What Happens To Your Gut Health When You Eat Lots Of Peanut Butter

The conversation around gut health and how the foods you consume either promote or degrade its health is a relatively new but thriving topic. Mainly because our digestive system dictates a lot of things: how we feel, our immune response, how we digest food, our weight, heart health, etc. With the incidence of chronic medical conditions reaching alarming heights, never before has there been a need as great as this to look into how our gut plays into all of them. 

Enter the humble breakfast staple — peanut butter. We all probably have a jar of it sitting in our pantry. The crunchy, smooth, nutty, or creamy kind, just waiting for you when you wake up in the morning and want a complement to toast or come late afternoon when you're looking for a protein kick in a smoothie.   

It turns out peanut butter does a lot more than provide a good source of protein (2 tablespoons give you 7 grams). It also contains vitamins, magnesium, iron, and selenium. Also, when you eat peanut butter every day, you're filling your digestive system with an essential nutrient for good gut health: fiber. 

Peanut butter alters your gut microbiome (in a good way)

When it comes to gut health, it's about balancing the bacteria that's good for you with the ones that aren't so good for you, shared nutritionist Sam Gold with Stylist. A healthy body has both of these helpful and harmful gut microbes co-existing side-by-side. 

According to a 2020 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, eating peanuts, even as little as an ounce a day, increased the concentration of ruminococcaceae, "a group of bacteria linked to healthy liver metabolism and immune function," per the researchers' press release (via Stylist). 

Another study, published in 2023 in the Journal of Functional Foods, found a link between peanut butter's ability to affect gut health, which in turn had a positive impact on a person's mood. Biologist and study co-author Sara Hurtado-Barroso shared (via PR Newswire) that this may have to do with the prebiotic ingredients in this breakfast staple. "Prebiotic substances present in peanuts and peanut butter, such as polyphenols, may positively affect cognition and mood by promoting production of microbial phenolic metabolites," she explained. So does this mean you should be loading up on peanut butter every chance you get? 

How to incorporate peanut butter into your diet

The nutritional benefits related to peanut butter are mainly focused on the peanuts themselves. Contrary to what you might think, your favorite breakfast spread is not only made of nuts. Some varieties also come with preservatives and additives that aren't necessarily good for your health. 

"Some brands add sugar, molasses, vegetable oils, and even corn syrup, [which] basically minimize the health value," explained New York City-based registered dietician nutritionist Keri Gans (via Health). The smaller the list of ingredients on the food label of the jar, the healthier it likely is. Look for brands that have only peanuts and salt (but not too much salt). 

Despite their nutritional value, peanut butter is heavy on the calorie side of things, so even if you were to have some every day, moderation is key. There is such a thing as too much peanut butter. Even with fiber, too much of it can be bad for your gut. You might risk feeling bloated or becoming constipated.  Stick to no more than two tablespoons a day. Also, be mindful if you have acid reflux. The evidence is mixed on whether or not peanut butter consumption can aid or harm the condition (via Healthline). Perhaps consult with your doctor before you introduce it to your diet. 

As for how you can enjoy peanut butter daily, the list is endless, really. Dessert options aside, they make great spreads for toast, go well in smoothies and overnight oats, and can even be added to salads as part of dressings.