Is Peanut Butter ACTUALLY A Good Protein Source?
We love peanut butter as much as the next person. Almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter, you name it and we probably have it around the house somewhere. When the jar is empty, Polly and Atlas will usually fight over who gets the final few licks of the inside of the tub.
Despite our love of peanut butter (or any of the other assortment of nut butters) we draw the line when people begin to make spurious claims about the nutritional value and the protein content.
Nut butters have been receiving a lot of press lately espousing them as great protein sources and having as much protein as some animal protein sources. I remember several years ago, a running magazine featured an article about the nutritional plan that one of my favorite athletes follows. He claimed that his most prominent protein source featured in his diet was peanut butter. I cringed. The amount of training and mileage this individual undertakes requires at least 1.8-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. I highly doubted he was getting enough protein to sustain the training volume he was undertaking. Turns out, I was correct. Not long after the article hit the presses this particular athlete retired for health concerns and was exhibiting all the classical signs of over training and under recovery.
Is this true? Is peanut butter really a good protein source?
Hardly. A couple simple searches on the internet will dispel this myth.
Let’s do a simple comparison. Justin’s Classic Peanut Butter lists a serving size as 2 tbsp. In those 2 tbsps there are 210 calories and 7 grams of protein. For comparison, a 6 ounce chicken breast has 281 calories and 52 grams of protein. (I chose Justin’s brand peanut butter for this example because many consumers choose this brand thinking it is “healthier”because it is advertised as being all natural).
Let’s put that into perspective. It would take almost 7.5 servings of Justin’s Natural Peanut Butter to equal the amount of protein you can obtain from 6 ounces of a chicken breast. That is nearly a whopping 15 tablespoons of peanut butter totaling 1,558 calories and 133 grams of fat. Compare that the the 52 grams of protein, 281 cals, and 6 grams of fat from chicken. That is an awful lot of fat and calories to claim that peanut butters and nut butters are good protein sources.
I won’t go too deep into the complexities of amino acid profile, but let’s take a quick look at the basics. Proteins are made up of amino acids. Proteins that are found in our body are made up of approximately 20 amino acids both essential and non essential. Essential means that our body requires them but we can not synthesize them ourselves and must get them from diet. Non- essential means we don’t have to get them in our diet. When it comes to the “best protein sources” the truth is we need a variety of amino acids from a variety of different sources. When it comes to eating a variety of amino acids, plant proteins certainly fit into the equation but there is no substitute for proteins found in fish, poultry, lean red meats, eggs, and game meat.