Is peanut butter healthy?

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The healthiest peanut butter is made from just peanuts

Nuts have been associated with lower risk of heart disease, cancer and premature death

CNN  — 

Yes, peanut butter can be a nutritious diet staple, but some varieties are healthier than others.

Peanut butter is rich in heart-healthy fats and is a good source of protein, which can be helpful for vegetarians looking to include more protein in their diets. A 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter contains up to 8 grams of protein and 2 to 3 grams of fiber. The nutty spread also offers vitamins and minerals including the B vitamin niacin, iron, potassium and vitamin E.

The healthiest peanut butter is made from just peanuts, while added salt, sugars and oils change its nutritional profile. For example, a peanut butter with salt added can have 100 to 150 milligrams of sodium, while an unsalted version is sodium-free. Sugars may be added too, especially in flavored varieties, and can contribute up to 7 grams, or 28 calories per serving.

Nuts, including peanuts (which are technically legumes), have been associated with lower risk of heart disease, cancer and premature death.

Consumption of nuts and peanut butter has also been associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. However, one study that tracked more than 120,000 men and women from 1986 to 1996 found that while consumption of nuts and peanuts was associated with lower mortality rates among individuals, no protective effect was found for peanut butter.

“In the past, it has been shown that peanut butter contains trans fatty acids and therefore the composition of peanut butter is different from peanuts. The adverse health effects of salt and trans fatty acids could inhibit the protective effects of peanuts,” researchers wrote in a news release on the study.

In fact, a 2001 USDA report found that peanut butter does not contain any detectable levels of trans fats in any of the 11 brands of peanut butters that researchers tested, which included both major store brands and “natural brands,” even though small amounts of hydrogenated vegetable oils are added to commercial peanut butters to prevent the peanut oil from separating out.