Surprise: This “Fattening” Food Can Actually Help With Weight Loss
If you've been carefully avoiding peanut butter in favour of "healthier" alternatives like almond or macadamia butters, we've got news for you—nutrition experts say your favourite toast topping is better for you than you thought. According to dietitian and Myprotein ambassador Alex Simpson, pure peanut butter (aka the stuff made without salt, sugar, oil or preservatives) is actually pretty good for you: "Peanut butter is a delicious yet healthy treat—it is a great source of fat and protein and boasts a number of additional health benefits." Once thought of as a "fattening" food, it seems peanut butter can even help with weight loss thanks to its ability to make us feel both full and satisfied. (Read: Less likely to devour a Magnum after dinner.) While peanut butter's health properties are impressive—especially if you follow a plant-based diet—Simpson says it's important to remember the spread is calorific: "It's full of healthy fats, which provide a substantial amount of calories for the body." Basically, if you overeat it (like any food) you'll negate any weight loss benefits.
Let's take a look at the health benefits of peanut butter.
It's a vegan source of protein.
According to Simpson, peanuts are a natural source of protein that's often overlooked in favour of meats and seafood: "Two tablespoons of peanut butter provides around 8 grams of protein, which is very reasonable indeed—it will certainly help you on your way to hitting daily macro-nutrient goals." Another great thing about peanut butter is, of course, that it's vegan. Since protein is important for cellular function and repair, and also plays a role in muscle growth and recovery, it's crucial that plant-based diets make up for protein lost by cutting out animal products. Happily, peanut butter is pretty damn easy to eat. "With peanut butter, as it is so delicious, people are far less likely to overlook it once they know the health benefits," says Simpson.
Simpson says it's widely accepted that natural peanut butter is a heart-healthy food: "Peanuts are packed full of healthy fats that have been shown to lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. In turn, this may help reduce fatty deposits and build-up in the arteries." According to Walter C. Willett, professor of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, numerous studies have shown "people who regularly include nuts or peanut butter in their diets are less likely to develop heart disease or type 2 diabetes than those who rarely eat nuts." That's us, convinced.
It's high in potassium.
"When people talk about the health benefits of bananas, one of the first examples they give is that they're a great source of potassium," says Simpson. "Well, pound for pound, peanuts are higher in potassium than bananas, which makes them very healthy and beneficial indeed." FYI, potassium helps reduce lactic acid in the body (the stuff that causes muscle burn during exercise), and counteracts the harmful effects of excess dietary salt by rebalancing sodium levels. "Too much sodium can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, obesity, hypertension, renal failure, stroke, and much more besides," explains Simpson. To get the most potassium action for your buck, choose natural peanut butter made with no added salt.
It's packed with fibre.
Fibre is the secret to losing weight while never being hungry, but it's also important for maintaining a healthy digestive system and increasing nutrient absorption. "Generally speaking, two tablespoons of peanut butter will provide around 2 grams of fibre," says Simpson. According to current Australian guidelines, women require around 25 grams of fibre per day, making peanut butter a quality addition to a diet already rich in vegetables and fruit.
It's an energy booster.
"People think carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the human body when, evolutionary speaking at least, it could be debated fat that is a better quality source of energy," says Simpson. Since the calories peanut butter provides come in the way of healthy fats, they are immediately utilised by the body giving you a boost of energy. They're also less likely to be stored as body fat. (Unless you eat an entire jar in one sitting, obvi.) For these reasons, Simpson says small amounts of peanut butter can be used as pre-workout fuel.