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Can You Eat Natural Peanut Butter on Keto?

Natural peanut butter on keto. Does it work with the diet? Is it healthy for you? I’m going to answer both of these questions in the article below.

But first, I have a question for you…What kind of peanut butter do sharks eat?

Peanut butter and jellyfish!

On a serious note – What is there NOT to love about peanut butter!? It’s high in protein… It’s high in fat… It has a good amount of potassium… And, peanut butter only has about 4 net carbs… At the end of the day, it’s pretty nutritious! And, it DOES FIT within the ketogenic diet.

But, before you go eating it by the spoonful, there are a few things you need to know about this magical food.

  1. Not all peanut butter is created equal. There are processed oils, even in “Natural” peanut butter.
  2. Peanut butter can cause inflammation in your body if you aren’t combining it with other healthy foods. In particular, I am talking about Omega–3 Fatty Acids.

Can I Eat Natural Peanut Butter on Keto?

Yes, you can! But, there are some health concerns due to the processed oils that are normally added to it. 

However, peanut butter happens to be one of my FAVORITE foods. I would much rather find a healthy way to eat it than cut it out of my diet completely. So, that is what I am going talk about in this article.

Here is the high-level view of natural peanut butter and keto.

Natural Peanut Butter Keto Infographic

There are several types of peanut butter, but the focus of this article is natural peanut butter and keto.

Peanut Butter Types

There are THREE main types of peanut butter that you are likely to see at the store. These include…

  1. Standard Peanut Butters
  2. Natural Peanut Butters (Some of these are okay)
  3. Organic Peanut Butters (Some of these are okay)

What really matters though is the ingredients. The different brands are NOT consistent with how they label peanut butter. You can’t rely on the name “Natural” or “Organic” to determine a healthy peanut.

Eating natural peanut butter on keto COULD be a bad thing from a general health standpoint. It depends on which ingredients the brand used.

Look for peanut butters with ONLY peanuts, or JUST peanuts and salt.

Standard Peanut Butters

These include JIF, Skippy, Peter Pan brands, etc. The regular peanut butters are made with hydrogenated oils, monoglycerides, and diglycerides to prevent oil separation. None of these ingredients are healthy. You’ll find the highest amount of trans fats in this type.

JIF Creamy Peanut Butter:

Natural Peanut Butters

These are usually made with palm oil to prevent oil separation. However, palm oil has its own health concerns and we should avoid it. SOME natural peanut butter is okay because If it is made with only nuts and salt. The brands are not consistent with what “natural” means.

JIF Natural Peanut Butter:

Organic Peanut Butters

These often only contain nuts and salt BUT it really depends on the food manufacturer. If you see more than that in the ingredient list then don’t buy it.

Smuckers Organic Peanut Butter:

The bottom line is that we need to check the ingredients list on the peanut butter. Don’t rely on the “natural” or “organic” label to tell you what’s in it.

Natural Peanut Butter and Keto

While most forms of peanut butter ARE keto friendly, unfortunately, the vast majority of them are NOT HEALTHY. That includes natural peanut butter.

Natural peanut butter contains palm oil which is used to homogenize the peanut butter and make it “stir free”. There are a number of health issues with palm oil that have been shown in several studies.

Refined palm oil is what makes eating natural peanut butter on keto a poor option.

Palm Oil in Natural Peanut Butter

Palm Trees In Indonesia

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that is derived from the fruit of the African Oil Palm and the Marina Palm. It’s largely produced in tropical areas such as Indonesia. [*]

In its natural form, palm oil has a reddish tint and has MANY health benefits associated with it. However, the palm oil in peanut butter is NOT in its natural form. There are MANY layers of processing that happen to it before the oil ends up in the peanut butter jar.

Palm oil goes through refining steps such as fractionation where it is split into different fat types. The specific oils are obtained by heating and cooling the oil to certain melting points. At each melting point, the oil separates into two different forms. [*]

One of the oil types created from this processing is called 27 stearin. This is the oil used with many natural peanut butters. By combining organic peanut butter, with 27 stearin, the peanut butter doesn’t separate. This is a “no-stir” peanut butter that the food companies can now market [*]

Negative Health Effects of Processed Palm Oil

Palm oil becomes toxic to the body through processing.

Studies have shown that oxidized (processed) palm oil, such as the palm oil found in natural peanut butter is toxic to the reproductive system, as well as the kidneys, lungs, liver, and heart. [*]

One study tested processed palm oil against rats and found that pregnancy rates decreased by as much as 55%. [*]

Another study found that processed palm oil caused damage to the lungs, liver, and kidneys whereas unprocessed palm oil did not. [*]

Carcinogens in Refined Oils

There is yet another health concern with palm oil.

During the refining process, Glycidyl Fatty Acid Esters are created within palm oil.

This happens during the deodorizing process of the palm oil. GEs are food contaminants and known to be potential carcinogens. GEs have a higher likelihood of forming during palm oil processing than other refined oil types.

This makes refined palm oil especially dangerous inside the natural peanut butter we consume.

Inflammation Caused by Omega–6s

You may have heard about the importance of consuming Omega–3s. They are known to reduce inflammation in our body and strengthen cell membranes.

Omega–6s are essential also but in today’s world, it is virtually impossible to be deficient in Omega–6. They’re found in many foods we eat including peanut butter. And, the more Omega–6 we consume the more Omega–3 we need to consume to balance out the Omega–6. Unfortunately, peanuts have ALOT of omega–6s and ZERO omega–3s. This is a BIG problem.

All types of peanut butter are going to have high amounts of Omega–6.

When we don’t consume enough Omega–3s to balance out the amount of Omega–6s we are eating, we get inflammation in the body. There is quite a bit of research out there to support this. [*] [*] [*] [*] [*] For someone who is consuming a lot of peanut butter, they could be doing harm to their body.

But, they just need to make sure they are adding in a healthy amount of Omega-3s to support their diet.

It is recommended that we eat a 3:1 ratio of Omega–6s to Omega–3s.  Most of us are somewhere in the 25:1 range. [*] Unfortunately, peanut butter isn’t helping in this scenario.

Two Solutions to Improve Your Omega–6 to Omega–3 Ratio.

1. Increase the Omega–3s in Your Diet

To help offset the high levels of Omega–6 we are getting from peanut butter, we need to increase our consumption of these Omega–3 rich foods.

Great Sources of Omega–3

  • Flaxseeds and Flax Oil
  • Salmon Oil
  • Cod-liver Oil
  • Flaxseeds
  • Grass-Fed Butter
  • Fatty Fish
    • Mackerel
    • Salmon
    • Herring
    • Sardines
    • Anchovies
  • Caviar
  • Chia Seeds
  • Walnuts
2. Switch to a Nut Butter that has a Better Omega Ratio

Of course, if you are concerned about the lack of Omega 3s you are getting from peanut butter, you can try OTHER nut butters such as almond butter. Most nuts have a fairly good Omega–6 to Omega–3 ratio.

Omega ratios of popular nuts and seeds available here:

List of Food Omega Fatty Acid Ratios

Conclusion

Peanut butter may have its downsides, but I am not a person who is going to be giving it up anytime soon. BUT, I HAVE changed a few things with how I consume it.

  1. I  buy types that ONLY include peanuts and salt. For some brands, this is called “Natural” peanut butter. For other brands, it is called “Organic”.
  2. I have increased my intake of Omega–3s to balance the high amount of Omega–6s found in peanuts.

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