From whole wheat sandwiches to PB&J, cookies to keto diet-friendly fat bombs — there are plenty of reasons peanut butter appeals for sweet tooths and fitness enthusiasts alike.
This guide will cover peanut butter facts, tips to choosing the right product, possible alternatives, and delicious peanut butter recipes that support weight loss while fueling you up.
Peanut butter is a nut butter made from peanuts (which are technically a legume), but it often contains other ingredients, too — usually to stabilize or alter the flavor of the spread, such as vegetable oils, salt, and sweeteners.
Essentially, the steps to making peanut butter involve washing, roasting, and crushing peanuts and incorporating the ingredients mentioned above to add flavor, stabilize the product, and extend its shelf life.
It depends. We know that peanuts, the main ingredient of peanut butter, contain substantial amounts of health-boosting fatty acids, protein, and micronutrients like vitamin E, potassium, zinc, and phosphorus[*]. Yet, what makes peanut butter bad are its high amounts of added sugar and trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils.
That said, not all peanut butters are created equal. Some commercial brands sneak in unhealthy ingredients, but there are also manufacturers that keep other ingredients to a minimum — or stick to healthy choices like coconut oil, sea salt, and natural low-carb sweeteners like monk fruit or stevia.
Knowing what goes into any given jar of peanut butter is the biggest key to making sure that you buy one that meets your health and nutritional needs, regardless of your diet — but even more so if you eat a low-carb diet.
Peanut butter contains 2 grams of net carbs, 8 grams of fat, and 4 grams of protein in a tablespoon serving, making it a keto-friendly food[*].
With its low net carb count and high fat content, anyone can incorporate peanut butter into their keto lifestyle within reason. The key is to know your daily carb limit and not exceed it.
Related Article: Almond Butter vs. Peanut Butter: Choosing the Healthier Nut Butter
You can enjoy two tablespoons of this popular spread at a time, even up to five tablespoons, without going over 50 grams of carbs in a day (the upper limit for the standard keto diet) and getting kicked out of ketosis. Also, this amount should leave room for other foods even after eating peanut butter.
But if peanut butter would only be your source of carbs for the day, then avoid consuming more than 16 tablespoons which would contain 48 grams of total carbs.
Note: Your carb allowance increases on a cyclical keto diet, meaning you could have more than 5 servings of peanut butter during carb-up days. This type of carb-cycling approach typically works best for active people like athletes.
However, if you’re carbohydrate sensitive — meaning, your body overreacts even to small amounts of carbs — it’s probably best to start with a smaller number of servings and diligently check your blood sugar and ketone levels.
Peanuts have a favorable macronutrient and micronutrient profile for any diet (as long as you’re not on a low-fat diet), making them a great snack choice for nearly anyone looking to optimize their health. As long as you buy peanut butter or nut butter with quality ingredients and no unnecessary additives, you’re sure to benefit in the following ways:
1. Helps You Get More Protein in Your Diet
3 tablespoons of peanut butter provide you with 12 grams of protein. From a macronutrient standpoint, protein is essential for repairing cells and preserving muscle mass.
Note: You need a moderate amount of protein on a standard keto diet, ranging from 0.8 to 1 gram per pound of body weight, depending on your goals and activity level.
2. Supports Weight Loss
As a high-fat and low-carb food, peanut butter can help you lose weight by promoting fullness. Its protein content will also control hunger and keep you from losing muscle mass as weight loss occurs.
A study on healthy middle-aged women showed that frequent consumption of nuts, peanuts, or tree nuts was associated with less weight gain[*].
Despite that, it’s still important to pay attention to your serving sizes to avoid consuming too many calories.
3. Contains Monounsaturated Fats That May Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease
One of the healthy fats found in peanut butter is oleic acid. Epidemiological studies suggest that monounsaturated fats, particularly oleic acid, reduce heart disease risk by lowering LDL cholesterol. In addition to its ability to lower cholesterol, oleic acid may also reduce blood pressure[*].
While not a type of dietary fat, niacin or vitamin B3 can also be found in ground peanuts and one of its health effects is to lower cholesterol in the blood[*].
4. It’s Rich in Vitamins and Minerals that Support Your Health
Peanuts are naturally nutrient-rich. Some of its essential micronutrients include:
- Vitamin E: A fat-soluble vitamin that supports healthy immune function and protects cells from damage, among many other functions[*].
- Potassium: Research shows that potassium deficiency may increase one’s blood sugar and risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes[*].
- Zinc: This mineral is necessary for optimal health, as it promotes wound healing, protein synthesis, and immune function[*].
- Phosphorus: Your body needs phosphorus to make ATP, maintain strong bones and teeth, and repair cells[*].
- Biotin: A 28-gram serving of roasted peanuts provides 4.91 mcg of biotin, a B vitamin that helps produce energy from carbs, protein, and fats[*][*].
- Manganese: You need manganese to form healthy bones and process the sugars and starches you consume in your diet (especially helpful for those with diabetes or who eat more carbs)[*].
- Magnesium: Getting enough magnesium has many positive health effects. For example, magnesium may lower insulin, which helps with fat loss[*]. It may also lead to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease[*].
It can be quite hard to tell which one to buy with the grocery shelves and online shops packed with various peanut butter options. But, don’t worry; here are some tips to help you gain more clarity:
1. The Fewer the Ingredients, the Better
PB&J options (like Smucker’s) contain no less than ten ingredients, including high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and dextrose. As a rule of thumb, opt for peanut butters with the least possible ingredients.
Natural peanut butter options contain mostly peanuts. Regular salt or sea salt is fine, too — in fact, great for you if you’re on a low-carb diet for your sodium needs.
2. Avoid Added Sugar
Many commercial peanut butters are packed with added sugar, including high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), dextrose, and honey. Whether you’re on a keto diet or not, you’re better off avoiding sugar. A high sugar intake increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, and certain cancers[*].
Additional tip: Steer clear of low-fat peanut butters. The amount of sugar tends to be higher in low-fat or non-fat products than in regular versions[*].
3. Watch out for Hydrogenated Oils
Hydrogenated oils (extracted from plants like soybean and corn) are often added to peanut butter to keep the oil and particles from separating. That’s how brands achieve a homogenous, even mixture.
Avoid the “no-stir” varieties when purchasing peanut butter as they’re likely made with vegetable oils. You may have to stir the separated oil and peanut butter every time, but that’s nothing compared to getting sick down the road.
4. Look for the Non-GMO label
Always check the label on your peanut butter for the Non-GMO Project Verified label. This assures you that the peanuts used aren’t genetically modified, which is the case with some peanuts on the market.
There is some concern surrounding genetically modified crops. Some researchers argue that they present health risks such as developing antibiotic resistance, although more research is needed[*].
Nevertheless, it’s always best to steer on the side of caution and choose Non-GMO peanut butters as much as possible.
5. Don’t Worry About Aflatoxins
One concern around peanut butter you may have heard about is aflatoxin exposure. Aflatoxins are a family of toxins found on various crops, including peanuts and tree nuts[*].
One case-control study found that long-term exposure to aflatoxins increases one’s risk of liver cancer, malnutrition, and impaired immune function[*].
While this is a real concern, you likely don’t need to worry because the USDA and FDA has implemented guidelines to minimize risk, including close monitoring of susceptible crops and imported products.
If you’re looking for other ways to enjoy low-carb peanut butter other than making keto toast or eating it straight from the jar, try exploring these creative snack ideas. They aren’t just healthy but are also low in net carbs.
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie: This smoothie recipe is packed with healthy fats. It can also double as a post-workout recovery treat.
- Peanut Butter Cookies: You’ll need only 5 ingredients and a total prep time of 15 minutes to make these sweet and chewy cookies.
- No-Bake Peanut Butter Balls: This is the perfect snack to make when you’re short on time and craving a chocolatey keto dessert.
- Peanut Butter Nola Bars: Gluten-free and with only 2-3 grams of net carbs, these bars fit into your meal plan.
- Creamy Peanut Butter Mousse: For this recipe, you have the option to switch peanut butter for one of Perfect Keto’s creamy nut butters.
Other types of nut butters make excellent substitutes for peanut butter since they’re also low in net carbs and brimming with healthy fats. Popular options include:
- Macadamia nut butter
- Almond butter
- Pecan butter
- Cashew butter
- Walnut butter
- Pistachio butter
- Hazelnut butter
Some keto brands offer nut butters that combine low-carb nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, and cashews) and incorporate MCTs for an energy boost and antioxidant punch.
Over to You
Peanut butter can be good for you in many ways, especially with a product that has peanuts as its main ingredient, is free from added sugar, doesn’t use hydrogenated oils, and isn’t genetically modified.
Furthermore, most people will agree that peanut butter is delicious — it can be great for supporting weight loss on any diet when consumed in the right amounts. Limit yourself to 5 tablespoons per day on keto, measure your blood sugar and ketone levels if needed, and feel free to explore different ways to eat it.
As long as you know what to look for in peanut butter, it can perfectly fit into your diet, keto or otherwise.