Many of the foods considered the best for losing fat are pretty obvious—like fruit, veg and lean protein. Others, not so much.
Take peanut butter: it’s nutritious, delicious and goes with everything, but because a single serving (two tablespoons) contains 190 calories—144 of those from fat—it’s easy to assume that it should be off-limits.
Watching your fat intake is important, but adding peanut butter to your repertoire can be helpful when trying to shed pounds. A review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that nuts can help curb appetite and control hunger, while a Purdue University study showed that long-term nut and nut butter consumption can actually help maintain weight loss. Peanut butter, for the win.
“In the past, fats earned a bad rap because one gram of fat contains double the amount of calories than the same amount of carbs or proteins,” says Lisa Booth, R.D., registered dietitian and health coach for 8fit. “But if you skimp on fat, it’s likely you’re not giving your body the nutrition, calories and energy it needs, which can slow down your metabolism.”
SO… PEANUT BUTTER IS GOOD FOR YOU?
Besides providing more protein than any other nut (seven grams per two tablespoons), peanuts are a good source of fibre (two grams) and healthy, plant-based unsaturated fats (16 grams). This nutritional trifecta makes peanut butter digest in slow-mo, keeping you full and satisfied for longer stretches, so you’re less likely to snack or succumb to hunger cravings throughout the day, says Rebecca Lewis, R.D., registered dietitian at Hello Fresh.
Think of noshing on PB as an investment in future calories saved, says Boston-based registered dietitian Sheri Kasper, R.D.N. If you stir half a tablespoon of peanut butter (roughly 50 calories) into your morning porridge and that helps keep you full until lunch—and from reaching for a higher-calorie snack mid-morning—you’re actually consuming fewer calories over the course of the day.
Plus, peanut butter is decadent and adds excitement to your diet. “One of the biggest reasons people fail to meet their fat loss goals is because they feel bored and deprived,” says Kasper. “No one wants to eat dry salads and plain chicken every day.” Enjoying what you eat is important, and PB can help with that.
USING PB TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
“Although peanut butter contains a variety of nutrients, it’s also a calorie dense food—and those calories can add up quickly when you’re trying to moderate your intake and lose fat,” says Edwina Clark, R.D., head of nutrition and wellness at Yummly. Try to limit your peanut butter intake to one serving per day (two tablespoons), and make sure to count those 190 calories toward your daily caloric quota.
Ideally, you shouldn’t consume more than one tablespoon per meal and one teaspoon per snack. Otherwise, you could easily hit your body with more calories than it actually needs for fuel in a given feeding, Kasper says. He reccomends using legit measuring spoons to scoop out your servings, as they can help you stay mindful of exactly how much you’re consuming each day.
Plus, because of its rich flavour profile, you don’t need a full serving of peanut butter to nix feelings of deprivation, says Kasper. One teaspoon can make even the most boring health foods taste like a treat—apple slices, celery sticks, you name it—and keep you satisfied until your next mealtime.
“Many companies now have single serving pouches of peanut butter that are easy to carry in your bag or stash at work,” says Lewis, which can help you keep it together (as in, not hoover an entire jar) when cravings strike. (Hey, we’ve all been there.)
If you have a hard time keeping your servings in check, give powdered PB a try. It tastes crazy similar to the real deal, but a two-tablespoon serving contains a mere 45 calories.
When you’re shopping for PB, the fewer ingredients it contains, the healthier it usually is, with the ideal peanut butter containing only peanuts. “A lot of peanut butters contain less-than-healthy additives like refined sugar, salt and artificial flavoring,” says Booth. Don’t be fooled by reduced fat peanut butters—typically, when the fat is taken out, higher levels of sodium and sugar are added in, adds Lewis.
When you open the jar, it’s a good sign if the oil separates from the peanuts. This usually means the PB is free of pesky additives such as partially and fully hydrogenated oils (code for trans and saturated fats) or high fructose corn syrup, which can all put a damper on your weight loss, says Booth.
This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.
Looking for breakfast inspiration? Try these Nutribullet Recipes or these Healthy Smoothie Recipes.