heart attacks.
Eating peanut butter at least five days per week may cut your risk of having a heart attack. Studies show an 8% decrease in the risk of suffering a heart attack in those that eat more peanut butter. Far more importantly (and impressively), eating it most days of the week can cut the risk of dying from a heart attack (at least in women) by nearly a quarter (24%). If you have diabetes, this number jumps up significantly, with regular peanut butter consumption cutting your risk of even getting heart disease (the precursor to most heart attacks) nearly in half (44%).
How does peanut butter pull this one off?
Researchers think a mixture of factors make peanut butter protective for your arteries and your heart.
As mentioned above, peanut butter helps prevent blood sugar spikes after you eat. High blood sugar spikes damage the walls of your arteries and put you at risk for heart disease.
Finally, peanut butter’s a rich source of arginine. This amino acid is essential for helping your arteries make a chemical called nitric oxide, which is incredibly important for keeping your artery walls healthy and keeping heart disease at bay.
Peanut-Butter-Loving Health Nuts, Rejoice!
Clearly, peanut butter’s bad rap was fully unfounded. It has every right to be included, as a couple of tablespoons per day, in a healthy diet! (Unless, of course, you are allergic!!)
If you’ve been tip-toeing around peanut butter since your days of PB&Js, trying (ironically) to protect your waistline and/or heart from this high-fat treat, you can just go right ahead and take your foot off the break!
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Best Peanut Butter Brands
|Smucker’s Natural Creamy Peanut Butter,||Earth Balance Natural Peanut Butter & Flaxseed||Justin’s Natural Classic Peanut Butter Squeeze Packs||Peanut Butter & Co. Mighty Nut Powdered Peanut Butter||Honey Almond Butter by Justin’s|
(Need some inspiration for some tasty peanut butter brands? Check out some of our favorites! Smucker’s Naturals, Earth Balance, Justin’s, Peanut Butter & Co – for those who want to mix it up a little, and Justin’s Squeezable Packs – for those on the go)