Peanut butter is a popular spread that people use in many meals and snacks. It contains no cholesterol and is a nutritious option packed with protein and healthful fats.

Peanut butter also contains many nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, which can be beneficial to a person’s health. However, there is conflicting information around whether it is a healthful foodstuff.

This article explores how peanut butter can affect a person’s cholesterol, along with its health benefits and possible health risks.

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Peanuts naturally contain protein, fats, and fiber. They also include a type of fat known as unsaturated fat, which health experts generally consider an important part of a balanced diet in moderation.

Peanut butter contains two types of unsaturated fat:

Monounsaturated fat: According to the American Diabetes Association, monounsaturated fats may reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels. High levels of LDL cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Polyunsaturated fat: As with monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats may also help reduce LDL cholesterol levels in a person’s body.

Additionally, peanut butter itself does not contain any cholesterol.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), peanut butter contains fats in the following quantities:

Type of fatAmount per 100 g peanut butterAmount per 28.38 g (2 tbsp) peanut butter
Monounsaturated fat25.4 g7.2 g
Polyunsaturated fat12.3 g3.49 g
Saturated fat10.1 g2.86 g

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend people get around 5–6% of their daily calories from saturated fat. Based on this guideline, a person who eats 2,000 calories per day may have approximately 13 grams (g) of saturated fat in their diet.

The AHA also recommend 2 tablespoons of peanut butter as a serving size.

When eating peanut butter in moderation and as part of a balanced diet, there is little risk to a person’s health. People aiming to follow a healthful diet may wish to eat pure peanut butter, which contains no other ingredients.

Sugar and salt intake

Flavored peanut butter products can contain added sugar. Although foods with added sugar can be part of a healthful diet, it is best to limit the intake of this substance as much as possible for optimal health. Those who need to follow a low sodium diet should choose unsalted peanut butter when possible.

Learn more about the health risks of eating too much salt here.

Calorie intake

Additionally, a 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter has around 188 calories. For a person consuming 2,000 calories per day, this much peanut butter would be 9.4% of their daily calorie intake.

Those who eat more calories than they burn are likely to gain weight, which may lead to some people having overweight or obesity, potentially causing other health issues. It is important for a person to be mindful of what they eat and try to stick to a healthful, balanced diet.

When eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet, peanut butter can provide many benefits.

Good source of protein

According to the USDA, a 45 g serving of peanut butter contains 10 g of protein. It can be a suitable protein source for those following a plant-based diet, such as vegans or vegetarians.

May reduce risk of certain cancers

Research shows a link between consuming nuts and peanut butter and a lower risk of certain cancers. For example, a 2017 study found that women who consumed more nuts and peanut butter had a reduced risk of certain types of breast cancer.

Provides essential vitamins and minerals

Peanut butter contains many vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are important for the body to function correctly.

Peanut butter is a good source of:

  • niacin
  • vitamin E
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • manganese

Helps heart health

Due to its high amount of unsaturated fats, peanut butter may help reduce a person’s LDL cholesterol levels. Having optimal LDL levels is linked with a lower risk of heart disease.

A 2015 study found that people who had a high intake of nuts may have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality. The researchers also recommended peanuts as a cost-effective way to boost heart health.

Maintaining blood sugar levels

Some research suggests that people consuming a meal with peanut butter had a lower blood glucose level than when they had the same meal without it. These results suggest that peanut butter may help improve blood sugar control, which is important for optimal health and disease prevention.

May aid weight loss

Peanut butter is full of fiber, fat, and protein, which can help make a person feel fuller for longer. This feeling of fullness could reduce a person’s chances of snacking on less healthful foods.

A 2014 study found that people with type 2 diabetes who ate 46 g — around 3 tablespoons — of peanuts, peanut butter, or both, per day had:

  • a reduction in body weight
  • a reduction in waist circumference
  • improvements to blood lipid ratios, the ratio of “good” cholesterol to “bad” cholesterol

A further study from 2019 discovered that people who had a higher intake of nuts had a reduced chance of having overweight or obese. The results suggest that nuts, although dense themselves, replaced other less healthful foods in the participants’ diet.

Although peanut butter contains both saturated and unsaturated fats, when eaten in moderation, it can have a positive impact on a person’s cholesterol levels.

Peanut butter is high in calories and fats, and therefore if possible, a person should always eat it as part of a balanced and healthful diet. When people consume it in healthful proportions, peanut butter can offer many health benefits.