Peanut butter was once construed as an indulgence best enjoyed occasionally due to its high fat and calorie contents.
But nowadays, such thinking is considered hogwash, because on the contrary, peanut butter’s high fat and calories are good for us.
At least five major studies confirm that eating peanuts can lower risk for coronary heart disease. So it's no leap to think that peanut butter confers the same benefits. "Suffice it to say that eating peanut butter or peanuts has been associated with lower total cholesterol, lower LDL or 'bad' cholesterol, and lower triglycerides, all of which are associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk," says Richard Mattes, Ph.D., R.D., a professor of nutrition at Purdue University.
Furthermore, the peanuts where the peanut butter are derived from, are not true nuts but a member of a family of legumes related to peas, lentils, chickpeas and other beans. Peanuts start growing as a ground flower that due to its heavy weight bends towards the ground and eventually burrows underground where the peanut actually matures. The veined brown shell or pod of the peanut contains two or three peanut kernels. Each oval-shaped kernel or seed is comprised of two off-white lobes that are covered by a brownish-red skin.
The presence of saturated fat doesn’t automatically kick a food, such as peanut butter, into the “unhealthy” camp. Olive oil, wheat germ, and even tofu—all considered to be “healthy” foods—have some saturated fat. It’s the whole package of nutrients, not just one or two, that determines how good a particular food is for health, Dr. Willett says in the July 2009 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.
Peanut butter also contains some fiber, some vitamins and minerals (including potassium), and other nutrients. Unsalted peanut butter has a terrific potassium-to-sodium ratio, which counters the harmful cardiovascular effects of sodium surplus. And even salted peanut butter still has about twice as much potassium as sodium.
Numerous studies have shown that 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. Although it is possible that nut eaters are somehow different from, and healthier than, non-nut eaters, it is more likely that nuts themselves have a lot to do with these benefits.
So, there you go! Indulge in your peanut butter sandwich or cookies with relish!
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Serious Eats: 18 easy ways to eat peanut butter
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