Peanut butter and jelly are both healthy foods, as long as you choose the versions that don’t have a ton of added sugar or other ingredients you can’t pronounce. Peanut butter is packed with protein and healthy fats, while whole fruit is high in fiber and vitamins like A and C. This makes peanut butter and jellies an excellent choice for a healthy lunch. In fact, combining these two in one sandwich is a great way to get your recommended daily intake of fruit. But if you eat too much or rely on these foods for most of your calories, that nutrition profile changes pretty quickly. If you want to know whether peanut butter and jelly is healthy or not before you add it to your meal plan, read on.
Is peanut butter and jelly healthy?
There are healthier peanut butter and jelly options available, but if you make your own with natural ingredients, it can be a relatively healthy snack. Just make sure to use whole grain bread and peanut butter, and mix in some fresh fruit for added sweetness and nutrients. Honey or agave nectar can also be used as a sweetener.
What’s So Bad About Sugar?
1. It’s addictive
Sugar is a substance found in many foods and drinks, from fruit to bread to soda. It’s so prevalent in the modern diet that most people don’t realize just how much of it they consume every day. The average American eats about 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day, according to the USDA. That’s more than your body needs, and it can lead to health problems like obesity and diabetes if you don’t limit your intake.
2. It messes with your hormones
Sugar is a form of carbohydrate that your body breaks down into glucose, a type of sugar that cells use for energy. But when you eat too much sugar, excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream. This can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, which can lead to insulin resistance and eventually type 2 diabetes.
3. It’s not as sweet as you think
The average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day—that’s more than twice the amount recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA). Yet researchers from Purdue University found that most people think they eat just half as much added sugar as they actually do: The average person thinks he or she consumes about 11 teaspoons a day, but the reality is closer to 22 teaspoons per day. This means most people aren’t aware of how much added sugar they’re really eating, which makes it easy to go overboard on sweet treats without realizing it.
4. It’s not just sugar
You may think you’re doing your health a favor by choosing foods with “no added sugar,” but that label can be misleading. Most foods that contain added sugar also contain other ingredients that are high in calories and low in nutrients, like fat, sodium, and excess calories. So even though the food may not have any actually added sugar, it still has a lot of empty calories you don’t need—and that can have an adverse effect on your health if you eat too much of it.
5. It messes with your blood sugar levels
If you eat too much sugar or other high-carb foods, like bread or pasta, your body will produce more insulin to try to process all of the extra carbs in your system. Eventually, this leads to insulin resistance, which can cause prediabetes and type 2 diabetes if left untreated.
6. It makes you crave more sugar
When you eat sugar, your body releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good and motivates you to repeat that behavior again and again. So when you eat too much sugar, your body becomes used to receiving a rush of dopamine with each meal—and when it doesn’t get that rush, it starts craving the next sugary snack or dessert. This can make it harder to avoid sweets in the future—and can even make your taste buds become used to a higher level of sweetness than what’s naturally found in foods like fruit, which means other foods will taste less sweet by comparison.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Peanut Butter And Jelly?
- Peanut butter and jelly provide a healthy dose of protein. Peanut butter is a great source of protein, with about 8 grams in every 2 tablespoons. That’s roughly the same amount of protein found in 4 ounces of chicken breast or salmon.
- Peanut butter and jelly are good sources of healthy fats. A serving of peanut butter contains 7 grams of fat, while whole fruit contains a little over half that amount. The main types of fat in peanut butter are monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to decreased risk for heart disease.
- Whole fruit is high in fiber and vitamins. One serving of whole fruit contains about 3 grams each of fiber and vitamins C and A. Fiber can help you feel full longer, while vitamins C and A may be protective against certain cancers.
- The combination might help protect against diabetes and heart disease. In one study, when people ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every day, they were less likely to develop diabetes or heart disease than people who didn’t eat peanut butter and jelly.
- Peanut butter is a good source of potassium, which may help protect against high blood pressure.
- A little bit can help you lose weight. In one study, when people consumed 2 tablespoons of peanut butter for 8 weeks, they lost about 2 pounds more than people who didn’t eat peanut butter.
What Are The Health Risks Of Peanut Butter And Jelly?
1. Hard on your heart
Peanut butter and jelly are high in cholesterol, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. A single tablespoon of peanut butter contains approximately 100 mg of cholesterol. That’s more than you need in a day, so eating too much of it can cause your cholesterol levels to spike.
2. Too much sugar is never a good thing
Most store-bought peanut butter contains added sugar, which is the main reason this food isn’t healthy for you. A single tablespoon of peanut butter packs about two grams of sugar. That’s almost as much as a packet of ketchup or 5 grams more than a Hershey Chocolate Bar! If you want to keep your sugar intake low and avoid unnecessary calories, choose a natural peanut butter that doesn’t have any added sweeteners. This will also help you avoid harmful trans fats.
3. Too many calories for your body to burn off
A single tablespoon of peanut butter contains about 100 calories – almost as much as a small piece of cake! That’s not too bad, but if you add it to your sandwich, the calorie count can skyrocket. A regular slice of bread has about 80 calories and is made with refined flour that isn’t good for your body. Add a slice of jelly and a few slices of banana or apples, and you’re looking at more than 300 calories before you even get started on the peanut butter.
4. Too much sodium for healthy blood pressure
A single tablespoon of peanut butter has approximately 90 mg of sodium, which is more than half the recommended daily intake for healthy adults. Your body needs some salt to function properly, but too much can cause high blood pressure and other health issues. Plus, most store-bought peanut butter is even higher in sodium than natural versions because they often contain added salt to make it taste better. Most people don’t realize how much sodium is in peanut butter because it’s not listed on the nutrition label.
How Do You Make A Healthy PB&J Sandwich?
- First, choose whole-wheat bread instead of white. This will give you more fiber and other nutrients.
- Then, make sure the peanut butter is 100% peanuts and has no added sugar or other ingredients (like palm oil).
- Next, choose jelly with no added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. You might be surprised to learn that the typical jelly packet has about 30 grams of sugar! That’s a third of your recommended daily intake for most adults! You can still eat a PB&J with jam, but try to find one with less than 10 grams of sugar per tablespoon (the sweet spot for most jams).
- Add some veggies to your sandwich for even more nutrition. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are great with banana slices or apple wedges, but you can also add cucumber slices or lettuce leaves for a crunchy texture and some extra vitamins and minerals.
- Finally, don’t forget to eat the sandwich slowly, and savor the flavor. That will help you feel full so you’re less likely to eat more than one serving at a time.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are often seen as a classic American snack. In fact, they’re even a thing at the White House. While PB&J is often portrayed as a classic American meal, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches actually have their roots in British culture and have been eaten in England for more than a century. Whether you eat them as a snack or for breakfast, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a relatively healthy meal. As long as you choose a reduced sugar version, keep the amount of peanut butter in check and add other fruits, and choose whole-grain bread, you’re making a healthy choice.