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Is Peanut Butter & Jelly Good for Weight Loss? (Friend or Foe?)

Weight Loss & Diets | Written by Nathan | Updated on 7 February 2022

PB&J’s are a staple food that reminds many people of the good old days or their early childhood. For some, it’s still a staple food on picnics, but is peanut butter & jelly good for weight loss? 

Or is more of a foe than a friend?

Can I Eat PB&Js and Still Lose Weight?

Whether or not you can eat PB&J’s and still slim down comes down to CICO (Calories In vs Calories Out), but the high sugar contents and little nutritional value do raise some concerns. While it may not seem like it, PB&J’s are a form of junk food and giving up junk food and sugar is always going to be best for overall health.

To break it down further, a tablespoon of peanut butter contains 95 calories, a tablespoon of jelly is about 55 calories, and two slices of white bread come out to around 132 calories. Here’s a break down of the calories in 1 PB&J:

PB (95 calories) + J (55 calories) + Bread (132 calories) = 1 PB&J Sandwhich (282 calories)

Two hundred and eight two calories doesn’t seem too bad right? Well, the daily recommended calories is 2,000 so as long as you don’t eat more than 6 PB&J’s in a day you should still be able to lose some weight. 

Although, even just a few peanut butter and jellies will put you over the recommended sugar intake of 24-36 grams for women and men respectively. Other than the calorie and sugar contents, it’s important to consider the ingredients to paint a full picture.

Peanut Butter Ingredients – Are They Good for Weight Loss?

Now that you know how many calories a standard PB&J sandwich contains, let’s take a closer look at the ingredients in peanut butter to see if it’s realistic to eat peanut butter and jelly for weight loss. 

  • Roasted Peanuts

Is peanut butter & jelly good for weight loss? Maybe not, but nuts sure are! They’re some of the healthiest snacks and peanuts are one of the healthier nuts too. They contain tons of protein and monounsaturated fats, which can help you prevent weight gain and heart disease [1] [2]. 

The fat and protein in peanut products also keep you full for a long time, so you end up eating fewer calories overall [3].

Besides, unlike regular butter, it has a low glycemic index, meaning it can also help control your glycemic response, i.e., prevent insulin or blood sugar spikes. Just two tablespoons of peanut butter before a meal can counteract the glycemic effect of the entire lunch or dinner, lowering insulin response and curbing hunger pangs [4].

However, peanuts are still relatively high in fat and calories, so you should eat any peanut product in moderation. Raw nuts are also slightly healthier than roasted ones since roasting at high temperatures can damage the healthy fat they contain, but it’s not the end of the world either [5].

  • Sugar

Peanut butter isn’t just peanuts – at least, not all of it is. Most companies put in some sugar to satisfy the average person’s palette. This sugar increases the number of calories per serving and puts you at higher risk for dangerous abdominal fat [6].

When you’re looking for peanut butter, always look for a sugar-free version or at least one that’s sweetened with honey…especially if you’re going to combine it with sweet tasting jelly.

  • Minor Ingredients

Sugar isn’t all that you need to look out for – peanut butter also contains 2% or less of:

Molasses: Molasses is another type of sugar that increases the number of calories per serving. However, it does contain more essential nutrients and antioxidants than sugar, which makes it slightly healthier. 

Mono and diglycerides: Primarily used as emulsifiers (ingredients that hold oil and water in food together), they may contain trans fats. Consuming too many trans fats can up your risk of heart disease. 

Salt: Many brands of peanut butter also contain some amount of salt and oil. Though some amount of salt is acceptable, excess sodium can make your belly bloat and make you look as if you gained weight [7]. 

Fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed and soybean):While salt makes you look heavier, vegetable oil adds to the caloric content and can cause real weight gain. Though it may make your peanut butter feel smoother, it’s better to go for an oil-free brand since peanuts are already “oily” or high in fat.

Overall, the biggest culprits for peanut butter-related weight gain are sugar, molasses, and oils. While PB itself is pretty healthy, its benefits are overshadowed by such high-calorie ingredients. 

But PB isn’t the only ingredient in PB&J sandwiches – to figure out the answer to “Is peanut butter & jelly good for weight loss?”, we need to look at the ingredients in jelly, too.

Jelly Ingredients – Are They Good for Weight Loss?

Jelly is the perfect complement to peanut butter, but unfortunately, it’s just as hard to pick out healthy jelly brands since consumers LOVE sugar. 

  • Sugar or High Fructose Corn Syrup

Nearly all jams and jellies are incredibly high in sugar and high fructose corn syrup – that’s what gives them their sweet taste! High fructose corn syrup and sugar have the same detriments as the sugar in peanut butter.

  • Strawberry Juice or Grape Juice

Strawberry and grape are the two most common flavors you can combine with peanut butter. Both fruits are full of essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, manganese, folate, potassium, B vitamins, and vitamin E, some of the best vitamins for weight loss. 

They also improve your heart health and lower bad cholesterol levels [8] [9]. Rich in antioxidants, they also reduce your risk of cancer as they fight against free oxygen radicals in the body [10]. They can lower your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, besides promoting eye and skin health [11][12].

However, they contain none of the raw fruit’s fiber and soak in added sugar, so raw strawberries and grapes are always a better choice.

  • Fruit Pectin

Pectin is a soluble fiber present in many fruits and plants, and it’s generally used in small quantities to thicken your jelly. It has roughly the same benefits as strawberry or grape juice, and there isn’t much of it present in jellies.

So, Is peanut butter & jelly good for weight loss, and are PB & jelly the only things holding it back? Well, PB has plenty of protein and jelly does have some benefits of the fruit it’s made from, but the excess sugar and corn syrup overshadow them. Meanwhile, bread lacks the advantages of these fruits, too. 

Is Bread Okay for Weight Loss?

Anything’s okay for weight loss as long as you eat it in moderation, but white bread isn’t going to fill you up or provide any meaningful nutrition to your body. 

White bread primarily contains refined flour. This flour doesn’t include the grain’s outer layers – the bran and the germ – so it has none of the fiber and antioxidants present in wheat before refining. It also has a high glycemic index, causing insulin spikes and hunger pangs. 

A healthier alternative is whole-grain bread, as it contains the fiber and nutrients present in the wheat grain itself, including B vitamins, vitamin E, healthy fats, and antioxidants. Using whole-grain bread is one of the easiest steps towards making a healthier PB&J.

How to Make Healthier PB&J’s

So, are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches good for weight loss? Well, as you can see, not exactly – but it makes for a great pre-workout snack because of all the quick burning carbs. You can also make it healthier in just three steps! All you need to do is find more nutritious peanut butter, jelly, and bread.

Peanut butter: Look for raw peanut butter made from sprouts or any brand of sugar-free PB. If the ingredient labels only list roasted or raw peanuts, you get all the benefits with no side effects, and you’re good to go! 

Jelly: Find fresh jelly with little or no sugar. You can try searching your local farmer’s market for locally made jelly, or make it by yourself at home! If you’d like something sweet, though, use honey instead of jelly – though it’s still high in calories, it’s rich in antioxidants and good for your heart, so it’s a healthier alternative [13]. 

Whole-grain bread: Again, whole-grain bread is the best alternative to white bread. Besides being healthier, it’ll keep you full for longer because of its fiber content. Whole-grain cereals are also best for weight loss and are a good substitute for a carb-filled breakfast. 

Apart from these quick fixes, you can also flavor your sandwich with cinnamon, pumpkin spice, or other nut butters like almond butter! There are many varieties of protein nut butters available on the market, too, which may serve as a great post-workout snack, too. 

Conclusion

Even though the answer to “Is peanut butter & jelly good for weight loss?” isn’t a resounding yes, it’s not going to ruin your diet if used in moderation. Just try to stay conscious of calories and ingredients, and you can surely turn this tasty foe into your weight loss friend!

References

[1] Bes-Rastrollo, M., Wedick, N. M., Martinez-Gonzalez, M. A., Li, T. Y., Sampson, L., & Hu, F. B. (2009). Prospective study of nut consumption, long-term weight change, and obesity risk in women. The American journal of clinical nutrition89(6), 1913–1919. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19403639/ 

[2] Bansal M. (2014). Association of nut consumption with total and cause-specific mortality. Indian Heart Journal66(3), 388–389. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4121755/ 

[3] Mattes, R. D., Kris-Etherton, P. M., & Foster, G. D. (2008). Impact of peanuts and tree nuts on body weight and healthy weight loss in adults. The Journal of nutrition138(9), 1741S–1745S. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18716179/ 

[4] Lilly, L. N., Heiss, C. J., Maragoudakis, S. F., Braden, K. L., & Smith, S. E. (2019). The Effect of Added Peanut Butter on the Glycemic Response to a High-Glycemic Index Meal: A Pilot Study. Journal of the American College of Nutrition38(4), 351–357. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30395790/ 

[5] Schlörmann, W., Birringer, M., Böhm, V., Löber, K., Jahreis, G., Lorkowski, S., Müller, A. K., Schöne, F., & Glei, M. (2015). Influence of roasting conditions on health-related compounds in different nuts. Food chemistry180, 77–85. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25766804/ 

[6] Zhang, D. M., Jiao, R. Q., & Kong, L. D. (2017). High Dietary Fructose: Direct or Indirect Dangerous Factors Disturbing Tissue and Organ Functions. Nutrients9(4), 335. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5409674/ 

[7] Peng, A. W., Juraschek, S. P., Appel, L. J., Miller, E. R., 3rd, & Mueller, N. T. (2019). Effects of the DASH Diet and Sodium Intake on Bloating: Results From the DASH-Sodium Trial. The American journal of gastroenterology114(7), 1109–1115. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7122060/ 

[8] Basu, A., Rhone, M., & Lyons, T. J. (2010). Berries: emerging impact on cardiovascular health. Nutrition reviews68(3), 168–177. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20384847/ 

[9] Murillo, A. G., & Fernandez, M. L. (2017). The Relevance of Dietary Polyphenols in Cardiovascular Protection. Current pharmaceutical design23(17), 2444–2452. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28356040/ 

[10] Sabra, A., Netticadan, T., & Wijekoon, C. (2021). Grape bioactive molecules, and the potential health benefits in reducing the risk of heart diseases. Food chemistry: X12, 100149. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8567006/ 

[11] Patel, A. K., Davis, A., Rodriguez, M. E., Agron, S., & Hackam, A. S. (2016). Protective effects of a grape-supplemented diet in a mouse model of retinal degeneration. Nutrition (Burbank, Los Angeles County, Calif.)32(3), 384–390. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26732835/ 

[12] Ratz-Łyko, A., & Arct, J. (2019). Resveratrol as an active ingredient for cosmetic and dermatological applications: a review. Journal of cosmetic and laser therapy : official publication of the European Society for Laser Dermatology21(2), 84–90. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29737899/ 

[13] Dżugan, M., Tomczyk, M., Sowa, P., & Grabek-Lejko, D. (2018). Antioxidant Activity as Biomarker of Honey Variety. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland)23(8), 2069. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6222484/ 

About the Author

Nathan

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.