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Is Peanut Butter Safe for Diabetics?

I remember peanut butter being my favorite palaman on ‘tasty bread’. I’d come home from school and a peanut butter-guava jelly sandwich would be waiting for me for merienda. Through the years, I’ve been cutting back on peanut butter (and telling dieters, too), knowing that it is high in fat and calories. But peanut butter is not totally bad. In fact, in recent years, it has been found to have many health benefits, even for diabetics like you!

In a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association 2002 conducted by Harvard researchers, women who regularly take peanut butter and nuts have less risk of type 2 diabetes compared to those who don’t. Questionnaires were sent every four years to 83,000 women participating in Harvard’s ongoing Nurses’ Health Study, to track their health and dietary habits for 16 years and 3,200 new cases of type 2 diabetes were documented.

According to the study, women who reported eating a tablespoon of peanut butter at least five times a week had a 21 percent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes compared to those who rarely or never ate it. A 27 percent decrease was noted in women who consumed five ounces of nuts each week compared to women who never or almost never consumed nuts.
Most nuts, as well as peanut butter, are rich in the healthy types of fats called monounsaturated fats (MUFA). These have been found in research studies to decrease risk of both heart disease and diabetes, by improving glucose levels and insulin stability.

Another study by Jiang and colleagues examined the impact of nut and peanut butter consumption on the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

They found an inverse relationship between nut consumption and type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular risk. This means the more nuts they ate the less risk of diabetes and heart disease. Interestingly, consumption of nuts in this study was not associated with weight gain. They also found that a diet high in saturated fats decreases insulin sensitivity compared with diets containing monounsaturated fats.

Some large population studies, such as the Adventists Health Study, the Iowa Women’s Health Study and the Physicians Heath Study, all show a linear relationship between cardioprotedive benefits and nut products. These studies found that small, frequent servings of peanut butter, nuts, and peanuts can reduce the risk of heart disease by 25-50 percent. This effect may be attributed to the MUFA content of nuts and peanuts especially when they are used to replace saturated (bad) fatty acids and refined (also bad) carbohydrates in the diet.

Aside from having high amount of healthy MUFAs and low amount of saturated fat, peanut butter and peanuts are good sources of plant protein more than any other nut.

A one-ounce serving of peanuts supplies about 14 percent of the RDA for protein, 8 percent of fiber. It also contains 25 percent of vitamin E, 20 percent of niacin, 10 percent of copper, folate, and potassium, 12 percent of magnesium. It also contains phytosterols and antioxidants.

So how do these ingredients help in diabetes? The MUFAs build a healthy covering around the body’s cells so that blood sugar can enter more effectively. Fiber and magnesium help manage insulin levels. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, plant proteins all contribute to healthy blood sugar and insulin regulation.

But as healthy as these nutty products may be, remember that there are about 95-100 calories in each tablespoon of peanut butter and about 165 in each ounce of nuts. Eaten daily, that’s enough to make you gain 10-17 lbs a year if you don’t cut down on something else! Aside from diet and exercise in diabetes management, it is important to control your weight. Obesity may increase risk of diabetes and other diseases. The best way to get the most benefits out of peanut butter in diabetes without gaining weight is to use it in place of an equal amount of calories from refined carbohydrates (e.g. 1/2 cup white rice), or red meat. Ask your dietitian to help incorporate your peanut butter into your daily meal plan.

So go ahead, spread the news! (and the peanut butter)!

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