Is peanut butter fattening or good for weight loss?

There is no denying it, peanut butter is super delicious and hard not to love.

It can be eaten on its own by the spoonful, buttered on toast and apples, or used in smoothie recipes such as this one.

And if you eat the correct type, peanut butter can be beneficial to your health.

However peanut butter is also high in fat. Should it be eaten when you are trying to lose weight, or avoided at all costs?

How is peanut butter made?

Peanut butter is made from peanuts, which contrary to their name are actually legumes and not a type of nut.

Roasted peanuts are ground up until they form a thick paste. This is what is considered to be ‘natural’ peanut butter and is the healthiest type.

In most cases however, other ingredients such as salt, sugar, oils, various fats and flavourings are added to give peanut butter a better texture and taste.

The actual ingredients vary from brand to brand, which in turn makes some brands much healthier than others.

Nutritional information

Two tablespoons (32g) of peanut butter contains:

Calories 188
Fat 16g (3.3g saturated, 8g monounsaturated)
Cholesterol 0
Sodium 5mg
Carbohydrate 6g
Fiber 1.9g
Sugar 3g
Protein 8g

When it comes to weight management, calories are important. They are units of energy and all foods have them.

However the number of calories that different foods have can vary significantly.

Foods that have a lot of water (like most fruits & vegetables) tend to be low in calories, because water contains 0 calories.

On the other hand, foods that have a lot of fat (like most nuts & seeds) tend to be high in calories, because fat contains 9 calories per gram.

Eating more calories than what your body burns is known as a calorie surplus and over the long run leads to weight gain.

This is because the excess calories are stored as fat in the body.

The opposite is also true; eating fewer calories than what your body burns (a calorie deficit) forces your body to use its fat stores as a source of energy, and this leads to weight loss.

The number of calories that you need to consume will depend on your age, gender, height, weight, how active you are and your overall goals.

You can use the calculator below to get a rough estimate of the number of calories that you should be consuming:

Gender Age Weight Switch to lbs Height Switch to feet and inches Activity Level

This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.

For example, a 35 year old lady who weighs 80 kg (176 pounds), is 170 cm tall and exercises twice a week will need to consume approximately 2100 calories to maintain her weight, 1700 calories to lose weight and 1300 calories to lose weight fast.

On a 1700 calorie diet, two tablespoons of peanut butter would amount to around 11% of total daily calories. Does this mean that peanut butter should be avoided when trying to lose weight? Not necessarily.

How peanut butter can help with weight management

Even though peanut butter is relatively high in calories, it is also rich in protein and fiber, both of which assist with weight management. This is because they increase satiety, i.e. they keep you feeling full for longer.

Studies have shown that high protein intake increases calorie expenditure, reduces appetite and cuts food cravings. Similarly, studies such as this one have shown that increasing fiber intake can assist with weight management.

There have also been a number of studies that have been carried out, investigating how peanuts & peanut butter affects weight.

This study found that children who consumed peanut butter were less likely to be overweight or obese, compared to those who didn’t. The children who ate peanut butter also had significantly higher intakes of several vitamins, and lower total cholesterol levels.

This study involving 15 normal-weight healthy adults found that even though peanuts are energy dense, because of their high satiety, they prevent overall over consumption of calories.

And this study concluded that peanuts and tree nuts can be included in the diet in moderation, without posing a threat for weight gain.

This means that peanut butter should not be feared when trying to manage your weight, so long as it is eaten in moderation. It is certainly a far better snack option than many deep fried foods.

For example, even though two tablespoons of peanut butter has slightly more calories than a pack of potato chips, it will leave you feeling satisfied for much longer, thereby preventing you from overeating.

Can eating peanut butter make you fat?

Any food if eaten in abundance will lead to weight gain. This is simply because ingesting too many calories causes fat storage.

It can be easier to eat too much of certain types of food compared to others, and this is certainly the case when it comes to peanut butter; it is highly addictive and some people might find it difficult to manage how much they eat.

However, it is important to control portions and enjoy peanut butter in moderation. Whenever you eat it, try serve yourself and then put the bottle back in a cupboard, rather than on your dining table, to prevent yourself from having “just one more spoon”.

Eating the right type of peanut butter is also important. Many brands that you find in shops will contain large amounts of added sugar and oils. It is best to avoid these peanut butters as they will do your waistline no favours. Instead, you should opt for a type of peanut butter that has peanuts, and not much else, as its ingredients.

What about other nut butters?

Even though peanut butter is the most popular type of nut butter, you can also buy butters made from other types of nuts & seeds such as almonds, cashews, walnuts and pumpkin seeds.

Just like peanut butter, these butters tend to be high in calories but at the same time contain large amounts of protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins & minerals. For example, 2 tablespoons of almond butter has 196 calories, 3.2 g of fiber and 6.8 g of protein, making it an excellent substitute for peanut butter.

Conclusion

Provided that you eat it in moderation, peanut butter can be a delicious, nutritious and filling snack that is also weight loss friendly. Opt for natural peanut butters over conventional ones. If these are not available where you live, consider making your own peanut butter at home.

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