Peanut butter: A super sports food

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In this day and age of energy bars, protein powders and weight gain shakes, many athletes forget about "real" foods, such as peanut butter.

Peanut butter, in my opinion, is one of the best sports foods around.

It's tasty, inexpensive, satisfying, nourishing -- and even good for our health. But all too often, I hear athletes say "I don't keep peanut butter in my house. It's too fatty, too fattening," or "I ration peanut butter to once per week -- on my Sunday morning bagel."

They try to stay away from peanut butter. That's nuts!

Yes, peanut butter is calorie-dense. But it can beneficially fit into your sports diet. The following information explains why I vote peanut butter (and all nuts and nut butters, for that matter) to be a super sports food for athletes who want to eat well and invest in their health.

  • Peanut butter is satiating and satisfying -- perfect for dieters. Because you will never win the war against hunger, your best bet is to eat foods that keep you feeling fed.

    This means, foods with protein and fiber -- like peanut butter (and nuts in general). You'll feel fuller for longer if you have half a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter, as compared to the same amount of calories of a plain white bagel.

    The protein and fiber in peanut butter "sticks to your ribs" and is not fattening -- unless you overeat total calories that day.

    A Purdue University study reports subjects who ate peanuts every day did not overeat daily calories. (Kirkmeyer, Int'l J Obesity 24:1167, 2000). Peanut eaters tend to naturally eat less at other times of the day. (Alper, Int'l J Obesity 26:1129, 2002).

    Plus, if you enjoy what you are eating on your reducing diet, you'll stay with the food plan and be able to keep the weight off. This is far better than yo-yo dieting!

  • Peanut butter is a quick and easy way to reduce your risk of heart disease. Just slap together a peanut butter (and honey or jelly) sandwich on multi-grain bread, and you have the makings of a heart-healthy meal, if not a childhood memory.

    A quick and easy peanut butter sandwich is healthier, by far, than a fast-food burger or fried chicken dinner and far better than an equally easy "meal" of chips or ice cream. That's because peanut butter offers health-protective mono- and polyunsaturated oil.

    Trading burgers (saturated fat) for peanut butter sandwiches reduces your risk of developing heart disease. In fact, the more often you eat peanut butter (and nuts), the lower your risk of heart disease. (Hu, J Am College Nutr 20(1):5, 2001).

    Start spreading peanut butter (instead of butter) on toast. Enjoy PB and banana for a "decadent" snack in place of ice cream.