Peanuts, often consumed in the form of peanut butter, are not actually nuts; they’re highly nutritious legumes (a group that includes peas, beans, and lentils). Despite its fat and sodium content, peanut butter can be considered a health food for a number of reasons:
Peanut butter contains fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial nutrients.
Peanut butter has a similar ratio of saturated to unsaturated fat as olive oil, which is considered to be among the healthiest foods (saturated fat is fine in moderation; it only becomes a problem when people eat too much of it, which is common with modern diets).
Just 2 tablespoons of peanut butter provide 7 grams of protein – equal to that found in one ounce of red meat or poultry (one-third of a serving).
A recent study of nearly 4,000 Europeans found that salt intake was not correlated with blood pressure increase (in fact, those with the lowest salt intake were most likely to die of heart disease).
Research has shown that eating peanut butter and nuts is associated with reduced risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Although peanut butter is relatively high in calories, research conducted at Brigham and Women’s Hospital indicates that consumers of peanut butter are not only more likely to lose weight, but also to keep it off (probably because peanut butter makes people feel fuller and more satisfied, so they are less likely to suffer food cravings).
Not all peanut butters are created equal in terms of health benefits. Some products are loaded with icing sugar, corn syrup, hydrogenated oils (trans fats), and artificial ingredients, whereas others contain nothing but peanuts or just peanuts and salt. Be sure to read the label and choose a product that contains only natural ingredients and no added sugar.
Beck, L., RD, “Is Peanut Butter Good for Me?” The Globe and Mail, 6 September 2012. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/ask-a-health-expert/is-peanut-butter-good-for-me/article547825/
Harvard Medical School, “Is Peanut Butter Healthy? Yes, Says the Harvard Heart Letter,” Harvard Health Publications, July 2009. http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/Is-peanut-butter-healthy
Men’s Health, “The Peanut Butter Diet,” 29 May 2003. http://www.menshealth.com/weight-loss/weight-loss-peanut-butter-diet
Pittman, G., “Eating Less Salt Doesn’t Cut Heart Risks: Study,” Reuters, 3 May 2011. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/03/us-eating-less-salt-doesnt-cut-heart-ris-idUSTRE7427AG20110503