Are Peanuts Healthy?

If you had asked me this question ten years ago, I would said, “Of course, peanuts are good for you!” Growing up, my dad usually had some sort of fitness magazine or diet book by his chair, and all of them recommended peanut butter as a healthy addition to meals. In fact, peanut butter is still considered one of the 12 “power foods” in the popular Abs Diet book (one of my dad’s favorites!), thanks to its heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

As you can imagine, we had lots of peanut butter in our house.

organic creamy peanut butter

You can also probably imagine my disappointment when I heard that peanut butter may not be so good for you, after all.

While peanuts are a decent source of plant-based protein, they are also highly susceptible to mold that produces aflatoxin– a carcinogen that has been associated with liver cancer (1), stunted growth in children (2), and mental retardation (3). On a positive note, research has shown that the aflatoxins may be reduced by as much as 89% when the peanuts are processed into peanut butter (4).

Another issue with peanuts is that they are high in Omega-6 fatty acids, which have been associated with an increased risk of inflammation and cardiovascular disease (5). Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help reduce this inflammation and risk of chronic disease, but Western diets tend to contain far too many Omega-6 fatty acids already (6), making peanut butter a poor choice for balancing out this ratio.

To add insult to injury, peanuts also contain lectins, which may promote cancer growth (7), and conventionally grown peanuts are highly exposed to pesticides– so buying organic is a must in this case. Peanut butter also tends to be a highly addictive food for many people, which can be a sign of intolerance, so if you find yourself unable to stop at a reasonable serving of peanut butter, you may want to try eliminating it for a period of time to see if it’s affecting you more than you realize.

peanut butter bars

So, knowing what I do now, why do I still make treats that include peanut butter?

There are a couple of reasons:

  1. Using all-natural peanut butter, without additives, is still a step in the right direction for people who are transitioning away from a mainstream diet. My Peanut Butter Cookies and No-Bake Peanut Butter Cup Bars, are definitely a step up from many processed treats! Progress, not perfection.
  2. My family still loves the taste of peanut butter. While I don’t think it’s necessarily healthy to consume on a daily basis, I try not to be militant when it comes to food, so peanut butter still has a place in our home–however occasional it may be.

The studies aren’t all bad when it comes to peanuts and peanut butter, either. One human study showed that adding peanut butter to the diet actually reduced triglycerides in the blood (8), and a Nurses’ Health Study showed that women who regularly ate peanut butter had a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes (9).

Of course, if you’d prefer to steer clear of peanut butter all together, there are plenty of alternatives available. I’m partial to almond butter in most cases, but sunflower butter is a great nut-free option, too!

Reader Feedback: How do you feel about peanut butter? Does it still have a place in your home?

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Comments

Tom @ Raise Your Garden

I can no longer live in a state of “ignorance is bliss.” I had no idea that there were so many negatives attached with peanuts! We love Peter Pan peanut butter but if you read the back, wow, all the additives! We recently switched to Wegmans organic which is much better than the Peter Pan. No, I can’t give up my peanut butter despite what the research say’s. It will always have a place in my heart and my home!

    Jennifer

    I too used to buy the Organic Wegmans brand! I miss Wegmans since I recently moved to Florida. I too can’t look the other way when it comes to certain foods. Good thing my 4 and 6 year old little ladies will eat anything I present!

      Tom @ Raise Your Garden

      Jennifer I’m sorry you lost the ability to go to Wegmans. They really do a nice job with their name brands as well as their produce and veggies. We love all their organic products, such high quality! Where do you currently shop? Publix?

Kayla

I’ve often wondered about this very subject so thanks for giving information on it! I actually love peanut butter. I think the key is moderation, though, just like with all other things in life. I have tried several of your recipes containing peanut butter and they are all wonderful!!

Kezia @ Super Naturally Healthy

LOVE this. I have read a lot about the dangers of peanut butter but i just love the stuff due to its price in comparison to other butters plus i love the taste. I thinks it so important to be aware of the potential dangers of food, but then as you say, strive for a healthy balance to fit in with lifestyle, budget and taste buds. I do love almond butter but when the bank its empty its organic peanut butter and I have learned that balance is the key – so please keep posting more peanut based recipes!!

Joanna

Stopped eating it in 2008 because of all the bad stuff i read about it!

Devyn

You said that if it is hard to stick to a serving of pb, aka addicted to pb haha, it may be signs of intolerance, but what is I feel addicted to all types of nut butters? Cashew, almond, peanut, nutzo… I always feel like I can’t stop sticking my spoon in! What would you recommend?

    Tom

    I feel the same! Spoon, jar, mouth; repeat. THE best peanut butter for me is Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter (Creamy). Simple: peanuts and salt. However, it’s not organic. I like fresh ground peanut butter, but the addition of the right amount of salt just makes it FANTASTIC! If I buy freshly ground PB, how much salt do I add per cup?

      Ilissa

      Smucker’s makes an organic version!

        Emily Summer

        Smuckers has donated thousands of dollars to defeat GMO labeling. They are in Monsanto’s pocket. Do not buy any of their products.

Maria C

So is it almond butter a better option? is it ok? I am giving almond butter to my kids instead of pb.

    Debbie

    Love, love, love almond butter. I was told years ago to stay away from anything peanut due to mold issues. My doc recommended almond butter. It is so much better than PB (I like the Whole Foods store brand. I haven’t found anything bad about almond butter.

Kathryn

What about fresh ground peanut butter? How much better or worse is that?

    Megan

    The roasting and processing of peanuts into peanut butter does reduce aflatoxins significantly. Fresh ground peanut butter is nice, since you know the exact ingredients, though I’m can’t be sure if it’s any better or worse than jarred peanut butter that has the exact same ingredients. Perhaps it is better because it isn’t stored in a plastic container for as much time on the shelf?

Karen

I haven’t eaten peanut butter in several years, because I knew there was mold in it. Anyone who loves peanut butter, should really try sun butter. It has the same color, texture, and taste — it really is delicious! I’ve used in successfully in any recipe that called for PB.

Ruth

Why do you think it is not available or desired in Europe and Asia?

Stephanie

I had no idea. We do eat unsweetened natural peanut butter (usually Adams), but I didn’t know these negatives. We’ve been vegetarian for 9 months now in my house so I feel we’ve already cut out so much. I guess moderation for us…

Sondi

For many years, I avoided peanut butter for the reasons you describe. About a year ago, I started having organic peanut butter again on a very occasional basis, because I genuinely enjoy the taste and the stress from restricting foods was becoming too damaging for me. I love all kinds of nut and seed butters – tahini, almond, cashew, and sunflower seed butter is also a winner.

Laney

I LOVE peanut butter, so much i’ve been known to polish off half a jar before i even realize it.

After having to go peanut free when i was on the candida diet i learned about its sad truth, so i switched to all almond errr-thang. Then it dawned on me most almond butters aren’t organic, and they’re SUPER high in pesticides! so i halted that train.

current nut status: I have organic peanut butter occasionally, but not with a spoon! (not enough will power πŸ˜‰ because its much cheaper than almond and it makes me happy=endorphins=healthy πŸ™‚

Brittany Shook

Organic Maranatha peanut butter is made with 100% valencia peanuts, which are known to be less mold-susceptible. And the texture is so velvety, it’s amazing and although I try to practice moderation, I’ve been known to eat an entire jar in a few days. Thanks for the helpful info.

    Penny

    That is good to know about valencia peanuts Brittany, thank you!

    A.

    I avoided peanut butter for years & purchased only organic almond/cashew/sunflower/”healthier” butters. I kept getting symptoms from them (I have celiac so I’m not sure if it’s cross contamination at the factories or if the butters were aggravating symptoms)… & I’m recently back on peanut butter. I ate a jar of the maranatha brand in a few days and my symptoms actually reduced (I used to eat almond butter over peanut butter because I thought the latter was inflammatory!). I wonder now if the reason is the quality of the nut & if somehow the other nut butters I was having were mouldy (by the way, this is the only brand so far that I don’t react to! I thought I was developing nut and seed allergies before I tried their them!).

Lorrie

I still eat peanut butter.
Seems like everything we eat is bad for us! I try not to get too hung up some of the “dangers” of food that I’ve been eating my entire life. I’m generally healthy and don’t have any known food intolerances/sensitivity or allergies. I buy organic and try to eat everything in moderation ( not always successful.) I’d rather have peanut butter than almond butter because almond butter taste sooooooo good. Last time I had a jar of almond butter, I went through it in 3 days!!! I can keep PB around for a few weeks.

    Emmalee

    I COMPLETELY agree, Lorrie. Everything we eat is bad for us. Organic vs. non organic. Peanuts vs. almonds. It’s enough to drive a person mad and there are so many things out there that are doing way more damage. I try to eat healthy but I draw the line when eating begins to feel more like a chore because that’s just not the way it should be.

    These studies are just that…studies. They are not hard based fact and SHOULD be taken with a grain of salt. While I adore this blog, I do get agitated when things like this begin to crop up because you can read all the literature in the world but the fact of the matter is until you look into it yourself you’re just taking someone else’s word for it.

    Megan

    I also agree, which is why we also still enjoy peanut butter in our home. I actually wrote this post in an effort to address the negative comments and attention I get every time I post a recipe that calls for peanut butter. I felt it was appropriate to address the negative studies around peanut butter, but to also share the positive studies out there, and my own personal reasons for still including peanut butter in my own diet, despite the potential downsides.

    I aim to take a moderate and intuitive approach to my diet and overall health, which I hope comes across in this blog with my not-always-properly-combined meals and decadent recipes, but I know everyone could interpret things differently. I would definitely encourage everyone to take research with a grain of salt, since there are always plenty of contradicting studies out there, and nutritional science, in general, is still relatively new.

Dee

I eliminated peanut butter from my diet almost entirely around the same time I started cutting my intake of beans/legumes. My alternative nut butter has been almond butter, which seems to satiate any cravings for peanut butter. Really, I only used to eat peanut butter occasionally on toast or with apples so I don’t miss it too much.

I think peanuts (and most other foods) in moderation are perfectly fine; if we eliminated all of the things that are potentially bad for us, I’m not sure there’d be much to eat.

Melissa

I just wanted to warn everyone of another safety issue of eating peanut butter as well as other nut butters. They are a choking hazard. It is especially dangerous to eat peanut butter right out of the jar by the spoonful as so many of us do or have. My mom recently died as a result of choking on a peanut butter sandwich(just bread and natural peanut butter). It takes the shape of your throat and there is nothing that can save you once it is there. The heimlich doesn’t work for peanut butter. By the time that rescue workers can help you, you will have already lost most of your brain functioning if not all due to lack of oxygen. It is very important to not eat peanut butter on its own if you are going to eat it. If you do eat it, spread it thin and be sure to have jelly or something else with it so it isn’t so sticky. This is especially true for young children with smaller throats as well as elderly people with weaker muscles. Just thought I’d throw out that warning to be careful how you eat peanut butter/nut butters so that no one has to experience the tragedy that we have experienced. I myself had stopped eating peanut butter before my mom’s death and was eating homemade almond butter I learned about from this site, which I loved. Once I am ready to go down that road again, I will go back to the homemade. It is delicious and easy to make. If I can bring myself to eat it again, I will be sure to eat it properly though to avoid choking hazards.

    WordyDoodles

    I am so, so sorry to hear about your mom’s death. Thank you for sharing the story, which I’m sure will help many of us be more careful.

Lorain

Lucky me it seems, I have an allergy to peanuts but I use to dream I could eat it. When I learned about almond butter and found one that did not have the. ” May contain peanuts” on the ingredient label I became addicted.
Nut butters are evil
Thanks for the information, I will pass that on to hubby. He will likely think I’m fibbing…he just loves his crappy over processed, filled with sugar and crap peanut butter.

bailey

As a peanut butter addict, I am just wondering what source you have for PB addiction linked to intolerance.

Thank you!

    Megan

    I actually first read about that phenomenon in The Diet Cure, by Julia Ross, but it’s discussed by numerous experts.

    Here’s a quick blurb from the Weston A. Price Foundation:

    “It has long been known that if we are allergic to something, we may crave that very food. A craving for wheat can mean you are allergic to wheat, one of the most common food allergens. The reason this happens, says Nora Gedgaudas, is that when a food allergy causes stress, your body produces endorphins, which comfort you and make you feel good. Unfortunately you perpetuate exposure to the irritant because you want more of the compensatory good feelings.” [source].

    And according to Dr Jonathan Brostoff, a London-based allergy and environmental health expert, an estimated 50 per cent of people with a food intolerance crave the very food their bodies can’t handle. If we don’t get our regular fix, then withdrawal symptoms may kick in, often resulting in binge eating and weight gain. [source].

Becca

What are your thoughts on defatted peanut flour? I’ve been eating it every day for years now as part of my daily smoothie. Now I’m wondering if I need to keep looking for a safe non-dairy protein powder! I’ve already ruled out soy, whey, and hemp (tastes awful). Any suggestions?

Lorraine

I use a variety of nut butters, depending on the recipe, but my everyday favorite is pumpkin seed butter. It’s far lower in carbs than peanut butter, not as sweet, and turns my raspberry pumpkin seed butter sandwich into Christmas!

    Lynda

    Lorraine, Pumpkin seed butter sounds amazing but I haven’t ever seen that in stores. Do you make your own or purchase it somewhere?

lulu

So sorry to the lady who lost her mom to PB. That is so sad.
Those avoiding peanuts for nut allergies remember
peanuts are a legume, not a nut.
I love pb and sambal(chili paste) sandwiches.

Wanda

Sorry, but you are a day late and a dollar short!!!…also, the comments you posted from only 2 people have no merit…the others can do what they want with their health just like everyone else, but not for me…my NP, Dr.Don Colbert strictly advises against peanuts because of the mold…organic or not…He is awesome and I trust him…

Please do your homework thoroughly…I love your website and view it on a daiy basis, but this time, you are way off and needed to know!

Have a great day!

    Teresa

    Wanda:The studies show that although peanuts can contain aflatoxin that alone is not enough to cause liver cancer. Epidemiology studies from Southeast Asia and controlled animal studies have confirmed that a diet high in casein (milk protein) is what allows aflatoxin to have a toxic effect on the liver. Casein has been shown to be trigger for many other toxins such as dioxin. Also many types of nuts such as walnuts and pistachios are known to grow mold that release aflatoxin. Sticking to quality organic brands and limiting exposure to casein seems to be the rational decision to me. Just because you have blind faith in what your naturopath says doesn’t mean Megan hasn’t done her homework.

Kira - HealthAble On-the-Go

It is always so important to investigate further in the whole foods we still by packaged today since unfortunately we can not make everything vegan and gluten free from scratch! Thanks for the interesting information and I am glad you are giving peanut butter another chance.

Penny O

I am lucky here in Eugene, OR to have several sources of bulk organic nut butters. I love peanut butter (grew up on Jif). As an adult who can think for myself, I read available information and decide what works or doesn’t for me. If I don’t have anything positive to say, I keep it to myself.

I am grateful to Megan for so generously sharing her knowledge & creativity with us. Negative comments are only opinion and sometimes it’s better to keep your opinion to yourself when someone is giving out something for FREE.

Don’t let the turkeys get you down, Meggan! I appreciate your info! I am so much healthier today than I was before I found your blog <3

Sarah

We sadly haven’t had any peanut butter (or any peanuts) in our house since our youngest was found to be severely allergic to them, not long after his first birthday. We were organic peanut butter eaters – just peanuts, peanut oil and salt. Thankfully we all love sunflower butter!

Meghan

I often feel like peanut butter and peanuts bloat me like crazy and I have terrible gas and pain after eating them. Is this a side effect of them or is it something else? I love it so much and do feel like at times I am addicted and cannot stop eating it. Any idea for other proteins to add to my diet instead of peanut butter would be appreciated. Thanks

babs

The only peanut safe to eat are Jungle peanuts, or peanuts grown in the Valencia region, called Valencia peanuts. They do not get the aflatoxin mold at all, and are fine to eat. Whole Foods sells Valencia peanut butter. I’ve never eaten regular peanuts for this very reason. Mold is one of the worst carcinogens you can put into your body, since as cancer is strongly linked to fungus and molds in the body.

babs

Almond butter tastes WAY better than peanut butter in my opinion. Plus, its alkaline and much better for the body. The Artisiana brand is absolutely amazing!

Christina

Thanks for this post, Megan. I was torn about eliminating peanut butter a couple years ago because I’ve always been a huge fan of the taste and texture, but after seeing concern over salmonella contamination, aflatoxin carryover, high omega-6 (pro-inflammatory), and concerns with lectins (it’s a legume, not nut), I’ve stopped consuming and kicked the addiction. It’s not a matter of perfection to abstain from peanuts, but the concern is with toxin and safety level, which accumulates each time with consumption. If something is considered as pro-inflammatory and toxic even after processing by 14%, my personal verdict is that it is not healthy. To eat or not to eat after setting the facts straight is entirely a personal decision, but I’m very happy with real nut butters such as almond, pecan, and sunflower butters, so I don’t feel deprived from staying away from peanuts. I do want to share that the initial withdrawal was hard though – all the more reason why I was determined to stay away!

Josey

Thank you for the post. I enjoying reading about different positions on controversial topics. You are not a day late or a dollar short. You are very informative and I appreciate your insights.

Sup

As far as I know, aflatoxins (from the aspergillus mold) are heat sensitive. Roasting peanuts before consuming them can easily take care of the toxin. As mentioned here in comments- for anything to be toxic, dose/amount is always very important.

Darijah

How about mixing some coconut oil & a pinch of artisan salt (fleur de sel) in PB? Actually, I do that all the time. πŸ™‚

There are maybe five brands of organic PBs available in the Croatian market, among which I buy the one labeled PB mousse (99, x % peanuts + sea salt) and add pieces od cashews or roasted almonds to make it crunchy and oh, so much better! πŸ™‚

KD

I appreciate your consideration of PB issues. I have learned some from the comments too, and will do my due diligence.
One concern I have that hasn’t been addressed, is that I’ve read that all almonds are now required (as of the past few years) to be blanched or irradiated for food “safety” reasons.
I certainly don’t want irradiated food. Does anyone have info on this, and whether non-irradiated brands are available? I would take blanching over radiation any day.

BobT

How about some references to go with your statements, please. Right now, it appears to me that you’ve spent time making comments with no substantive basis. I can claim whatever I want, and espouse it as being true, and someone is going to believe it. I do my research on everything (comes from too many years of college research), and provide multiple references with which to substantiate my claims.

This addition will add much credence to what you claim. Right now, I have a hard time believing this column.

    Megan

    There are several references in the post above– when you see a number in parentheses, that is a link to the research or peer-reviewed study that I am referencing.

BobT

Thank you. When I view this through Facebook, there are no links. I’ll try out directly through you website.

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