Is Peanut Butter Good for Type 2 Diabetes?

Does peanut butter impact your blood sugar levels? Find out how this nut butter impacts those who live with type 2 diabetes.

A hand stirring a bowl of peanut butter.
by
Caroline Thomason
— Signos
Dietician + Diabetes Educator (CDCES)
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
May 20, 2024
April 12, 2024
— Updated:
April 12, 2024

Table of Contents

Have you ever wondered if peanut butter is healthy for your blood sugar? If you are one of the nearly 40 million people living with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association, you may have heard conflicting information about whether or not peanut butter raises your blood sugar. If you live with diabetes, your nutrition choices play a crucial role in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Peanut butter has gotten attention for its potential blood sugar benefits as it contains healthy fat, protein, and some fiber—three major nutrients that stabilize blood sugar levels in a healthy diet.

Let’s examine the science behind peanut butter's impact on type 2 diabetes and how it can be part of a balanced eating plan to support better blood sugar control and overall well-being. We will review peanut butter’s nutrition facts and answer common questions about its impact on blood sugar in a diabetes diet and other health conditions.

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Understanding the Glycemic Index of Peanut Butter

The glycemic index measures how quickly carbohydrate-containing foods raise blood sugar levels after eating. Each food has a unique glycemic index and impact on blood sugar. For those living with diabetes, lower-glycemic foods, like natural peanut butter, might be useful in improving blood sugar, especially after meals and snacks.

Foods with a high GI can cause rapid blood sugar spikes, followed by a crash, leading to fluctuations in energy levels and hunger. On the other hand, foods with a low GI promote more stable blood sugar levels, providing sustained energy and promoting feelings of fullness.

A high glycemic index is 100, and peanuts themselves have a low glycemic index, typically ranging from 14 to 23 on the scale. Peanut butter contains small amounts of carbohydrates, primarily in the form of natural sugars, but with the protein, fiber, and healthy fat combo, there is very little impact on blood sugars from peanuts. Peanut butter has a blood sugar-stabilizing effect, slowing down the digestion and absorption of food to create a more lasting, consistent blood glucose level over time. You’ll still want to check the label for added sugars that might increase your blood sugar, and of course, be mindful of carbohydrate-containing foods you pair with peanut butter. 

Peanut Butter: Nutrition Facts

Two peanut butter toasts: one with banana, the other with jelly.

Let’s take a look at the nutritional profile of peanut butter. Per two tablespoons of peanut butter, most servings contain 7 grams of protein, 16 grams of healthy fat, and 2 grams of dietary fiber. Plus, peanuts offer lots of nutrition through vitamins and minerals. Here are some key nutrition facts about peanut butter:

  • Calories: While peanut butter is relatively high in calories, these calories primarily come from healthy fats and protein, making it a satisfying and energy-dense food choice. If you’re focused on weight loss, you must be mindful of your serving size. 
  • Protein: Peanut butter is a source of plant-based protein, making it an excellent option for vegetarians and vegans to meet their protein needs. Protein is essential for muscle repair, growth, and overall cellular function.
  • Saturated Fat: While peanut butter contains some saturated fat, most of its fat content is heart-healthy unsaturated fats. When consumed as part of a balanced diet, these fats can help lower LDL (or the “bad”) cholesterol levels.
  • Unsaturated Fat: Peanut butter is a healthy source of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which have been linked to numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and improved cholesterol levels.
  • Magnesium: Peanut butter contains magnesium, an essential mineral involved in various biochemical reactions, including energy production, muscle function, and bone health.
  • Phosphorus: Phosphorus, another mineral in peanut butter, plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy bones and teeth and aiding in energy metabolism.
  • Potassium: Peanut butter offers potassium, an electrolyte that is vital for regulating blood pressure, muscle contractions, and nerve signals.
  • Zinc: Peanut butter contains zinc, an important mineral that supports immune function, wound healing, and DNA synthesis.
  • Sodium: Depending on the brand and variety, peanut butter may contain sodium. Opting for no salt-added or low-sodium varieties can help limit your sodium intake.
  • Calcium: While not as high in calcium as dairy products, peanut butter contains small amounts of this essential mineral, contributing to bone health and muscle function.

4 Health Benefits of Peanut Butter

Whether you like crunchy or creamy, this nutty spread offers many health benefits. From weight management to heart health, peanut butter is a versatile and delicious addition to any diet. Here are a few of its main health benefits:

  1. Weight Gain Control: Contrary to popular belief, peanut butter may aid in weight management. Its combination of protein, fiber, and healthy fats helps keep you feeling fuller for longer, reducing the likelihood of overeating. One study found that in a calorie-controlled diet, folks who consumed peanuts lost more weight than those on a low-fat diet.
  2. Triglyceride Reduction and HDL Cholesterol Maintenance: Consuming peanut butter in moderation may help lower triglyceride levels and maintain optimal blood lipids, such as HDL (good) cholesterol levels, thus supporting cardiovascular health. Notably, some folks gained weight with larger peanut intakes in this meta-analysis. 
  3. Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: The protein and fat content in peanut butter can play a significant role in regulating blood sugar levels, potentially lowering the risk of developing type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.
  4. Source of Magnesium: Peanut butter is packed with essential nutrients, including magnesium, which is vital for various bodily functions such as muscle and nerve function, blood sugar regulation, and bone health. Adding peanut butter to your diet can help you meet your daily magnesium requirements.

What Are the Potential Risks of Peanut Butter?

While there are many health benefits, let's look at any downsides associated with eating peanut butter. There aren’t many, but some might choose to avoid it for health reasons or during seasons of life when it might not be the best fit.

  • High-Calorie Content: Like all nuts and seeds, peanuts are calorie-dense, meaning they contain many calories for their serving size, primarily due to their fat content. While healthy fats are beneficial in moderation, excessive consumption of calorie-dense foods like peanut butter can contribute to weight gain if not consumed mindfully.
  • High Salt Content: Depending on the brand and variety, some peanut butter products may contain added salt or sugar to enhance flavor and shelf life. Excessive salt intake can increase the risk of high blood pressure, while added sugars can contribute to various health issues, including obesity and diabetes. Opting for natural options or low-sodium varieties can help make healthier swaps. 
  • High in Lectin: Peanuts naturally contain lectins, a type of protein. While lectins are found in many plant-based foods and are generally harmless, some people anecdotally report experiencing discomfort or adverse reactions to foods that contain them. Roasting or boiling peanuts can reduce lectin levels and minimize potential digestive issues.

Will Peanut Butter Raise Your Blood Sugar?

Let's address the burning question: Will peanut butter raise my blood sugar? Despite containing small amounts of carbohydrates, primarily in the form of natural sugars, peanut butter typically has a minimal impact on blood sugar levels when consumed in moderation. This is due to several factors that influence how the body processes the macronutrients found in peanut butter.

Peanut butter is rich in healthy fats, protein, and fiber, which work together to slow down the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream. As a result, the rise in blood sugar after consuming peanut butter is gradual and quite modest compared to foods with higher carbohydrate content. Additionally, the glycemic index of peanut butter is generally low. It’s important to remember that portion size and your individual physiology, such as insulin sensitivity and overall dietary patterns, impact how peanut butter will affect your blood sugar.

While peanut butter is unlikely to cause significant spikes in blood sugar for most people, folks with diabetes should still monitor their blood sugar levels and consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate portion sizes and frequency of consumption.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn More: </strong><a href="how-much-sugar-should-a-type-2-diabetic-have-a-day">Sugar Limits for Type 2 Diabetics: Daily Recommendations</a>.</p>

Which Is the Best Diabetic-Friendly Peanut Butter?

A jar of peanut butter with crackers.

Navigating the peanut butter aisle can be overwhelming if you’re worried about your blood sugar, but it doesn’t have to be! Take a look at the nutrition label for options that contain simple ingredients like just “peanuts”. If you’re looking at flavored options, opt for low-salt and low-sugar options, and those that contain minimal or no hydrogenated oils or trans fats.

Fortunately, there are diabetic-friendly peanut butter options available that can be incorporated into a balanced diet without causing significant spikes in blood sugar. Here are some brands we love and recommend:

Learn More About How to Improve Blood Sugar Health With Signos’ Expert Advice

Choosing the right medication is vital for health improvement, diabetes management, and weight loss. Signos' experts offer personalized guidance to help individuals select the most suitable medication options tailored to their needs and goals, considering factors like insulin resistance, medical history, and lifestyle preferences.

Beyond medication selection, Signos' experts provide comprehensive support, offering advice on lifestyle modifications such as diet and exercise to complement medication therapy effectively. With their expertise, individuals can confidently navigate their journey toward improved health, successful diabetes management, and sustainable weight loss. Learn more about glucose levels on Signos’ blog, and find out if Signos is a good fit for you by taking a quick quiz.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Also Read: </strong><a href="is-a-low-carb-diet-healthy">Is a Low-Carb Diet Healthy?</a>.</p>

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References

  1. Statistics about Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. Accessed April, 10, 2024. 
  2. Peanut Butter. USDA. Accessed April, 10, 2024. 
  3. Petersen KS, Murphy J, Whitbread J, Clifton PM, Keogh JB. The Effect of a Peanut-Enriched Weight Loss Diet Compared to a Low-Fat Weight Loss Diet on Body Weight, Blood Pressure, and Glycemic Control: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2022 Jul 21;14(14):2986.
  4. Parilli-Moser I, Hurtado-Barroso S, Guasch-Ferré M, Lamuela-Raventós RM. Effect of Peanut Consumption on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: A Randomized Clinical Trial and Meta-Analysis. Front Nutr. 2022 Apr 1;9:853378. 
  5. Becerra-Tomás N, Paz-Graniel I, Hernández-Alonso P, Jenkins DJA, Kendall CWC, Sievenpiper JL, Salas-Salvadó J. Nut consumption and type 2 diabetes risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2021 Apr 6;113(4):960-971. 
  6. Magnificent Magnesium. The National Peanut Board. Accessed April, 10, 2024. 

About the author

Caroline Thomason is a dietitian, diabetes educator, and health writer based in Washington, DC.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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