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Nuts for Novermber!

Who out there (besides me) loves peanut butter? I mean, could eat it every day, would die without it type of love it? And yes, as a Dietitian I admit, covering it in chocolate just takes it to whole now level of love. Did you know there is an entire month devoted to people like you and me? That's right National Peanut Butter Lover's month...which is happening NOW! So, we have Thanksgiving, National Diabetes month, AND Peanut Butter Lovers month all in November?! What a busy month for nutrition!

If you have ever looked at the label on a jar of peanut butter, you are probably wondering "How is this good for me?" Peanut butter contains saturated fat and sodium, so how can it be considered a healthy food?

The presence of saturated fat doesn't automatically kick a food, such as peanut butter, into the "unhealthy" foods list. A lot of otherwise healthy foods have saturated fat content, including olive oil, wheat germ, and even tofu. You must look at the whole package of nutrients, not just one or two, that determines how good a particular food is for health, as stated in in the July 2009 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

A typical 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter has 3.3 grams of saturated fat and 12.3 grams of unsaturated fat. Unsaturated fats are often thought of as the "heart healthy" fats, such as Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids; we want these in our diet! Saturated fat, however, is associated with an increased risk of heart disease; the "bad fat." While it's not the best nutrient for optimum health, saturated fat isn't the deadly toxin it is sometimes made out to be either. The body's response to saturated fat in food is to increase the amounts of both harmful LDL and protective HDL in circulation. In moderation, some saturated fat is okay. Eating a lot of it, though, does promote artery-clogging atherosclerosis, the process that underlies most cardiovascular disease.

(Note: recently the FDA declared trans fat no long a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) food, ceasing food manufacturers to discontinue use of it in product formulas. This type of fat is the extremely unhealthy kind we avoid at all costs in our diet. More information about this breaking news here.)

Peanut butter also gives you some fiber, some vitamins and minerals, and other nutrients. The more "natural" versions being manufactured will be the best options. These contain ingredients of only salt and peanuts, sparing the added sugars and sweeteners.

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.

So if you are a nut butter lover, you are in luck. In moderation, the food you love loves your body right back. So raise your spoon in delight and enjoy your month!