Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian and an associate professor of aging, nutrition and fitness at Johns Hopkins University, put the diet to the test. Ten women, plus Pierre herself, followed the diet for five months. The results? “Astonishing!” according to Pierre. “Collectively, we have lost a total of 140 pounds and not one person is tired of eating peanut butter. Over the past twenty years, I’ve counseled thousands of weight loss clients, but I’ve never before seen success like this,” she enthused. Not one person dropped out, which is surprising for a program of this duration.
This group of women proved what researchers at Harvard and Purdue Universities have been finding in scientific studies — peanut butter and peanuts are satisfying snacks that can help people stick to weight loss diets. By counting calories and watching portions, each woman spread up to four tablespoons of peanut butter into her daily diet. Although portion-control was stressed throughout the study (one serving, or two tablespoons, is about the size of a ping-pong ball) dieters looked forward to their daily doses of peanut butter or peanuts. Favorite snacks of the dieters included peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hot oatmeal with melted peanut butter swirled through it.
As an added benefit, many of the dieters saw their cholesterol levels drop. These findings are consistent with previous research at Pennsylvania State University, which shows that including peanuts and peanut butter in a healthful diet lowers bad LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and total cholesterol by 14 and 11 percent, respectively.
The Peanut Butter Diet may sound like the latest fad diet, but its diet profile gets high marks. About thirty-five percent of calories in the diet come from fat — mainly healthy monounsaturated fats — and it is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Fifteen percent of calories come from protein, including the cholesterol-free plant protein in peanut butter, and the remaining 50 percent of calories come from carbohydrates. The diet also contains almost 30 grams of fiber and nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day. This diet is consistent with the latest dietary guidance from the National Cholesterol Education Program, American Heart Association, and National Academies of Science.
When first promised that they could lose up to 25 pounds a year, while including four tablespoons of peanut butter a day (six tablespoons for men) into a healthful diet, dieters could not get enough. Moving quickly, nutrition editor, Holly McCord, MA, RD, expanded a March 2001 Prevention article into a top selling diet book, now in its fifth printing. Prevention’s Peanut Butter Diet, published by St. Martin’s Press in August 2001, contains 28 days of diet menus, plus recipes and an in-depth summary of nutrition research that provides the basis for the diet.
Peanut butter and peanuts can be labeled free of trans fat and are rich in good unsaturated fat. Peanuts and peanut butter also provide plant protein, fiber, vitamin E, folate, potassium, magnesium, and zinc, all which are thought to be important to health. Peanuts also contain bioactive components such as phytosterols, flavonoids, and antioxidants, the benefits of which nutrition scientists are only beginning to discover.
The Peanut Institute is a non-profit organization that supports nutrition research and develops educational programs to encourage healthful lifestyles.