Suddenly Craving Peanut Butter? Here Are 5 Things It Could Mean

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why am i craving peanut butter

Peanut butter and jelly is a time-honored (and timeless) combo. Plus, peanut butter can be used for so much more than low-effort, highly tasty sandwiches. It’s great for dipping apples, carrots and celery (elevating all three, if we’re being honest). Peanut butter is a delicious spread for breakfast foods like apples and can be added to smoothies for protein. 

While peanut butter has health benefits, what if you have a seemingly uncontrollable urge to eat it, you might be asking, “Why am I craving peanut butter?” That’s a good question. A peanut butter craving—like any hankering—is a message from your body.

“Cravings are our body’s way of letting us know that we need something,” says Julia Zumpano, RD, of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Human Nutrition. “Some foods are designed to be craved—certain ingredients create a heavy hit on certain pleasure centers in your brain, such as ice cream, pizza or chips.” 

What about peanut butter cravings, though? Peanut butter has nutritional benefits, like fiber and protein, and it’s a true pleasure to eat.

It depends on the type of peanut butter you want. “When you crave real whole foods, such as natural peanut butter, our bodies are trying to tell us something,” Zumpano clarifies. Keep in mind that if you are craving processed peanut butter, AKA peanut butter spread, which is peanut butter with added oils, salt and sugar, then it’s the additives that you may be craving, not the peanuts themselves.”

OK, so what’s the deal? Here’s what to know about your peanut butter or peanut craving and what to do next.

Related: Here’s Exactly What Happens to Your Body If You Eat Peanut Butter and Jelly Every Day

Why Do I Crave Peanut Butter? 5 Reasons for Peanut Butter Cravings

1. Your body wants more protein

Two tablespoons of peanut butter contain about 7 grams of protein—a vital part of a diet.

“Over time inadequate protein intake can lead to muscle loss, weight loss or gain, thinning hair, decreased immune system, anemia, swelling and fatigue,” Zumpano says. “If you are not consuming enough protein, cravings are more likely. If this is overlooked, it can lead to continuous overconsumption of fats, carbs or calories due to not being satisfied because protein allows you to feel full.”

Speaking of which…

2. You’re restricting other vital needs 

Peanut butter contains plant-based polyunsaturated fats and carbohydrates that help you feel feel and energetic. However, you may be following a diet that’s low in fat or carbs in an attempt to lose weight.

“Sometimes individuals who follow very low-fat diets or restrict fat entirely may crave peanut butter to help fill the dietary fat gap that is otherwise missing,” says Lena Bakovic, MS, RDN, CNSC, a registered dietitian with Top Nutrition Coaching specializing in chronic disease, weight management, gut health, oncology and general health and wellness. “Likewise, low carbohydrate diets, which are very common in diet culture, may also produce peanut butter cravings, as peanut butter is naturally low in carbohydrate content but, depending on the brand, may have a slightly sweet taste, which fills the missing carbohydrate nutrient gap.”

Or, you may just be worried about the three-digit calorie count—but the body needs calories.

“Peanut butter is very calorie-dense, and when we’re very hungry, we often seek out higher-calorie foods. Peanut butter is also easily accessible and requires very little time and prep to eat,” says Alex Larson, RD, Larson a registered dietitian.

3. You’re stressed out and looking for comfort

Your peanut butter craving may have little to do with physical health.

“Peanut butter is often associated with childhood and happy memories,” says Nancy Cooper, RDN, LD, CDCES, a registered dietitian nutritionist & Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist at the Molly Diabetes Education Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. “Craving it could be a way of seeking comfort or nostalgia,” 

One reason for that quest for comfort and nostalgia? You might be having some mental health issues.

“Some people turn to comfort foods like peanut butter during times of stress or emotional distress,” says Trista Best, RD, a registered dietitian and adjunct nutrition professor. “The creamy texture and rich flavor of peanut butter can provide a sense of comfort and satisfaction, temporarily alleviating feelings of anxiety or tension.”

It’s understandable, but Best suggests trying to determine the cause of your stress and using other coping mechanisms.

“Relying on peanut butter or other high-calorie comfort foods as a coping mechanism for stress can lead to unhealthy eating habits and weight gain over time,” Best explains. 

4. Blame it on your hormones

People who get periods may find peanut butter cravings increase at certain times of the month. “Women may experience peanut butter cravings during their menstrual cycle due to hormonal fluctuations,” Cooper says.

Larson adds that these cravings often occur in the “luteal” phase between ovulation and your period, explaining, “Tracking your cycle and being prepared with protein-rich snacks can help curb that appetite.”

5. Texture and taste

It may be as simple as wanting the taste and texture of peanut butter.

“The creamy, smooth texture of peanut butter can be appealing to some individuals, providing a satisfying mouthfeel and sensory experience,” Best says.

It’s OK to indulge, but Best says portion control is key to ensuring a balanced diet, explaining, “While enjoying peanut butter in moderation is generally fine, excessive consumption can lead to consuming too many calories and potentially contribute to weight gain.”

Related: Here’s What It Means If You’re Suddenly Craving Milk

Is It Bad to Have Constant Peanut Butter Cravings?

The experts we spoke with prefer not to label cravings. “It’s not bad or good to crave a food,” Zumpano says. “What’s most important is that you understand the reason for the craving and make changes to reduce and address the cravings.”

For instance, is your peanut butter craving triggered by ultra-processed ingredients or nutrient deficiencies? 

“The kind of peanut butter that leads to cravings is the processed kind, which can lead to inflammation due to the unhealthy fats, sugars and processed additives,” Zumpano continues. “Choose natural peanut butter by reading the ingredient list—the only ingredient necessary is the peanuts. Salt is optional.”

How Much Peanut Butter Is Too Much?

It depends on the person and your overall diet. “A serving size of peanut butter is 2 tablespoons, and while peanut butter does offer protein and healthy fat, it can add up quickly in calories, which can potentially contribute to unwanted weight gain,” Larson says. “There are certain situations where someone may want those additional calories, so it really will depend on the individual in what would constitute as too much peanut butter.”

Generally, Zumpano suggests sticking to the 2-tablespoon serving size if you’re trying to maintain or lose weight.

Related: 7 Things That Happen When You Don’t Eat Enough Vegetables

How to Stop Peanut Butter and Peanut Cravings (Besides ‘Indulging’)

1. Look at your diet

While craving peanut butter isn’t necessarily bad, you may want to quiet the food noise. First things first, think about your overall diet.

“One of the first things to consider in helping quell peanut butter cravings is to assess if one’s diet may be insufficient in healthy fats, fiber, protein and water intake,” Bakovic says. “Consuming sufficient amounts of protein and fiber throughout the day is [useful] in helping us to [feel] fuller for longer…and also quell cravings for sugary, salty, or high in fat foods such as is found in certain types of peanut butter.”

2. Food swaps

If you’re craving texture, consider creamy (and yummy) alternatives once you’ve had your fill of peanut butter for the day (generally 2 tablespoons).

“To satisfy texture cravings without overdoing it on peanut butter, individuals can explore alternative foods with similar textures, such as Greek yogurt, hummus or avocado,” Best suggests.

3. Reduce stress

Ward off emotional eating by addressing the root cause of your stress or distress and treating that. Best suggests trying physical activity, relaxation techniques and seeking support from friends and family. A therapist can also help you find strategies that work for you. 

Next up: I Ate Pasta Every Day for a Week—Here’s What Happened

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