Your late night PB spoonful craving may feel -- guilty. How could something so indulgently creamy, smooth (or crunchy; we don’t discriminate) and savory-sweet be healthy? When the girls from Girl Up proposed a new Peanut Butter flavor, we asked the same questions. We knew this new flavor would be delicious -- the perfect crunchy, salty, sweet combo -- but is peanut butter actually good for you? Short answer: yes. And we did the research, so you don’t have to.
Where did peanut butter come from?
Though peanuts were likely discovered as early as 1500 BC by the Incans of Peru, peanut butter didn’t come into the picture until centuries later. When European explorers discovered peanuts in Brazil, they began to trade them in Asia and Africa. Africans then introduced peanuts to North America in the 1700s, and it became a popular crop in the 1800s. In the United States, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (yes, like the cereal) invented a version of peanut butter in 1895. Later, a St. Louis physician developed a version of PB as a protein source for his older patients who couldn’t chew meat. He introduced it to the world at the St Louis Fair in 1904, and it quickly became an American staple.
So, what exactly is it?
Image Source: Unsplash
According to the FDA, peanut butter has to be made of at least 90% peanuts. This leaves PB to vary a lot -- some brands pack the extra 10% with oil, sugar, and salt. Brands that use hydrogenated oils (think your no-stir-required childhood favorites) offer a shelf-stable, creamy, cheaper product. Though these are delicious and offer many nutritional benefits, these brands sometimes give PB a bad rap; by adding hydrogenated oils and sweeteners, these PBs get an added dose of trans fat and sugar. When looking for PB, your best bet is to pick up those with an ingredient list of 100% peanuts. That way, you get all of the benefits of peanuts with none of the extra fluff you don’t want.
OK, well what kind of benefits are we talking?
Image Source: Olia Nayda, Unsplash
When you’re dealing with 100% natural peanut butter, the health benefits may just be enough to convince you to eat it by the spoon every single night (not that we needed to convince you). From improving your heart health, to introducing incredible micronutrients to your diet, peanut butter may just be a superfood in disguise.
Healthy Fats; Healthy Heart. Peanut butter is a phenomenal source of healthy fats. It’s main source of fat actually comes from oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat found in olive oil. Oleic acid has been found to maintain good cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure -- lowering the risk of heart disease. Oleic acid also helps reduce insulin sensitivity. PB also contains some linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 fatty acid.
Protein to Fuel Your Day. Because peanuts are actually a legume (like chickpeas and other beans), peanut butter is actually comprised of 25% protein, making it a great plant-based protein source. This boost of protein will help you feel full and stay full throughout the day.
Gr8 Source of Vitamins & Minerals. Looking to add some micronutrients to your diet that don’t require you to shove more kale into your smoothie? Plot twist: you can find some fantastic vitamins and minerals in good ol’ PB. For starters, PB is a great source of magnesium (15% RDA in a two-tablespoon serving), a nutrient that powers over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, from energy production to the formation to detoxification. PB also contains vitamin E, B6, B3, and copper, a mineral that promotes immune function and bone health.
Stress-Reducing & Sleep-Inducing. Beyond the therapeutic effects of stress eating straight from the jar, PB may actually offer some legitimate stress-reducing properties. PB contains beta-sitosterol, which is a plant sterol found to balance cortisol levels. PB may also help you catch some shut eye; just one serving of PB contains 74 milligrams of the amino acid tryptophan, which composes the sleep hormones serotonin and melatonin. Great excuse for a nighttime snack :)
You may think of PB as one of your favorite guilty treats -- but next time you go for your favorite classic PB & J, a drizzle of PB over your smoothie bowl, or your shameless spoon-straight-to-jar, you’ll know that you’re actually helping your body function. And now, you’ll have a brand new PB combo to add to your list of favorites: PB + gr8nola. Peanut Butter, But Better.