Sales of peanut butter have increased by 13% in recent years, putting it third (behind honey and jam) in the list of Britain's top-selling spreads. New brands are popping up all the time, each promising to be more nutritious (and delicious) than the last.
This nutty phenomenon is at least in part down to peanut butter's relatively newfound reputation as a certified health food, packed with good fats and high quality energy. But is peanut butter really good for you, and what do you need to be looking out for when you're buying a jar?
We take a look at the health benefits of peanut butter, and exactly why the nation is going crazy for it.
Time to stick the toaster on...
What to look for when you're buying a jar of peanut butterBefore we get started, you should know that not all peanut butters are created equal, so it's essential to read the label before you pop it in your trolley. Look for a peanut butter isn't made with palm oil, which is particularly high in saturates and bad for the environment to boot, and contains as little added sugar and salt as possible. If in doubt about the quality of the peanut butter the supermarket, homemade peanut butter is easy to make and will still have all of the benefits.
The health benefits of peanut butter
It's good for weight lossIn just one 30g serving of peanut butter, there can be almost 200 calories and around 15g fat, numbers which (unsurprisingly) put many dieters off the sticky stuff. However, studies have shown that people who regularly consume nuts tend to have a healthier body mass index than those who don't, and peanuts are great for controlling cholesterol levels too. Many experts also credit peanut butter with the 'satisfaction factor' - because it feels indulgent, and is packed with fibre and protein, it fills you up and curbs your cravings naturally, meaning that you're less likely to make bad choices later.
It's packed with protein and vitaminsWe've all heard the hype about high-protein diets, but peanut butter really does deliver a protein punch that benefits your body in numerous ways, strengthening your hair, skin and nails as well as your internal muscles and tissues. As if that wasn't enough, peanut butter is also a great source of vitamin E, vitamin B6, magnesium and potassium, and roasted peanuts rival the antioxidant content of fruits like blackberries and strawberries.
It's fab post-workout fuelWhen you've just put your body through its paces, it needs a boost, fast! The protein in peanuts helps with muscle recovery and repair after a gruelling gym session, while restoring your energy levels with their carbohydrare content. Nutrition website LiveStrong recommends spreading peanut butter onto a wholewheat bagel, dunking slices of apple into it, or adding it to rice cakes for a speedy post-exercise pick-me-up.
It can help prevent diabetesBack in 2002, Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study that showed that consuming just one tablespoon of peanut butter (or 28g of whole peanuts) more than five times per week can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by 20%, and the higher the levels of consumption, the greater the preventative effect. If you already have diabetes, peanut butter can still be eaten safely as long as it's a variety with no added sugar, as natural versions have been shown to be useful for stabilising blood sugar levels.
It's heart healthyThe fatty acids in peanuts have been shown to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, and research has shown that risk of death from cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases reduced with increasing nut/peanut butter consumption. According to one Iowa Women's Health study, total death rates can decrease by up to 19% for those who eat nuts or peanut butter 1-4 times per week.
It's a memory boosterNiacin, also known as vitamin B3, is excellent for improving your memory function, and peanuts are one of the best providers of niacin out there. Peanut butter has been linked to reduced cognitive decline as you age, and may even be beneficial for decreasing your chances of developing memory-related conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
It could cut the risk of cancerIn 2013, figures were published that showed teenage girls who regularly eat peanuts are 39% less likely to develop benign breast disease by the age of 30 - and while this is not a direct sign of cancer, some benign breast diseases increase cancer risk in later life. 'These findings suggest that peanut butter could help reduce the risk of breast cancer in women,’ senior author Dr Graham Colditz said at the time. Peanut butter has also been associated with reduced risk of colon cancer in women.
It's great for kids tooResearch from the University of Houston showed that middle school children who ate peanuts or peanut butter three to four times per week were much less likely to choose unhealthy snacks than their non-nut eating counterparts. The difference in eating habits was so significant that the peanut eating participants experienced a decrease in their BMI over the course of the 12-week study. According to the researchers, peanuts promote a feeling of fullness, and are a much better alternative to 'energy dense, unhealthy snacks'.
So the next time you do this...
...remember, you're basically doing your body a service.