Peanut butter is one of the world’s favorite spreads. I love it myself and, because you’ve landed here, I’m guessing you do too. But, again because you are here, I’m guessing you — or someone you’re concerned about — has gout and you’re worried about having peanut butter in your/their diet.
Well, you did the right thing, because us gout sufferers have to be extremely careful about what we consume if we are to eliminate gout flare-ups from our lives. And, remember, gout is linked to some very serious, potentially fatal, health conditions.
So, as a gout victim like me, you need to be aware of the consequences of everything you eat. Here, I’m going to look into peanut butter for you; its benefits, its dangers, can it be part of a gout diet and, if so, what are the restrictions, if any? Or should it be avoided completely and why?
First, what is peanut butter, and how is it made?
At its simplest peanut butter is just a paste made from peanuts. But some commercial products include things like sugar, salt, hydrogenated oils, and other ingredients.
According to Wikipedia:
Peanut butter is a food paste or spread made from ground dry roasted peanuts. It often contains additional ingredients that modify the taste or texture, such as salt, sweeteners or emulsifiers. Peanut butter is popular in many countries. The United States is a leading exporter of peanut butter and itself consumes $800 million of peanut butter annually.
And Today I Found Out describes, very simply, how it is manufactured:
Peanut butter is made by:
First roasting the peanuts at around 240 degrees Celsius (464 degrees Fahrenheit). At this stage, the peanuts turn from white to light brown.
The peanuts are then cooled rapidly so that they don’t continue to cook and so that the natural oils remain in the peanut.
They are then blanched with the blancher machine removing the skins and splitting the kernels and removing the heart at the center. The skins are typically then sold for pig food and the hearts for bird food.
The split peanut kernels are then dropped into a grinder where they are slowly ground into a paste. This is done slowly to make sure the peanuts don’t heat up too much in the grinding process.
Additional ingredients are then added to the peanut paste, such as sugar, salt, and hydrogenated vegetable oil. The purpose of the vegetable oil is to make it so the natural peanut oils do not separate from the butter; though, in some brands of peanut butter, you will still see this happen at times, as with one of the creamier brands of peanut butter, Peter Pan.
Peanut butter: its impact on gout and your health.
The first thing to look for in any food you’re considering adding to your gout diet is its purine content. Purines metabolize into uric acid, high levels of which can lead to gout flares due to the deposition of uric acid crystals in your joints and surrounding tissue.
The good news is that peanut butter is ranked as being low in purines (<100 milligrams of uric acid per 3.5 oz serving.), so it passes the purine test.
So now let’s take a look at another important issue for us gout sufferers…
Why is this important? It’s important because, as a gout sufferer, you need to completely avoid eating some types of animal protein because they are so high in purines; things like:
- organ meats (liver, kidneys, heart, etc.),
- game (grouse, partridge, pheasant, squirrel, wild boar, etc.)
And other types of animal protein, with more moderate amounts of purines, may only be eaten in, well, moderation; things such as:
But by doing so you are missing out on a lot of protein that your body needs, so you need to find an alternative gout-friendly, low purine, source…
Your body’s protein is made up of different amino acids which it needs. However, nine of these cannot be manufactured by your body and so have to be taken in through diet. These are called “essential” amino acids.
Now, although peanuts lack the essential amino acid L-methionine, they contain high levels of the other eight essential amino acids, thus making peanut butter a good plant-based protein source. In any case, L-methionine can be found in other foods suitable for a gout diet, for example eggs, which I covered in a previous post: Eggs and Gout.
Protein accounts for a reasonable 25% of peanut butter. So it’s a good alternative source of protein for us gout sufferers. Once again, peanut butter passes the test.
But we aren’t finished yet…
Any food you add into your gout diet also has to be healthy. There’s no sense in eating a food that, although gout-friendly, is otherwise unhealthy and could cause other health issues if consumed regularly.
First, let’s look at some of peanut butter’s healthier components…
The first thing to bear in mind is that, compared with totally natural peanut butter, most commercial brands tend to add other ingredients to enhance flavor and texture, increase shelf-life, prevent separation, and so on.
So not all brands will have the same, or the same amounts, of additives. This makes giving actual “weights and measures” to ingredients rather difficult as each product will be different.
But, in general, we can say that…
As well as the good amounts of protein mentioned earlier (as much as 8 grams in a typical 2-tablespoon serving), peanut butter also contains some fiber (2 to 3 grams), has low carbs (6 to 8 grams) and zero cholesterol.
It also contains unsaturated fats (10 to 14 grams) which we now know are “good” fats. As well as having anti-inflammatory powers — good for gout — these healthy fats also help to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Peanut butter is also rich in antioxidants such as resveratrol and p-coumarin which early research suggests have the potential to protect against things like heart disease, cancers, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and more.
In addition, peanut butter is rich in vitamins and minerals such as:
- vitamin B3 (niacin)
- vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
- vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
- vitamin B7 (biotin)
- vitamin B9 (folate)
- vitamin E
The B vitamins, acting singly or together, help in the production of hormones, red blood cells, cholesterol (which we need), healthy fatty acids, DNA, etc., and promote bone, teeth, and hair health. They also help to convert food into energy, boost the immune system, aid brain development, promote babies’ health and development, and help the body use other vitamins more effectively.
Vitamin E has antioxidant powers that help to protect your body’s cells from free radicals that can cause a number of diseases, including cancers. It also helps to maintain healthy arteries and boost your body’s immune system.
Rather than describe the minerals individually it’s sufficient to know that, between them, they promote thyroid, immune system, and bone health, regulate body temperature, protect the body’s cells, manage the body’s metabolism, control blood pressure, aid proper brain function, help in hemoglobin formation, and a lot more besides.
So you can clearly see that peanut butter is packed full of healthy nutrients with wide-ranging health benefits.
So far so good. But still we aren’t finished.
We have to balance these undoubted health benefits against any unhealthy characteristics and anything that may be harmful….
Potentially Unhealthy/Harmful Aspects of Peanut Butter
Saturated (Bad) Fat
Saturated fat is a potential red flag. Consuming high amounts of saturated fats increases the cholesterol in your blood which increases your risk of stroke and heart disease.
But we shouldn’t just look at it in isolation but, rather, in terms of its ratio to unsaturated (good) fats…
On average, peanut butter contains around 12.3 grams of unsaturated fat and 3.3 grams of saturated fat (15.6 grams total). Source.
So unsaturated fat accounts for around 79% of the total fat content, much like extra virgin olive oil’s fat profile, which is universally considered to be very healthy.
So peanut butter has a lot more good fats than bad fats, by a considerable margin.
Your body needs sodium; it couldn’t function without it. One of the important things it does is to maintain water balance in your body. But you have to be very careful not to overdo it, as too much sodium increases blood pressure and the risk of stroke, heart disease, and heart failure.
The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, ideally 1,500 milligrams per day.
Now, depending on the brand and product, you’ll find anything from 5 to 200 milligrams of sodium in a single serving of peanut butter, although that 200 milligrams is more likely to be found in “reduced-fat” products, which I tend to stay well away from.
The average is probably around 95 milligrams.
So, overall, not too bad as long as you aren’t consuming too much sodium through other food sources and table salt — which you shouldn’t be doing if you’re following a healthy gout diet.
Another health factor to consider with sodium is the ratio of potassium to sodium. The higher the better because potassium is an electrolyte that counterbalances the effects of sodium, thus helping to maintain consistent blood pressure. And it’s especially important for us gout sufferers because it can help the body to excrete uric acid more readily.
Peanut butter has around 200 milligrams of potassium compared with, say, 95 milligrams of sodium, that’s over two to one, which isn’t bad at all.
Your body needs calories for energy; you couldn’t function without them. The problem is that consuming too many, without burning them off through daily activities, can lead to weight gain and its associated health problems such as high cholesterol, high blood sugar, stroke, and heart disease.
Peanut butter is high in calories. One serving contains as much as 200 calories, around 8% of your daily needs if you’re a male adult and 10% if you’re a female adult. The average is probably 190 calories per serving.
Although 8% to 10% doesn’t seem a lot, it can be if you’re eating it two or three or more time a day, as well as consuming lots of other high calorie foods and have an inactive lifestyle.
Too much sugar is linked to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
And according to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are 37.5 grams for men and 25 grams for women.
Most peanut butter brands contain between 1 to 3 grams of added sugar per serving, but you can get higher. So be careful when choosing. Stick to lower sugar brands.
Peanut butter may contain aflatoxins. These are toxins produced by a type of mold (fungi) found on crops such as peanuts, tree nuts, cotton seed, and corn, and have been associated with an increased liver cancer risk as well as stunted growth in children.
However, don’t be overly alarmed by this. Your exposure is much reduced if you stick to major commercial brands of peanut butter and if you live in a country where there are strict guidelines on aflatoxin levels in food.
For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests foods that may contain aflatoxins, such as peanuts and peanut butter. And according to the National Cancer Institute:
To date, no outbreak of human illness caused by aflatoxins has been reported in the United States, but such outbreaks have occurred in some developing countries.
Having said that, if you still have concerns about eating peanut butter because of aflatoxins, then avoid it altogether. Do not add it into your gout diet.
In summary, although peanut butter does contain some unhealthy components, at varying levels, the effect of these can be minimized through portion control and frequency of consumption, along with ensuring your overall diet is well balanced and healthy.
Once again, moderation is the key.
So, should you add peanut butter into your gout diet?
OK so let’s try and sum up here…
Most importantly for us gout sufferers is the fact that peanut butter is low in purines and has a decent amount of protein, making it a good protein substitute in a healthy gout diet.
Now there are some downsides to it, for example, it contains sodium, saturated fat, sugar, and a lot of calories, which certainly isn’t so good on the face of it. But, as you saw above, some of these aren’t as bad as first feared. For me, calories are the most important factor.
On the other hand peanut butter’s loaded with vitamins and minerals and other nutrients that your body absolutely needs to protect against things like:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- cellular damage
- birth defects
- and for your body to function properly
On balance then, peanut butter can be an excellent addition to your gout diet. However, because of its high calorie content, it should be eaten in moderation; perhaps one serving (2 x tablespoons) per day.
Finally, many studies have shown that those who regularly include nuts or peanut butter in their diets are less at risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes than those who rarely eat nuts or peanut butter. Worth remembering.
Who Should NOT Eat Peanut Butter
Peanuts can trigger a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) among a very small group in the general population. And this can happen with minute particles. So folks with a peanut allergy, or even think they have a peanut allergy (consult your doctor or healthcare professional), should scrupulously avoid peanuts and peanut butter.