Peanut butter is one of the most popular spreads in the world — and for good reason! It has a wonderful taste that goes with countless foods.
Unlike most tasty treats, it is very nutritious and healthy. Does it, however, qualify for keto?
This article explores the nutrition composition of the popular spread to determine if it is a good fit for keto. We also look at how best to add it to a ketogenic diet to get the best out of it while staying within your set carb restrictions.
Peanut butter is a spread made from grinding roasted peanuts into a semi-liquid paste.
Peanuts are actually not considered nuts, botanically speaking. They belong to the legume family, which also includes beans, lentils, and peas.
Legumes are not allowed on keto because of their high carbohydrate content. However, peanuts have a nutrition composition more similar to nuts and are different from other legumes.
Peanuts and peanut products have long been a part of many cuisines worldwide. Different cultures from Asia, the Americas, and Africa use this food in their cooking.
The spread was popularized as a commercial product in the early twentieth century and has since become a hit in modern foods, particularly the iconic PB & J sandwich.
Peanut butter is rich in protein and fat with the majority of the carbohydrate portion consisting of dietary fiber (this means the net carb amount is relatively low). It also contains a variety of micronutrients such as vitamin E, B3, and manganese. While it is high in calories, it’s dense nutritional profile makes it worth your while.
Serving size: 2 tablespoons or 32 g natural peanut butter
With only 4 g of net carbs per 2-tablespoon serving, or 2 grams of net carbs in a tablespoon of peanut butter, there is definitely room for this delicious treat on a ketogenic diet. If you’re using it in a recipe, it may be helpful to know that there are 32.25 grams of net carbs in a cup of the nutty spread.
The nutrition information above is for the 100% pure, sugar-free product. The carb count in natural peanut butter is lowest, while brands with additives like sugar and oil have a different nutrition profile that may not be suitable for keto.
Yes, but there is a catch.
In its natural state, the spread is just peanuts and salt. Peanuts have the ideal macronutrient ratios for keto. They are a good source of fat and protein and are very low in carbohydrates.
So where’s the problem?
First, it is so delicious that you may accidentally eat more than one serving at a time. While it is keto-safe in small quantities, the same does not apply to eating the whole jar.
Secondly, many brands add sugar to their product to achieve that sweet-salty taste we all know and love. Sometimes the sugar may be disguised as agave syrup or other sweeteners, but the body metabolizes them the same way.
For this reason, it’s important that you check the label before buying, or make your own spread at home using a food processor.
If you truly love this food, it’s probably not hard to imagine (or remember!) eating a whole jar in one sitting. No judgment here, but for keto you should know that you need to exercise some level of self-control around this treat.
Whether you are eating it plain, adding it to a smoothie, or spreading it over celery sticks, 2 tablespoons should suffice. A 2-tablespoon serving contains about 4 g of net carbs, which fits in well if your daily limit is 50 g of carbs.
4.5 g of carbs might seem small and tempt you to want more, but in most cases, this food is eaten as part of a bigger meal or snack. The other ingredients are most likely also going to contribute some carbs, so be aware of the total amount.
To establish some control over your portion, avoid eating straight out of the jar. It is understandable why you might want to do that, but it’s not a good habit and you may eand up eating more than you intended to.
Instead, portion out what you intend to eat onto a plate, close the jar (better yet, keep it out of sight and out of mind in the fridge or pantry!) and then enjoy your snack.
The best type for keto is all-natural peanut butter.
The word natural can mean a lot of things in food processing. In this context, natural means the product contains only one or two ingredients: peanuts and, in some cases, salt.
But some of the most popular brands have over 7 ingredients in them!
Cane sugar and other sweeteners like agave syrup are added to over-processed versions to improve the taste. No-stir varieties contain emulsifiers that prevent the oil from separating from the nut butter.
Certain brands might also contain preservatives like sodium benzoate to prolong shelf life. Eating foods with too many preservatives is never good, whether you are following a diet or not. So when checking the label, look not only for the lowest carb count, but also check the full list of ingredients.
There are countless brands available on the market. The best brand for you will depend on where you live and what is available to you. If the following sugar-free brands are available in your area, they are worth a try.
Remember some brands may have some varieties that are keto-friendly and some that are not. Therefore, if you are trying a different flavor for the first time, double-check the carb content just to make sure.
You most certainly cannot have a PB & J on keto, but there are several other ways you can enjoy the nutty paste.
First, you can savor it on its own. It is good enough to eat alone if you are having a craving or just feel like eating something light.
It makes an excellent dip for other keto-friendly snacks like celery, carrots, and bell pepper. You can also use it to make a satay-style dressing for salads or as a delicious marinade for chicken.
Finally, it can be added to smoothies to boost their protein content and improve satiety.
Peanut butter is very keto-friendly, but what if you have an allergy, or are in the minority of people who simply do not enjoy it? There are more than enough substitutes on keto for you to choose from.
The easiest replacements are other nut-based spreads. Nuts have a nearly identical macronutrient composition. All nuts are rich in fat and protein and very low in carbs. Some of the nut butters you can try on keto include:
If possible, you should leave room for other types of nut butters in your diet. This is because while the macro content of nuts is similar, the micronutrient composition differs significantly.
For example, cashews are rich in zinc and magnesium, almonds are sources of calcium and vitamin E, while Brazil nuts are an amazing source of selenium. Walnuts are especially important because they are rich in omega-3 fats (alpha-linolenic acid).
If you are allergic or otherwise adverse to tree nuts, seed butters also make excellent substitutes. Seeds, similar to nuts, are rich in fat and protein and low in simple carbs. Seeds like sunflower and pumpkin make delicious nutrient-packed spreads.
The good news is that you can also make different nut and seed butters at home. See below for an easy recipe to follow.
Not yet convinced? Below, we answer some of the common questions you might have about eating peanut butter on a low-carb diet.
No, you cannot. Sad but true. You cannot have ordinary jelly on keto. Jelly is made from fruit and sugar, making it particularly high in net carbs.
However, low-sugar varieties made using low-sugar fruits like blackberries can be enjoyed on a low-carb diet in limited quantities. Always read the nutrition label to determine if the jelly fits in your macro needs.
The bread in a typical PB & J sandwich is also off-limits, although you can make keto bread using almond flour.
Yes, you can. It is in fact a staple for many people who follow a vegan diet. It is a good source of protein, which can be challenging to obtain on a completely keto plant-based diet.
Technically, you can. Some brands might contain only a little bit of sugar adding about 2 g of sugar per serving. In this case, if you are to have only one serving, there is no harm done.
This is however only justifiable if you truly enjoy the taste of a particular brand. If this is not the case, you should stick with healthier, sugar-free alternatives. Try one, you may be surprised at its naturally good taste!
The key is to always read the nutrition label on the jar to see if a particular variety fits within your macro goals.
Going homemade is the best decision you can make if you are trying to stick with a specific diet goal. Making your own food at home allows you the luxury of knowing what exactly is in your food.
You might think that making nut butter is a very complex process, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. You can make any nut or seed-based spread from scratch in under 15 minutes if you have the right ingredients and tools.
Here is a quick recipe to try.
There are slight differences between natural almond and peanut butter. Almonds have more fiber, calcium and magnesium than peanuts, and thus so do their nut butters. Variety is the spice of life, but at the end of the day both are nutrient dense sources and can be a beneficial part of your diet.
Yes! Peanut butter is already ketogenic, but adding some coconut oil provides an extra source of fat to your meal. Coconut oil has 0 carbs, but it is a saturated fat and is also high in calories, so don’t go overboard. You can still put on weight if you eat too many calories on a ketogenic diet.