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Question: Is peanut butter good or bad for my health?

Answer: Peanut butter is a healthy food! It’s good for you!

Peanut butter gets a bad reputation because it is high in fat and calories. For instance, one tablespoon of peanut butter has 90 calories and 8 grams of fat – two teaspoons worth of oil. If you like a thick layer of peanut butter on your toast, you might be consuming more calories than you think and need.

Calories aside, the fat in peanut butter is mainly monounsaturated fat, the type of fat that can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and reduce inflammation in the body. (Olive oil and avocado are also excellent sources of this heart-healthy fat.) Peanut butter is also a decent source of B vitamins, most notably niacin, magnesium, zinc, potassium and manganese.

Protein in peanut butter

Peanut butter also delivers protein to your diet. Two tablespoons of peanut butter provides about 7 grams of protein, the amount of protein found in one ounce of chicken or meat. If you’re eating only a little peanut butter – say less than a tablespoon – think of it as a healthy fat rather than a protein-rich food.

The healthiest kind of peanut butter

The most nutritious peanut butter is natural, meaning it contains only crushed peanuts – no added sugar (corn syrup, icing sugar), salt or hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenated oil is often added to help the peanut butter remain solid at room temperature. (That's why you'll see a layer of oil that's separated from the peanuts in jars of natural peanut butter.) The addition of hydrogenated oil ups the saturated fat content, but only by half a gram per tablespoon. Even the addition of sugar to many brands of peanut butter doesn't add as much sugar as you might think – again about half a gram per tablespoon.

The biggest nutrient difference between natural and regular peanut butter comes down to sodium. Natural peanut butter is salt free and therefore has no sodium. Regular peanut butters contain 50 to 75 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon, depending on the brand. If you’re generous with your peanut butter serving, that sodium could add up.

The bottom line: Peanut butter is a healthy food. To limit your daily sodium intake, choose a natural peanut butter that’s made from 100 per cent peanuts.

Leslie Beck is a registered dietitian.

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