I Ate Peanut Butter Every Day for a Week—Here’s What Happened
Heading into the season for decadent sweets, spread the news: A doctor's nutty experiment is a delicious dive into both health and comfort.
The peanut butter phenomenon is real, and the numbers speak for themselves. According to recent USDA and U.S. Census Data, the love affair with this creamy, nutty delight saw a 3% spike in 2021, with a record consumption of 7.9 pounds per American. Curiously, the pandemic has played a role in this surge, with many finding comfort in the familiar embrace of peanut butter.
Personally, my love of peanut butter has been around for a while. Memories of PB&J sandwiches packed for school lunches, paired with late-night kitchen raids of sneaking a spoonful from the jar, have made this spread an unforgettable part of my life. Occasionally, I’d swirl a spoonful into vanilla ice cream—a delightful tradition I learned I shared with my late maternal grandma. And while I’ve enjoyed the rich tastes and health perks of different nut butters like almond and cashew over the years, peanut butter’s nostalgic pull is unparalleled.
So, when the prospect arose of integrating it daily into my meals and documenting the experience using my background in family medicine and nutrition certification, it felt like the perfect challenge.
Fast forward a week, and let me assure you, peanut butter isn’t departing my kitchen anytime soon. However, I’ve also embraced the wisdom of variety in my nut intake, finding that a medley of nuts not only broadens the palate but also brings a wealth of nutritional benefits to the table.
Why does everyone go “nuts” over peanut butter?
For a lot of us, the very mention of peanut butter triggers feelings of bliss. Yet, this household staple is more than just a go-to snack. A wealth of scientific studies vouch for the health perks tied to nuts—including peanuts—and their creamy derivative. These include the protective effects of nut consumption against certain cancers, such as colorectal and pancreatic. The heroes behind these benefits? A cocktail of polyphenols, fiber, vitamins, and minerals present in nuts. Additionally, a 2017 study drew links between regular consumption of peanut butter and a reduced risk of gastric cancer in American adults.
Nutritionists are also enthusiastic about the health benefits of peanut butter, particularly the kind made exclusively with peanuts and, optionally, a sprinkle of salt, avoiding any other additives. Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic’s Digestive Disease Institute, outlines its nutritional value: A serving of two tablespoons delivers 190 calories and is packed with eight grams of protein, 16 grams of fat, seven grams of carbohydrates, and three grams of fiber. Peanut butter also boasts antioxidants that help counter oxidative stress. This type of stress plays a significant role in the aging process.
The best way to consume peanut butter
Choosing the proper peanut butter amid the extensive variety in stores can be overwhelming. I suggest leaning towards the natural, unsweetened varieties. Zumpano supports this approach, advising against commercial peanut butter that is filled with added sugars, unhealthy oils, and high levels of saturated fats. Bearing in mind its caloric density and the general health advice to eat one ounce of nuts daily, it’s wise to keep your peanut butter consumption to about two tablespoons per day.
Taking this advice to heart, I committed myself to a week of consuming only pure, unadulterated peanut butter, closely adhering to the daily serving guidelines.
Eating peanut butter every day
Kicking off my week, I whipped up a peanut butter and banana smoothie (one of my go-to recipes), blended with plant-based protein, chia seeds, Greek yogurt, and almond milk—a creamy delight that kept morning hunger at bay.
The following days witnessed peanut butter gracing toast–choosing sprouted grain and whole grain varieties over white bread. These breads are nutritionally superior, providing more fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and the sprouting process makes these nutrients more accessible. They’re a smart choice for maintaining steady energy throughout the day.
By week’s end, peanut butter appeared in my steel-cut oatmeal and, as a snack, generously smeared on bananas, apple slices, and celery sticks. And yes, an indulgent spoonful straight from the jar might have happened.
When I ate peanut butter every day, I felt a sense of fullness
After incorporating peanut butter into my daily routine for a week, the benefits became evident. The most noticeable effect was how it helped me stay full longer without feeling bloated or uncomfortable, likely thanks to the balanced mix of protein and healthy fats in peanut butter. As someone who enjoys butter on toast, switching to peanut butter was a health-conscious choice. The unsaturated fats in peanut butter are a better alternative to the saturated fats in regular butter, which aligns with the American Heart Association’s recommendation to favor monounsaturated fats to help reduce bad cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
But even good fats warrant mindful consumption. Remember to account for your daily nut intake—if you’re sampling a wide array of nuts, it may be best to skip the peanut butter to keep your fat intake in check, advice that Zumpano wholeheartedly supports.
When I ate peanut butter every day, my digestion seemed to ease
I also inadvertently reduced my intake of animal proteins and noticed a positive change. There was a noticeable lightness in my digestive system’s functioning, a definite contrast to the more laborious process of digesting animal proteins. These proteins are a critical component of many diets but are also energy-intensive to digest and can be tough on your gut when consumed in high quantities. On the other hand, peanut butter’s plant-based proteins seemed to give my digestive system a breather, offering a kind of ‘digestive vacation’ from the heavier lifting typically associated with animal protein digestion.
When I ate peanut butter every day, I had clear skin
Additionally, even though it was the time of the month when I usually experience minor breakouts, my skin remained clear, prompting me to consider the potential skin benefits of peanut butter. Packed with vitamin E, an antioxidant, peanut butter might be an unsung hero for skin health. The Cleveland Clinic points out that while the research isn’t definitive, vitamin E doesn’t just protect cells from oxidative stress—it may also help reduce sun damage by absorbing UVB rays and decreasing skin inflammation. It’s an intriguing possibility that’s worth noting despite the lack of conclusive evidence.
When I ate peanut butter every day, I experienced food fatigue
When the seventh day rolled around, I couldn’t shake off a certain weariness towards my peanut butter routine. The urge to reach for various nuts—almonds, cashews, walnuts—became stronger. This shift highlighted an important dietary principle: The need to include a mix of nuts and seeds in daily meals to avoid nutrient deficiencies and protect against chronic diseases. While peanut butter is a healthy choice, it’s not the only one. Diversifying with other nut butters can provide a range of essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals essential for a well-rounded diet.
The verdict is in
My week with peanut butter had some health perks. Yet, balance is the key. While peanut butter is undeniably a wholesome treat, overindulging isn’t the wisest move. Whether you’re attracted to its health benefits or simply love its creamy texture, peanut butter remains something to be savored.