March 1 is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day. Ah, you already knew that, right?! If you quit eating this great source of protein because you have been dieting, you can safely eat it without feeling guilty. Yes, it has a lot of calories, but the fat comes from the good fat. Of course, if you are devouring a p.b. sandwich several times a week, or spreading it on a lot of crackers, well, then you have a problem of portion control.
Eating small snacks of peanut butter is actually a good way to control hunger without weight gain. “Small” is the operative word, as even a little bit, just one tablespoon, will give you a feeling of fullness, actually causing you to naturally control your intake. A serving as noted on the jars of regular peanut butter (not reduced fat) is 2 tablespoons, and contains about 16 grams of fat–3.3 grams of saturated fat, 12.3 grams of unsaturated fat, or about 80% unsaturated fat. Those figures are right up there with olive oil in terms of the ratio of unsaturated to saturated fat. You also get some some fiber (a small amount), and some vitamins and minerals, including 200 mg potassium. Sodium averages 250 mg for the 2 tablespoons, but you can find unsalted peanut butter, with just 5 mg of sodium.
Another positive for including peanut butter in your diet is that 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. Nuts have gotten very expensive, and they, too, have a lot of calories (but the good fat). So, eating half the serving size stated on the label will give you benefits and help you control your weight.
What about the reduced fat peanut butter? No one has ever lost weight on any reduced fat, low calorie, no fat, or no sugar food item. In fact, studies are showing that people are gaining weight because they think they can eat more of another food. Doesn’t work that way, and the only person you are kidding is yourself. (Of course, the food industry is making billions off those no-fat/no sugar foods, and they are getting fat–on really huge profits!) The fat in the reduced fat form of peanut butter averages 12 grams, with 2.5 grams being saturated fat. The calorie difference is only about 10 calories, and the flavor is coming from increased sugar in that product (and who knows what else that you can’t spell or pronounce). So, if you are concerned about taste (and p.b. doesn’t have that much variance, as it all starts out with peanuts), stick (no pun intended) with the real stuff, which often has less sugar than the reduced fat versions.
So, go ahead, spread a tablespoon of your favorite childhood food on a slice of whole wheat toast, or some whole grain crackers, or even celery, carrots, or endive (your vegetable), and indulge in every bite slowly. (This writer never ate a PB&J sandwich in her life, but now enjoys peanut butter on crackers.)