Balanced diet guide

A balanced diet includes foods from the five groups and fulfills all of a person’s nutritional needs. Eating a balanced diet helps people maintain good health and reduce their risk of disease.

Dietary guidelines evolve with scientific advances, so it can be challenging to stay on top of current recommendations and know what to eat.

In this article, we look at current dietary recommendations and describe how to build a balanced diet.

What is a balanced diet?

vegetables are part of a balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet will help a person stay healthy.

A balanced diet is one that fulfills all of a person’s nutritional needs. Humans need a certain amount of calories and nutrients to stay healthy.

A balanced diet provides all the nutrients a person requires, without going over the recommended daily calorie intake.

By eating a balanced diet, people can get the nutrients and calories they need and avoid eating junk food, or food without nutritional value.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) used to recommend following a food pyramid. However, as nutritional science has changed, they now recommend eating foods from the five groups and building a balanced plate.

According to the USDA’s recommendations, half of a person’s plate should consist of fruits and vegetables.

The other half should be made up of grains and protein. They recommend accompanying each meal with a serving of low-fat dairy or another source of the nutrients found in dairy.

The 5 food groups

A healthful, balanced diet includes foods from these five groups:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • grains
  • protein
  • dairy

Vegetables

The vegetable group includes five subgroups:

  • leafy greens
  • red or orange vegetables
  • starchy vegetables
  • beans and peas (legumes)
  • other vegetables, such as eggplant or zucchini

To get enough nutrients and keep dietary boredom at bay, people should choose a variety of vegetables.

Additionally, the USDA recommends that people eat vegetables from each of the five subgroups every week.

People may enjoy vegetables raw or cooked. However, it is important to remember that cooking vegetables remove some of their nutritional value. Also, some methods, such as deep-frying, can add unhealthful fats to a dish.

Fruits

A balanced diet also includes plenty of fruit. Instead of getting fruit from juice, nutrition experts recommend eating whole fruits.

Juice contains fewer nutrients. Also, the manufacturing process often adds empty calories due to added sugar. People should opt for fresh or frozen fruits, or fruits canned in water instead of syrup.

Grains

cooked quinoa on fork part of balance diet
Whole grains usually contain more protein than refined grains.

There are two subgroups: whole grains and refined grains.

Whole grains include all three parts of the grain, which are the bran, germ, and endosperm. The body breaks down whole grains slowly, so they have less effect on a person’s blood sugar.

Additionally, whole grains tend to contain more fiber and protein than refined grains.

Refined grains are processed and do not contain the three original components. Refined grains also tend to have less protein and fiber, and they can cause blood sugar spikes.

Grains used to form the base of the government-approved food pyramid, meaning that most of a person’s daily caloric intake came from grains. However, the updated guidelines suggest that grains should make up only a quarter of a person’s plate.

At least half of the grains that a person eats daily should be whole grains. Healthful whole grains include:

  • quinoa
  • oats
  • brown rice
  • barley
  • buckwheat

Protein

The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that all people should include nutrient-dense protein as part of their regular diet.

The guidelines suggest that this protein should make up a quarter of a person’s plate.

Nutritious protein choices include:

  • lean beef and pork
  • chicken and turkey
  • fish
  • beans, peas, and legumes

Dairy

Dairy and fortified soy products are a vital source of calcium. The USDA recommends consuming low-fat versions whenever possible.

Low-fat dairy and soy products include:

  • ricotta or cottage cheese
  • low-fat milk
  • yogurt
  • soy milk

People who are lactose intolerant can opt for low-lactose or lactose-free products, or choose soy-based sources of calcium and other nutrients.

Losing weight

walking up stairs
A person can burn calories by taking the stairs.

A poor diet is a common reason why people struggle with weight loss.

When combined with a regular exercise routine, a balanced diet can help a person reduce their risk factors for obesity or gaining weight.

A balanced diet can help a person lose weight by:

  • increasing their protein intake
  • avoiding excessive carbohydrates or processed foods
  • getting essential nutrients, including minerals, vitamins, and fiber
  • preventing binge eating

People interested in losing weight should begin or enhance an exercise routine.

For some people, adding 30 minutes of walking each day and making minor changes, such as taking the stairs, can help them burn calories and lose weight.

For those that can, adding moderate exercise that includes cardio and resistance training will help speed weight loss.

Summary

Eating a balanced diet means eating foods from the five major groups.

Dietary guidelines change over time, as scientists discover new information about nutrition. Current recommendations suggest that a person’s plate should contain primarily vegetables and fruits, some lean protein, some dairy, and soluble fiber.

People interested in weight loss should also consider introducing moderate exercise into their routines.

Soil health affects Nutrition Industry

soil health

Soil health as related to untangling food webs is the work of a lifetime.  That’s why it’s so difficult to predict the effect of large-scale inputs of chemicals into agricultural ecosystems.  And some of these effects don’t become apparent for decades.

Long-term effects of poor soil health

For example, the Haber/Bosch process is a little more than a century old.  This is a catalytic process, invented by German chemists in the early 1900s, by which nonreactive nitrogen—the stuff that makes up most of the atmosphere—can be converted into ammonia, the basis of chemical fertilizers.

The development was one of the most important of the industrial age, and is the mechanism by which the world’s billions are fed. Prior to this breakthrough, policymakers at the turn of the nineteenth century were looking forward to a world plagued by malnutrition and starvation. There was thought to be no way to raise agricultural production fast enough to feed the world’s rising population (about 1.6 billion in 1900) with the relatively small amount of reactive nitrogen at hand in the form of animal manure and compost.

Who could have predicted in the first bloom of the use of these nitrogen fertilizers the eventual consequences? These include oceanic dead zones utterly depleted of oxygen by rivers saturated with agricultural runoff. According to Scientific American, there were 49 such dead zones identified in coastal waters around the world in 1960. A study conducted in 2008 found there are now more than 400.

Vaclav Smil, Ph.D., a professor emeritus at the University of Manitoba in Canada, is one of the first researchers to have sounded the alarm about excessive nitrogen use.  In addition to the runoff problems, he said excess nitrogen also can contribute to the greenhouse effect and can work over time to demineralize soils.

Glyphosate use accelerating

Similarly unintended (or hidden, perhaps?) consequences affecting soil health can be ascribed to the use of many pesticides and herbicides, including glyphosate.  The use of this herbicide, marketed by Monsanto as RoundUp, has been accelerating rapidly in recent decades.  Recent studies have shown that by 2020, worldwide glyphosate use is expected to hit  1 million tons per year. Another study shows that in the US, the rate of growth has been accelerating. Between 1995 and 2004, glyphosate use grew by 356%. Between 2005 and 2014, it grew by 637%.

Studies have shown that plants exposed to high levels of CO2 grow faster, but contain fewer nutrients. The same appears to be true of crops treated with glyphosate.  One of the side effects of this heavy usage, which now includes spraying fields to desiccate the crops prior to harvest, is a lowered microbial diversity in the soil.

Committing to true sustainability

MegaFood and its parent company Food State is one organization that has been putting its money where its mouth is in terms of its sustainability message. Bethany Davis, MegaFood’s director of advocacy and government relations, said supporting soil health has now become part of the company’s core mission.  And getting the word out about the side effects of high glyphosate usage is part of that effort.

“People know about gut microbiome. They understand the importance of that. But the same thing is true of the soil,” Davis told NutraIngredients-USA.

Davis and others maintain that soil rich in a full suite of microbes, fungi, and viruses functions better in many ways. Plants grown in such soils are more nutrient dense, and soils with diverse, robust microbiomes absorb and hold more water, easing runoff and drought concerns.

And a key point that figures into the climate change debate: Rich soils store much more carbon than do their depleted counterparts.

Regenerative solution

Regenerative agriculture is the catchphrase for practices that have topsoil health, replenishment and, ultimately increase as a core principle.  It goes a step beyond organic, which is mostly about acceptable inputs, to take a holistic view of the agricultural ecosystem.  The need to address topsoil loss is illustrated by a 2011 report by the Environmental Working Group that highlighted data from the Iowa Daily Erosion Project coordinated through Iowa State University. The project estimated that agricultural fields in 440 townships encompassing 10.1 million acres may have suffered erosion at rates greater than the statewide average and that eight townships encompassing 184,000 acres experienced utterly disastrous average erosion rates exceeding 50 tons per acre.

“I like to joke that the reason why any of us are here is that there are six inches of soil and it rains sometimes,” Davis said.

“Our food is about 50% less nutritious on average than it was 40 or 50 years ago. Regenerative agriculture is integrally linked to nutrition. That is one of the reasons we stand for it, and it is confusing that so few people in our space stand for it,” she said.

Dietary supplement companies might observe that the sum total of ingredients used in our industry hardly amounts to skimming the froth from a huge vat of milk when talking about the large-scale effects of agricultural practices relating to soil health.  They are mere derivatives, in other words.

But, as the sellers of derivative mortgage securities discovered in 2008 and 2009, when the underlying market is unhealthy, everyone, even the bit players, suffers.  For dietary supplement companies touting a sustainability message, and exactly as we see in climate change issues, being part of the solution seems to be the place to be, rather than sitting on the sidelines.

Almond Milk Benefits

Almond milk is a creamy, nutty-flavored beverage made by soaking, grinding and straining raw almonds. It is often used as a substitute for dairy milk, which today almost every supermarket sells in several flavors and of numerous brands. Even though its consumption can be dated back to several hundred years ago, it is most popular with individuals who wish to avoid dairy. Overall, it is not a commonly used product and so not everyone is familiar with its nutritional facts.

Almond Milk Nutrition Facts

Glass of Almond milk

 

 

Vitamins

Almond milk and its various products are all supplemented with vitamins A, D and B complex thereby providing adequate amounts of the recommended daily intake of these nutrients. One cup contains 500 and 200 international units of vitamin A and D respectively, fulfilling approximately 20% of an individual’s recommended daily intake. It also contains three micrograms of vitamin B-12 which fulfills 100% of an average person’s B-12 requirements.

Vitamin E plays a major role in improving skin health on account of its antioxidant properties. Vitamin A is vital for healthy eyesight; it helps the eyes better adjust to differences in light.

Almond milk contributes significantly in maintaining healthy bones and teeth as it is rich in both calcium and vitamin D. Additional benefits of vitamin D are that it decreases the incidence of osteoporosis in women, increases cell function and immunity and may even help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Almond milk also contributes to better muscle health. It is rich in Vitamin B-12 especially riboflavin and iron which are muscle regulating nutrients. Iron, in particular, helps muscles to absorb and use proteins for energy, growth, and repair.

Minerals

One of the product’s nutrition facts is that it also contains several vital minerals such as phosphorous, zinc and potassium. Packaged almond milk is often fortified by calcium, which is essential for optimal bone health, allowing an individual to meet one-third of the recommended daily intake. By substituting three servings of dairy products with three servings of almond milk, a person can easily meet his daily requirements for calcium; 1000 milligrams/day for men and 1200 milligrams/day for women.

Fats

Although it does contain fat, it is important to note, that the fat content of this particular milk is not unhealthy. An 8-ounce serving of sweetened almond milk contains 60 calories but 25 of those calories are on account of healthy fat. Meanwhile, in an 8-ounce cup of unsweetened almond milk, 30 out of 40 calories are owing to good fats. This fat is neither saturated nor trans-fat, and it does not contain any cholesterol either.

Since this type of milk contains good fats and has low sodium content, it is known for keeping the heart healthy. This is because foods that contain limited sodium and low amount of cholesterol help maintain normal blood pressure and keep the heart healthy. Almond milk is also rich in potassium which further helps in maintaining blood pressure.

Proteins

Almond milk is also a rich source of protein. Vegetarians and vegans often substitute dairy milk with almond milk which contains about 2 grams protein in an 8-ounce serving. Although cow’s milk provides 8 grams per every 8-ounce serving, almond milk contains much greater protein than rice milk. Also, by adding protein powder to almond milk, the amount of protein can always be increased.

Sugar

One of almond milk nutrition facts pertains to its sugar content. Homemade almond milk contains no sugar while store-bought ones contain sugar and other flavorings as well. For diabetics, homemade almond milk is advised.

Diabetics can benefit substantially from almond milk since it only contains 8 grams of carbohydrates per serving, unlike other dairy products. This meager amount of carbohydrates does not elevate blood sugar level and is, in fact, stored as fat in the body. Further, sugars present in almond milk are glycemic in nature meaning that they are fully digested in the body and used for energy.

Flavonoid and Antioxidant Content

Almond milk is prepared by crushing almonds along with their skins. The skin is rich in flavonoids thereby making almond milk a good source of flavonoids as well. Flavonoids are important in safeguarding the body against cardiovascular diseases. Almond milk is also rich in antioxidants which also help prevent heart diseases and cancers.

Making Your Own

With all these nutrition facts, many prefer to make it at home themselves.

Ingredients

  • Raw organic sprouted almonds: 1 cup
  • Pure filtered water: 4 cup
  • Honey, stevia, dates, vanilla (optional)

Instructions

  • For this, you need to soak overnight one cup of raw organic sprouted almonds for minimum 12 hours in water with half a teaspoon of sea salt. The soaking process helps to break down phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors and also allows beneficial enzymes that are present in the almonds to be cultured.
  • After the almonds have been soaked, they need to be rinsed and then mixed with four cups of water in a blender. The mixture needs to blend for a few minutes. Care should be taken to not overfill the blender as the mixture tends to expand and may overflow.
  • Once the mixture is smooth and creamy, it should be strained using cheesecloth, sprout bag or a kitchen towel.
  • Once strained, the mixture should be put back in the blender along with honey, soaked dates or other sweeteners.
  • The mixture should be put into a glass jar or pitcher and can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.

Natural Sugar effects

The effects of natural sugarnatural sugar fructose such as fructose on human health have been the source of much controversy. This is due to the fact that there are different kinds of foods, some of which are bad for health.

Fructose is a natural sugar that is present in fruits, fruit juices, certain vegetables, and honey. In these forms, this natural sugar can be part of a healthy diet.

However, it is also a component of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which manufacturers make from cornstarch and add to unhealthy foods such as sodas and candies.

Researchers are studying the links between high-fructose foods and obesity, diabetes, and even some cancers. However, there is also some evidence that indicates that it is not necessarily a public health concern when a person consumes it in moderation.

In this article, we will cover whether fructose is bad for health, the different types of sugar, and the research into their effects on the human body.

What is the natural sugar fructose?

apples and honey natural sugar
Fructose is a natural sugar present in fruit and honey.

Fructose is the sweetest of the naturally occurring caloric sweeteners. It occurs naturally in fruits, fruit juices, honey, and even some vegetables.

In its pure form, it is much sweeter than other types of sugar. As a result, people can use less of it than other sugars in cooking to achieve the same sweetness.

The most significant sources of fructose in the diet include:

  • table sugar
  • honey
  • agave nectar
  • fruit juices
  • HFCS, which is present in candy, baked goods, and sodas, and other processed foods

Manufacturers create HFCS by adding certain enzymes to cornstarch, which is essentially pure glucose. Glucose is another type of sugar. They then use this glucose to create a syrup that contains varying amounts of fructose.

Most varieties of HFCS contain either 42 or 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. This means that HFCS contains the same amount of fructose as sucrose, or table sugar.

Manufacturers make table sugar from a combination of fructose and glucose.

Honey is another common food additive. Honey contains a 1-to-1 ratio of fructose to glucose.

Is fructose bad for you?

A natural sugar like fructose from fresh fruit and vegetables is good for a person’s health. Processed forms of fructose, such as HFCS, may have negative health effects. Scientists are currently studying how this type of sweetener compares with other forms of sugar.

Below, we discuss the research around the possible risks and benefits of fructose on a person’s health.

The evidence against fructose

woman pinching stomach
Consuming large amounts of fructose may put a person at greater risk of obesity.

Some researchers believe that the body processes fructose differently than other types of sugar.

In particular, there are concerns that when a person consumes fructose in excess, it may stimulate the body to deposit extra fat, especially in the liver. This may contribute to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

According to a 2017 literature review, eating excessive amounts of fructose is associated with:

  • inflammation that could lead to insulin resistance
  • increased development of fat, as it may alter the ways that the body breaks down fats and carbohydrates
  • a greater risk of obesity and related conditions, such as metabolic syndrome
  • greater food intake, as it does not make people feel full

A 2016 study looked at the effects of fructose-rich drink consumption in those aged 12–16 years in Taiwan. People who drank more fructose-rich drinks had higher levels of insulin resistance, which is a marker for hardened arteries, diabetes, and heart disease in adults.

The evidence for fructose

Although there is evidence that excess fructose consumption is bad for health, it is difficult for researchers to separate the effects of fructose in the diet from those of other sugars.

This is because foods that contain high levels of added fructose usually also contain high levels of other sugars, such as glucose. Scientists conduct many research studies on the effects of fructose in rats fed combinations of sugars.

A 2014 literature review states that fructose does not have specific effects on the body that can cause weight gain when compared with eating sugar from other sources.

The authors also argue that, while sugar-sweetened drinks contain fructose, they are also high in calories. This may explain some links between fructose and obesity.

To date, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that they are not currently aware of any evidence that foods containing HFCS are less safe than other foods containing similar sweeteners, such as sucrose and honey.

The FDA list HFCS, the most controversial of the fructose-containing foods, as safe to eat.

However, people should limit their intake of all added sugars, including HFCS and sucrose.

Fructose vs. glucose

Fructose can bind to glucose. Fructose plus glucose is called sucrose, or table sugar.

Unlike fructose, the body largely breaks glucose down in the cells. The small intestine usually absorbs this sugar type and sends it out to the body’s cells for energy. Researchers usually regard glucose as the body’s preferred carbohydrate source for energy.

When a person eats glucose, the chemical structure of the compound triggers the pancreas to release insulin, a hormone that allows cells to use glucose for energy.

A natural sugar such as Fructose does not trigger insulin release, nor does it trigger the release of hormones such as leptin, which tells the brain that a person is full, or inhibit hormones that tell a person’s body that they are hungry.

As a result, researchers suggest that fructose is more harmful to a person because they are more likely to eat more than if they had eaten food containing glucose.

However, a person should remember that foods with glucose-containing sugars still have calories. Excess calorie intake can lead to weight gain.

Sources and types of fructose

young woman eating a pear
Pears are naturally high in fructose.

Two fructose types exist: naturally occurring and HFCS. The body digests both the same way.

Examples of natural foods that are naturally high in fructose include:

  • agave syrup
  • apple juice
  • apples
  • caramel
  • dry figs
  • honey
  • licorice
  • molasses
  • pears
  • prunes
  • sorghum

Some vegetables contain fructose, but this is usually in smaller amounts than fruits. These include:

  • asparagus
  • chicory roots
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • leeks
  • onions

Summary

Fructose is naturally present in many fruits and vegetables, which people can include as part of a healthful, balanced diet.

Researchers are still debating whether various forms of fructose are bad for people’s health. The FDA state that fructose is a safe ingredient to add to foods.

They believe that there is not enough evidence to say that fructose is less safe than other similar sugars, such as sucrose and honey, but they recommend limiting all added sugars.

When people eat or drink lots of high-fructose foods, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, they are also taking in extra calories that can contribute to weight gain.

There is no recommended minimum or maximum intake of fructose daily because a person does not need this sugar to survive. Manufacturers add fructose to foods as a sweetener, but it has little nutritional value.

Where possible, doctors recommend that people eat fresh, whole foods and avoid frequently eating foods with added sugars.

Peanut butter benefits

Benefits of peanut butter are enormous. Peanut butter is a firm favorite among adults and children alike. Although tasty, many people still wonder about the health benefits of peanut butter.

Peanuts and peanut butter contain nutrients that may boost a person’s heart health and improve blood sugar levels.

Depending on how people use peanut butter in their diet, it can help them lose weight, or put on pounds during weight training or bodybuilding.

However, the benefits of peanut butter should be carefully evaluated because peanut butter is high in calories and fat, so people should enjoy it in moderation.

In this article, we look at the benefits of eating peanut butter and explain the risks associated with consuming it.

Nutritional benefits of peanut butter

Peanut butter in a jar from above
Peanut butter is a good source of protein and vitamin B-6.

Peanut butter provides a good amount of protein, along with essential vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

Most notably, each 2-tablespoon (tbsp) serving of smooth peanut butter provides the following nutrients, minerals, and vitamins:

  • Protein. Peanut butter contains 7.02 grams (g) of protein per 2-tbsp serving. This counts toward the recommended dietary allowances (RDA) for women of 46 g and 56 g for men, which varies by age and activity level.
  • Magnesium. With 57 milligrams (mg) of magnesium, each serving helps towards the RDA of 400–420 mg in men and 310–320 in women. Magnesium is essential for health, playing a role in over 300 chemical processes in the body.
  • Phosphorous. Each serving contains 107 mg of phosphorus, which is about 15.3 percent of the RDA of 700 mg for adults. Phosphorus helps the body to build healthy cells and bones and helps cells to produce energy.
  • Zinc. A serving of peanut butter provides 0.85 mg of zinc. This is 7.7 percent of the recommended daily intake of 11 mg for men, and 10.6 percent of the RDA of 8 mg for women. Zinc is necessary for immunity, protein synthesis, and DNA formation.
  • Niacin. Peanut butter contains 4.21 mg of niacin per serving, which makes a useful contribution towards a person’s recommended intake of 14 to 16 mg. Niacin benefits digestion and nerve function and helps produce energy.
  • Vitamin B-6. With 0.17 g of vitamin B-6 per serving, peanut butter provides almost 14 percent of an adult’s RDA of 1.3 mg. Vitamin B-6 plays a role in over 100 enzyme reactions in the body and may be necessary for heart and immune system health.

However, there are also nutritional disadvantages if a person eats more than the recommended amount of peanut butter.

Peanut butter is high in calories, saturated fats, and sodium.

Each serving contains 3.05 g of saturated fats, which is 23.5 percent of the American Heart Association’s maximum recommended daily intake of saturated fat for those consuming 2,000 calories a day. People should aim for less than 13 g of saturated fat per day.

It also contains 152 mg of sodium, which is 10.1 percent of an adult’s ideal daily upper intake of sodium of 1,500 mg.

Health benefits of peanut butter

Eating peanut butter in moderation and as part of an overall healthful diet may provide the following benefits:

1. Weight loss

Several studies suggest that eating peanuts and other nuts can help people maintain their weight, or even help with weight loss.

This may be because peanuts improve satiety, which is the feeling of fullness, thanks to their protein, fat, and fiber content.

A 2018 study suggests that eating nuts, including peanuts, reduces a person’s risk of being overweight or obese. This study compared the dietary and lifestyle data for over 373,000 people from 10 European countries over 5 years.

Earlier research based on data gathered from over 51,000 women suggested that those who ate nuts twice weekly or more experienced slightly less weight gain over an 8-year period than women who rarely ate nuts.

2. Boosting heart health

Peanut butter contains many nutrients that can improve heart health, including:

  • monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs)
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs)
  • niacin
  • magnesium
  • vitamin E

The proportion of unsaturated fats (PUFAs and MUFAs) to saturated fats in the diet plays a particularly important role in heart health. Peanut butter has a similar ratio to olive oil — which is also known as a heart-healthy option.

A high intake of nuts may have links to a reduced risk of mortality from heart disease or other causes. The researchers recommend peanuts in particular as a cost-effective way to improve heart health for some people.

Research also suggests that including 46 g per day of peanuts or peanut butter into an American Diabetes Association (ADA) diet plan for 6 months could benefit the heart, improve blood lipid profiles, and control weight for people with diabetes.

However, as peanut butter is high in calories, it is crucial that a person limits their intake if they do not want to put on weight. Eating more than the recommended amount will also increase fat and sodium intake, which does not benefit the heart.

3. Bodybuilding

Senior lady working out at the gym
Peanut butter is an easy way to increase calorie intake.

Many bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts include peanut butter in their diets for various reasons.

Although calorie amounts will vary based on stature, activity level, and metabolic rate, the typical daily recommended calorie intake ranges from around 1,600–2,400 calories per day for women and up to 3,000 calories per day for men. However, active adult men should consume up to 3,000 calories daily, while active women need up 2,400 calories per day.

Thanks to its high-calorie content, peanut butter is an easy way to increase calorie and unsaturated fat intake.

Nut butter is also a source of protein, which is essential for building and repairing muscles. Although peanut butter is not a complete protein — meaning it does not contain all of the essential amino acids the body needs — it does count toward a person’s daily protein intake.

Spreading peanut butter on whole-grain bread makes a more complete protein meal, as the bread contains the amino acid methionine, which peanut butter lacks.

4. Managing blood sugar levels

Peanut butter is a relatively low-carbohydrate food that contains good amounts of fats and protein, as well as some fiber.

These characteristics mean that peanut butter, with no added sugar, does not have a significant impact on blood glucose levels. This means it can be a good option for those with diabetes and confirm the benefits of peanut butter.

The ADA recommend that people replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats in their diets. They suggest peanut butter, peanuts, and peanut oil as good sources of monounsaturated fat.

A small 2013 study suggests that eating peanut butter or peanuts for breakfast could help women with obesity and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes to manage their blood glucose levels. According to the survey, the women who added nuts to their breakfast had lower blood sugar levels and reported less hunger compared to women who ate a breakfast that contained the same amount of carbohydrates but no nuts.

Peanut butter is a good source of magnesium, which is an essential nutrient for people with diabetes. Continuous periods of high blood sugar may reduce magnesium levels in the body. Low magnesium levels are linked to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

5. Reducing the risk of breast disease

Eating peanut butter, especially from a young age, may reduce the risk of benign breast disease (BBD), which increases the risk of breast cancer.

A study in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, reports that eating peanut butter and nuts at any age may result in a lower risk of developing BDD by age 30.

The researchers examined the data for over 9,000 schoolgirls in America. Other types of pulses, such as beans and soy, along with vegetable fats and other nuts, may also offer protection from BBD.

Even those with a family history of breast cancer had a significantly lower risk if they ate peanut butter and these other foods.

Peanut butter benefits and nutritional profile

The table below provides a detailed nutritional profile of 2 tbsp of smooth peanut butter:

Calories 188
Protein 7.02 g
Saturated fats 3.05 g
Monounsaturated fats 6.63 g
Polyunsaturated fats 3.63 g
Carbohydrates 7.67 g
Fiber 1.80 g
Sugars 2.08 g
Calcium 17 mg
Iron 0.69 mg
Magnesium 57 mg
Phosphorus 107 mg
Potassium 189 mg
Sodium 152 mg
Zinc 0.85 mg
Niacin 4.21 mg
Vitamin B-6 0.18 mg
Vitamin E 1.90 mg

Peanut allergies

Peanuts and other nuts are common allergens, with a peanut or tree nut allergy affecting over 3 million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Those with a known peanut allergy should avoid peanut butter and foods containing the nuts.

The NIH also note that just 20 percent of those with an allergy will eventually outgrow the allergy and stop having reactions to nuts.

Which peanut butter is best?

When selecting a peanut butter product, look for one that contains just peanuts and few or no other ingredients.

Some peanut butter brands will contain other ingredients, such as sugar, salt, and added oils. Avoid these where possible. Try adding a little honey to peanut butter dishes as a sweetener instead.

It is normal for pure peanut butter to separate into solid and liquid form. Stir the contents thoroughly, and the consistency will return to normal.

People can buy natural peanut butter in health food stores and online.

To stop the peanut butter going off, store it in the refrigerator.

How to add peanut butter to your diet

Peanut butter, rice cakes and banana
Peanut butter is a healthful option when enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.

Eating more peanut butter is easy. Sometimes, it can be too easy — so be sure to be mindful of your intake to avoid eating more calories than you may need in a day. Remember 2 tbsp of peanut butter is close to 200 calories.

People can include peanut butter in their diets by:

  • Making a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, using whole fruit, low sugar jelly, and whole-grain bread.
  • Spreading peanut butter on rice cakes and top with banana slices.
  • Whipping up a Thai peanut dressing for salads, using lime juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and honey.
  • Adding a spoonful of the nut butter to smoothies to make them more filling.
  • Dipping apple and pear slices into peanut butter for an easy snack.
  • Stirring peanut butter into yogurts or warm oatmeal.

Summary

The benefits of peanut butter indicate at that peanut butter can be a healthful option when people enjoy it as part of a balanced diet. It is rich in several nutrients, including protein and magnesium, which may help protect the heart and manage blood sugar and body weight.

However, eating too much peanut butter can increase a person’s daily intake of saturated fat, sodium, and calories.

Those who have a peanut allergy should avoid peanut butter as it could trigger a potentially deadly reaction.

Nuts and your health

Two new studies suggest that a small daily serving of nuts may benefit overall metabolic health and keep off the weight we tend to gain as we enter adulthood.
serving of nuts
A daily serving may prevent weight gain and improve metabolic health in the long run, two new studies suggest.

From providing cardiovascular benefits to potentially improving fertility, and even boosting memory and intelligence, the health benefits of nuts are numerous — and no wonder.  They are packed with unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, protein, and other beneficial chemicals, which may all contribute to good health.

However, can these dried seeds aid weight loss? Are certain types better able to support good metabolism?

Two new studies delved deeper into these questions. The authors will present the findings at Scientific Sessions 2018, a conference to be held by the American Heart Association (AHA) in Chicago, IL.

The first study — led by Xiaoran Liu, Ph.D., a research associate in the nutrition department of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA — looked at the long-term effects of nuts and peanuts on body weight.

The second study examined the effects of Brazil nuts on satiety, blood sugar, and insulin response.

It was supervised by Mee Young Hong, Ph.D., a registered dietician and a professor in the School of Exercise & Nutritional Sciences at San Diego State University in California.

Nuts prevent weight gain in adulthood

The first study explored consumption in:

  • 25,394 healthy men who had taken part in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study
  • 53,541 women who had participated in the Nurses’ Health Study
  • 47,255 women who had taken part in the Nurses’ Health Study II

The three groups had filled in food frequency questionnaires once every 4 years.

The researchers discovered that replacing foods that had less nutritional value with a 1-ounce serving of nuts and peanuts lowered the risk of weight gain and obesity over the 4-year follow-up intervals.

More specifically, replacing a serving of red meat, processed meat, french fries, desserts, or potato chips with a serving of nuts correlated with significantly less weight gain in the long run.

The study’s first author comments on the findings, saying, “People often see nuts as food items high in fat and calories, so they hesitate to consider them as healthy snacks, but they are in fact associated with less weight gain and wellness.”

“Once people reach adulthood, they start to gradually gain about 1 pound a year of weight, which seems small. But if you consider gaining one pound over 20 years, it accumulates to a lot of weight gain,” Liu notes.

Adding 1 ounce of nuts to your diet in place of less healthy foods — such as red or processed meat, french fries or sugary snacks — may help prevent that slow, gradual weight gain after you enter adulthood and reduce the risk of obesity-related cardiovascular diseases.”

Xiaoran Liu, Ph.D.

Brazil nuts benefit insulin, glucose responses

In the second study, researchers examined the effects of consuming the Brazil variety in 22 healthy adult participants, 20 of whom were women.

The participants added either 36 grams of pretzels or 20 grams of Brazil nuts to their normal diet in two trials. At least 48 hours passed between trials.

The Brazil nuts and pretzels contained about the same number of calories and the same amount of sodium. Both triggered a sense of fullness, but the Brazil type contributed to an increased feeling of satiety.

Forty minutes after the participants had consumed their snacks, the researchers found that the pretzels had caused significant increases in blood sugar and insulin levels, whereas the Brazil nuts had not.

The study’s senior author explains, “While both Brazil nuts and pretzels increased a sense of fullness after they were eaten, eating Brazil nuts stabilized postprandial (after eating) blood glucose and insulin levels, which may be beneficial in preventing diabetes and weight gain.”

Although the study was observational, the researchers speculate that selenium may explain the benefits of Brazil nuts. Prior studies had linked the mineral with better insulin and blood sugar responses, and Brazil nuts are rich in selenium.

However, the researchers caution that because only 9 percent of participants were men, the study’s findings may not apply to all.

Our study allows researchers and clinicians to consider the possible beneficial role of Brazil nuts to help people feel full and maintain a healthy level of glucose, reducing the risk of obesity and diabetes.”

Mee Young Hong, Ph.D.

Dietary supplement brand use

Generational preferences appear to affect engagement with dietary supplement brands.

Conducted by Chicago-based CBD Marketing, the new research indicated that for supplement brands to be most effective they cannot assume one message or marketing tactic works for all consumer ages and types, even if the product(s) have efficacy across multiple age categories.

“It’s clear from our research that the idea that ‘one size fits all’ for product marketing—including social media marketing—is ludicrous,” said Lori Colman, CBD Marketing’s Co-CEO, who presented the findings at this week’s SupplySide West in Las Vegas.

“Our study proves you can’t assume everyone buys your product for the same reason. Products, including supplements, are purchased for different reasons by different age, demographic or user groups. Marketing needs to resonate with, and reflect, audience-specific needs in order to be effective.”

Research details?

Almost half a million social media posts were analyzed, with the data related to dietary supplement engagement interest across three age-segmented groups: Boomers (age 55 +); Gen X (age 35–54) and Millennials (age 18–34). The social posts were generated by men (44%) and women (56%), with Millennials responsible for the greatest volume of posts at 47% of the total.

According to CBD Marketing, all these groups talk about and seek recommendations for dietary supplements on social media platforms, making analyzing social media content a highly reliable barometer of consumer opinions.

Boomers?

Breaking the data down by age group revealed that Boomers represent almost 50% of all consumer spending, and that they spend an average of 11 hours per week online, researching and shopping.

A key focus for this age group is healthy aging, with interest around skin/muscle, joints, eye care, heart health, digestion and brain/memory.

• Boomers want proven benefits and look for products related to healthy aging. They are wary of adverse health effects.

• They prefer pills, vitamins, natural dietary supplements, condition-specific products.

• They avoid products with artificial ingredients, and with stated side effects.

• Influencers include individuals who personify healthy aging, with advice on diet, weight loss and general health education.

Generation X?

This age group is the most time-constrained, and are striving for more of a work-life balance. Their dietary supplement use is mostly around addressing middle-age maladies, and their dietary supplement conversations are largely food focused. Marketing should stress convenience, taste and use in everyday meals, said CBD Marketing.

• They view supplements as a food ingredient.

• They want protein, particularly plant-based protein.

• They prefer products with workout or weight management benefits.

• They don’t want artificial ingredients, vitamin pills or products that have a bad taste or aftertaste.

• Influencers include those who provide recipes, resources and consumer education on food, health and lifestyle.

Millennials?

Protein scoop dietary supplement © Getty Images marekuliasz
© Getty Images / marekuliasz

Most Millennials are interacting on social media every day. They distrust large institutions and their interests lean toward holistic health solutions, sports nutrition, energy and sleep. According to the CBD data, their dietary supplement conversations are very personal and often describe how they feel.

Marketing should highlight how products are personalized to meet consumer needs, are sustainable and natural.

• Protein powder is a very hot topic, especially plant-based. Protein drinks and shakes dominate.

• They want natural ingredients, clean label products.

• Fitness and their own general health and wellness are key.

• They don’t want multi-vitamins, pills, incomplete proteins or anything with a gritty texture or aftertaste. NO to products from big pharma.

• Influencers focus on fitness, personal wellness. Promoting brands is OK.

Marketing impacts of a dietary supplement?

Colman added: “Consumers in all age groups are fueling the growth of the supplement industry, which is expected to be a $278 billion global market by 2024.?

“Even now, in 2018, 76% of U.S. adults report taking supplements—that’s 170 million Americans. To be most impactful with their marketing, the supplement industry needs to tune into nuances that are in plain view on social media.”?

According to data from the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s 2018 Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements?, 78% of Baby Boomers use supplements, 77% of Gen Xers are supplement users, as are 69% of Millennials.

dietary supplements