Amid life’s chaos, anxiety can quickly become a familiar companion. Finding simple and effective ways to calm your mind is essential when those moments strike. One unexpected solution might just be sitting in your pantry — peanut butter. The benefits of peanut butter aren’t just physical but mental, too. It may be more than a condiment but a comforting remedy for those anxious feelings.
A Brief History of Peanut Butter
The world celebrates National Peanut Butter Day on January 24th. Beyond its delicious taste and creamy and crunchy texture, this spread is a nutrient-dense food containing phytonutrients like beta-sitosterol. Millions of people have enjoyed it on sandwiches for more than a century, thanks to John Harvey Kellogg.
What started as an easily digestible sweet treat for patients has transformed into a comforting and anxiety-fighting addition to your diet. The compound Beta-sitosterol works to help reduce feelings of anxiety, possibly by stabilizing cortisol — a hormone released during times of stress.
The Benefits of Peanut Butter for Anxiety
Peanut butter is a beloved pantry staple in many households and a potential ally in the battle against anxiety. This versatile ingredient offers several advantages that may contribute to a calmer state of mind, including the following.
It May Boost Serotonin
Peanut butter is a fantastic source of tryptophan — an amino acid that helps make serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. By eating peanut butter, you’re providing your body with the building blocks it needs to boost serotonin levels, helping alleviate anxiety. Tryptophan can also improve your sleep quality and strengthen your pain tolerance.
Catherine Gervacio, BHSc, RND, a registered dietitian and a certified exercise nutrition coach at E-Health Project, says, “There is no single food to address this. Anxiety is a complex condition in which a personalized intervention is needed to manage this effectively.
Looking into the nutrient profile of peanut butter, it can possibly help in reducing feelings of anxiety due to its tryptophan content. Tryptophan serves as the precursor of serotonin, a neurotransmitter linked to mood regulation. With increased serotonin levels, a sense of calmness can be felt, reducing the feeling of anxiety.”
It’s Rich in Magnesium
Peanut butter is a rich source of magnesium, which is crucial in regulating neurotransmitters and promoting a sense of calm in the brain. Magnesium deficiency is linked to increased anxiety levels, but incorporating magnesium-rich foods like peanut butter into your diet can help maintain optimum levels of this essential mineral. Two tablespoons of it contains 49 milligrams of magnesium—12% of the daily recommended value.
Protein is essential for synthesizing neurotransmitters, including those that influence mood. Peanut butter is a tasty source of plant-based protein. Pairing it with whole-grain bread or crackers can create a satisfying and nutritious snack that helps stabilize blood sugar levels, preventing energy crashes that may exacerbate anxiety.
It’s a Comfort Food
There’s a reason everyone calls comfort foods just that — they provide a sense of familiarity and emotional well-being. For many, peanut butter offers a nostalgic taste, taking them back to the carefree days of childhood. The simple act of enjoying a peanut butter sandwich can transport you to a time when life seemed simpler and worries were few.
It May Stabilize Cortisol
Cortisol is crucial for the body’s response to perceived threats. Studies have suggested the combination of healthy fats, protein and magnesium in peanuts may contribute to cortisol regulation, reducing stress levels. The steady release of energy from the well-balanced nutrients helps prevent sharp spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, subsequently moderating cortisol release.
Dr. Raafat W. Girgis, M.D.—a triple board-certified Psychiatrist in Psychiatry, addictionology, and Psychosomatic Medicine and the Medical Director of the Rehab Center Moment of Clarity—says peanut butter has a calming effect and can reduce stress when consumed often.
It May Improve Memory
Recent studies have highlighted another compelling reason to include peanut butter in your diet — its potential to boost memory in healthy adults. With its essential nutrients, peanut butter is a rich source of brain-boosting compounds. The combination of proteins, healthy fats and antioxidants may contribute to improved cognitive function. The nutrient profile of peanuts includes high vitamin E levels, which supports overall brain health.
It’s Nutrient Dense
Peanuts are packed with essential nutrients. They contain vitamins and minerals like potassium, magnesium, niacin, iron and vitamin E, all of which are crucial for promoting overall well-being.
According to Sara Chatfield, RDN, “Peanut butter can be a great addition to meals and snacks when you’re feeling anxious because it’s a good source of several nutrients associated with stress reduction, including B vitamins, magnesium, flavonoids and the amino acid tryptophan, a neurotransmitter involved in anxiety and mood regulation. For the biggest impact, choose natural peanut butter without added sugars or saturated fats, which could reduce its benefits.”
It’s Quick and Convenient
When those anxious feelings strike, the last thing you want is to spend precious time preparing a complex meal. Peanut butter comes to the rescue as an easy and convenient snack that requires no elaborate cooking. Simply grab a spoonful and spread it on whole-grain toast for a satisfying and anxiety-busting snack. From smooth and crunchy to reduced fat and powdered peanut butter, there’s a variety of types to suit your preferences.
Make Peanut Butter a Staple
For maximum anxiety-reducing benefits, make peanut butter a regular part of your diet. Just as it can enhance your mental health, you can also reduce stress by hiring a catering service. More people are recognizing the positive impact of peanut butter, so it’s becoming a popular choice in home kitchens and catering menus.
Spread it on toast, dollop it on oatmeal, add it to smoothies and even include it in your baking. There are so many ways to incorporate this nut butter in everyday meals — not only to help your anxiety but also to satisfy your cravings and keep you fuller for longer.
A Tasty Way to Fight Anxiety
It can be worthwhile to explore unconventional solutions to manage anxiety. Peanut butter offers a tasty and accessible way to ease these feelings. From its role in serotonin production to its nutrient-rich profile, peanut butter can be a valuable addition to anxiety treatment.