Is Peanut Butter High in Cholesterol?

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

When you need to watch your cholesterol, it can feel daunting trying to find foods that are healthy and also satisfying. Fortunately, peanut butter fits the bill. When consumed in moderation, peanut butter is a cholesterol-friendly food that is nutritious and delicious.

This article will review the facts about peanut butter and your health.

A cropped photo, zoomed in on the mouth of a woman licking peanut butter off a knife

Jose Rodriguez / EyeEm / Getty Images

Peanut Butter and Cholesterol

There are two types of cholesterol:

  • Blood cholesterol: The cholesterol in the blood generated by the body
  • Dietary cholesterol: The cholesterol you get from foods

The body makes most of the cholesterol it needs, but some cholesterol comes from food.

In the proper amounts, cholesterol plays a vital role in a well-functioning body. But when levels of certain types of cholesterol become too high, the risk for cardiovascular disease and complications such as heart attack and stroke increase.

It’s a common misconception that dietary cholesterol is the cause of high cholesterol levels. While it can contribute, the types and amounts of fats you eat have a much higher effect on blood cholesterol than the cholesterol you consume.

Peanut butter contains no cholesterol.

But foods that have no cholesterol can still affect blood cholesterol levels.

Foods that are high in saturated or trans fats can raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. This is the type of cholesterol that can cause fatty deposits called plaque to accumulate in the blood vessels, which can lead to heart disease.

Foods that contain unsaturated fats can raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. This type of cholesterol helps protect the heart by returning cholesterol to the liver where it can be removed from the body. HDL lowers the risk of heart disease.

Peanut butter contains both saturated and unsaturated fats. So is peanut butter good for you? In the right amounts, yes.

LDL Cholesterol vs. HDL Cholesterol

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): “Bad” cholesterol; can cause plaque buildup in blood vessels, leading to heart disease

High-density lipoprotein (HDL): “Good” cholesterol; lowers cardiovascular risk by returning cholesterol to the liver where it can be removed from the body

Unsaturated Fats in Peanut Butter

While peanut butter contains saturated fat, it also contains high levels of unsaturated fats. These help lower LDL, making many nuts and nut products, including peanut butter, a heart-healthy food.

Unsaturated fat comes in different forms.

Monounsaturated

Studies have shown that monounsaturated fats reduce LDL and have a protective effect on the heart. Peanut butter is a good source of this type of fat.

Other sources include:

  • Avocado
  • Canola oil
  • Nuts such as almonds, cashews, pecans, and peanuts
  • Olive oil and olives (choose low or reduced sodium)
  • Peanut oil
  • Safflower oil

Polyunsaturated

These fats also lower LDL and reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications such as heart attack and stroke.

Included under the polyunsaturated heading are the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. The body does not make these fatty acids, so it is important to include them in your diet.

Peanut butter is a good source of omega-6. Other sources include:

  • Tofu
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
  • Canola oil
  • Eggs
  • Sunflower seeds

Sources of omega-3 include:

  • Oily fish, such as salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and tuna
  • Walnuts
  • Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil
  • Canola oil
  • Chia seeds

Unsaturated Fats

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats help lower LDL and have heart-protecting properties.

Nut Butters and Cholesterol

There is no dietary cholesterol in peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, or pistachio butter. All four nut butters are rich in unsaturated fats and lower in saturated fats.

Almond butter has the highest amount of total fat, but the lowest amount of saturated fat. It also has the highest amount of unsaturated fat. This is a good illustration of why it is important to look at the composition of the fats in food, not just the total fat value.

Always read the labels. Many nut butter products contain added sugar, sodium, and other undesirable ingredients like trans, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated fats, which should be avoided altogether.

Fat Comparisons Between Nut Butters
Type of fat in grams 1 tablespoon of peanut butter 1 tablespoon of almond butter  1 tablespoon of cashew butter 1 tablespoon of pistachio butter
Monounsaturated fat  4.06  5.18 4.66 5.75 (total unsaturated fat, including polyunsaturated)
Polyunsaturated fat  1.97  2.18 1.34 -
Saturated fat 1.62 0.664 1.56 0.75
Total fat 8.18 8.88 7.9 6.5
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Moderation

Peanut butter is healthy, but only when eaten in the right amounts.

The American Heart Association recommends that no more than 5% to 6% of daily caloric intake should come from saturated fats. For a person who eats, for example, 2,000 calories a day, that would be about 13 grams of saturated fat per day.

This means that for a person who eats 2,000 calories a day, eight tablespoons of peanut butter would use up an entire day’s worth of saturated fat on its own.

All fat contains the same amount of calories: nine calories per gram. This is more than twice as many calories as protein and carbohydrates, each of which have four calories per gram.

Taking in more calories than you use can lead to weight gain. For a person wishing to reduce their weight or maintain a weight that is healthy for them, high-calorie foods, even healthy ones, should be consumed in moderation.

The American Heart Association considers a serving of nut butter to be two tablespoons.

For People With High Cholesterol

Peanut butter is a heart-healthy food, well suited for people with high cholesterol when consumed in recommended servings.

Is Peanut Butter Healthy?

When consumed in the right amounts, peanut butter is healthy.

Nuts that are high in unsaturated fats and low in saturated fats have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The FDA even allows some nut products to use the claim, “Eating a diet that includes one ounce of nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease.”

They also contain other healthy nutrients such as protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

For the most health benefits from peanut butter, choose ones without added sugar or salt.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is peanut butter good for you?

    When consumed in the recommended amounts, peanut butter is a healthy food with heart-protecting properties.

  • How to raise “good” cholesterol (HDL)?

    To help lower LDL and keep HDL levels high:

    • Eat a healthy diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and lean plant or animal protein and fish.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Achieve and maintain a weight that is healthy for you.
    • Don’t smoke.
    • Manage your blood sugar and blood pressure.
  • What is considered high cholesterol?

    For people age 20 and over:

    Total cholesterol: 125 mg/dL to 200 mg/dL is optimal, 200-239 mg/dL is borderline, greater than or equal to 239 mg/dL is high

    LDL: Less than 100 mg/dL is optimal, 130-159 mg/dL is borderline, 160-189 mg/dL is high, greater than 189 mg/dL is very high

Was this page helpful?
10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Diabetes Association. Fats.

  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Peanut butter.

  3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Blood cholesterol.

  4. Arya SS, Salve AR, Chauhan S. Peanuts as functional food: a reviewJ Food Sci Technol. 2016;53(1):31-41. doi:10.1007/s13197-015-2007-9

  5. Harvard School of Public Health. Nuts for the heart.

  6. American Heart Association. Saturated fat.

  7. Cleveland Clinic. Fat and calories. Updated April 25, 2019.

  8. American Heart Association. Go nuts (but just a little!). Updated June 1, 2015.

  9. Cleveland Clinic. HDL: is it possible to raise your “good” cholesterol?

  10. Cleveland Clinic. Cholesterol: types, tests, treatments, prevention. Updated July 31, 2020.