Craving Peanut Butter? 3 Reasons Why You Can’t Put Down the Spoon

Craving Peanut Butter Why You Can't Put Down the Spoon

Craving peanut butter? We’ve all been there. Standing with a spoon and a half-empty jar of peanut butter and wondering how we downed 1,000 calories worth without blinking. Ah, yes. It happens to the best of us.

But did you ever wonder why you’re craving peanut butter and can’t stop giving in? If you think food addiction and lack of willpower are the problem, then read on. Chances are, your cravings for peanut butter are trying to tell you something else.

(And you might also be interested in reading my post How to Prevent Binge Eating.)

Craving Peanut Butter? 3 Reasons Why

Reason #1: You’re eating a low-fat diet.

When fat is evil, suddenly peanut butter tastes good on everything. Rice cakes that taste like styrofoam come to life with a spoonful (or three) of peanut butter on top. That’s often your body’s signal that it needs more quality fats.

Reason #2: You’re eating a low-carb diet.

Like a low-fat diet, peanut butter cravings seem to common in the low-carb world as well. There is only one time in my life when I couldn’t stop eating peanut butter: when I was on a low-carb diet. Why? Because the fewer carbs I ate, the sweeter and more “carb-y” peanut butter tasted. It was on the “allowed” list, so I ended up eating a lot of it to suppress my carbohydrate cravings. I’ve noticed (at least for me) any dietary imbalance–like not enough fat or not enough carbs–triggers weird cravings.

Reason #3: You’re under a lot of stress.

First let me say this: “stress” can mean a lot of things. It’s basically anything that causes your body to release stress hormones (like cortisol). That means traffic jams, an argument with your spouse, or a looming deadline are all stresses–but so are dieting, not sleeping enough, constant anxiety about eating “healthy” food, hating your body, etc.

Okay, on to peanut butter and stress. Our bodies tend to crave fatty, high calorie foods when we’re stressed (especially when that stress is due to energy deprivation from excessive dieting or exercise).

But it goes even deeper than that. Peanut butter actually contains a specific compound that fights the effects of stress: beta-sitosterol.

Beta-sitosterol is a plant sterol. It’s been shown in studies of endurance athletes to normalize high cortisol levels and bring them 41+bwMgcMOLback into balance with other hormones (as well as reduce inflammation and improve immunity). This is discussed in the book The Cortisol Connection by Dr. Shawn Talbott.

Talbott recommends taking 60-120 mg of a beta-sitosterol supplement per day. He even specifically mentions peanut butter:

“A handful of peanuts or a couple tablespoons of peanut butter contain about 10-30 mg of beta-sitosterol.” – from page 202 of The Cortisol Connection

This might explain why someone under a lot of stress (from diet or lifestyle) might eat several tablespoons of peanut butter in five minutes flat. Could it be our bodies trying to tell us something?

“If I’m Craving Peanut Butter, Can I Eat It?”

No. Your cravings are evil. Ignore them, feel ashamed, and eat whatever your current diet plan tells you to eat (even if you hate it).

Just kidding.

If you’ve read my post on 7 “Healthy” Habits that Stress Your Metabolism (or my eBooks The Nourished Metabolism or Love Your Body) then you know I strongly believe that listening to your body is the best way to learn what it needs to thrive.

But listening to your body doesn’t always mean eating everything you crave without putting any more thought into it. Sometimes it means tuning in to the deeper meaning behind the cravings.

This doesn’t mean you can’t eat what you crave. It just means you need to look at the bigger picture, too.

So, for instance, if you think you’re craving peanut butter because you’re not eating enough fat, here are some options that include eating peanut butter but also consider the why behind your craving as well:

  1. Add some coconut oil to your peanut butter, in a 1:1 ratio (I don’t know what it is, but coconut oil and peanut butter pair together really well.) This is a great way to quell a craving, while also addressing the root issue.
  2. Add a little more healthy fat to your diet. Drizzle the pasta with olive oil. Butter the toast. Put some cheese on the veggies. Add some coconut oil to soups or sauces. You don’t have to go crazy and swallow two sticks of butter for breakfast–take it easy, add a little at a time, and figure out the right amount of fat for your body.

If you’re craving peanut butter because of a lack of carbs, try this:

  1. Peanut butter + honey. Simple yet awesome. (Shhh. Don’t argue. Just try it.) Or go for the more traditional peanut butter and sliced apples–it sounds like a snack for a fifth-grader, but to be honest it tastes pretty good as an adult, too! (Or make this incredible recipe for Homemade Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.)
  2. Try eating more carbs. Please don’t freak out–I said more carbs, not all the carbs. You don’t have to switch to a high-carb diet if you don’t want to–just be willing to tweak and listen. Snack on fresh fruit, try a sweet potato now and then. And if you’re up for a baked potato or a slice of sourdough bread, then go for it. You can decide what works for you, but try not to be afraid of food groupsm or lump foods into “good” vs. “evil” categories. That’s just way too stressful. Which brings me to my last example…

If you’re craving peanut butter because you’re just plain stressed out:

  1. Just eat some peanut butter. For real. You don’t need to deal with a harrowing battle of cravings vs. willpower (that does nothing but add to your stress levels). However, if you think your cravings for peanut butter are the result of high stress levels, try to do something quick and easy to counter your stress after having a nice, creamy spoonful of peanut butter. Take 30 minutes to listen to your favorite music or relax in a hot bath. If your stress is due to overexercising, then try toning down your workout for a day or two (take a relaxing walk outside instead). Have a balanced snack if you’ve been skipping meals. Exhausted? Take a power nap or try to hit the sack an hour earlier tonight.
  2. Look at your diet, sleep, exercise and lifestyle to see where your stress is coming from. This is a long-term approach, but it’s critical to take small steps to reducing your overall stress load. You don’t have to do everything perfectly–I promise!–but even just a few small adjustments can make a big difference:
  • Get a little more sunshine.
  • Eat more balanced meals and snacks (with enough energy and nutrients to support your body and its daily activities).
  • Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep most nights. If you can’t do this every day, try to make up for it by taking a nap or sleeping in a couple times a week.
  • Move your body a little more if you tend to be sedentary, or a little less if you tend to overdo it to the point of exhaustion.
  • Make time to do the little things in life, like laugh at your own jokes, watch a few more sunsets, feel the grass under your bare toes (all work and no play doesn’t just make Jack feel dull–it will do it to anyone!).

Keeping Cravings in Perspective

The point of all this is that you don’t have to freak out over cravings. 

Cravings aren’t actually the little devil on your shoulder trying to make you give in to temptation. Sometimes they’re just a little nudge from your body trying to tell you something. Don’t be afraid to listen.

Need some peanut butter recipes to kick your cravings? Here are some good ones:

 

Craving Peanut Butter 3 Reasons Why You Can't Put Down the Spoon

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41 Responses to Craving Peanut Butter? 3 Reasons Why You Can’t Put Down the Spoon

  1. I can think of 1 more reason! If the peanut butter you’re eating is full of sugar, you might have it on your “healthy” list but really it’s feeding your sugar addiction.

  2. Carrie says:

    I agree with your moderate approach here. Every rare once in awhile I get a craving for cupcakes. I usually eat half of one (I get the fancy ones from a bakery) and I’m satisfied. If I craved cupcakes every day of my life, I would be concerned. But once every couple of months? I eat the dang cupcake. I think it’s really the buttercream frosting (fats) I need. I’m nursing a 17 month old, my sixth baby, and often forget to eat enough.

    • Nursing will definitely do that! I did not eat enough when I was nursing my son. I was so obsessed with my weight, I tried to eat as little as possible and avoided fat like the plague. I ended up binging on ice cream a lot. Now I wish I had just let myself eat real food! :(

  3. jennifer says:

    Great post Elizabeth!

  4. Helen says:

    Gosh I needed this today. I’m not eating enough fats or carbs, living in a foreign country where it’s hard to find good things to eat, and this may just be why I’m putting peanut butter on everything. It is a viable source of nutrition. Great article.

    • Exactly–when food gets scarce (either by dieting or unintentionally like in your situation), peanut butter suddenly has a lot of appeal! When I was dieting, I always wanted peanut butter. Now I may have some a couple times a month, but I rarely actually crave it anymore.

  5. As always, fantastic post, Elizabeth! Our bodies are always telling us something via cravings. I never would have thought to mix peanut butter with coconut oil – what a great idea! And BIG thanks for the link love to my dark chocolate peanut butter cups. I think I might just have to make them again… :)

  6. Julie says:

    This is a craving I have often. I am on the GAPS diet and have been for about a year and a half. From time to time, (translate at least once a week) I go for the peanut butter, the all natural varieties that cost money. I think I have thyroid, adrenal problems. Anyway, thanks for this post, I’ve been waiting for someone to address this issue.

    • Becca G says:

      I used to crave peanut butter all the timw while on GAPS. My favorite treats were apples with PB or a spoonful on coconut oil topped with PB. It was so time consuming to soak organic peanuts, dehydrate them, then make peanut butter–but it was always worth it. I only lasted 3 months on GAPS, but haven’t had any issues since.

  7. Sarah says:

    Great post! Its so true , your body knows what it needs , you just have to find the best way to get the nutrients in (not the one ladened with highly processed foods).

  8. Jennifer says:

    I went through a long period of this being my “stress-food” when I was re-doing my website and writing 2 e-books all in 3 months.

    I was also grinding salt on it and I think it was partly a vehicle for salt that my adrenals were craving.

    One day I was magically “over it” and now I have it a few times on month on an apple as an actual snack.

    • Funny how that happens, isn’t it? I have a lot of foods that I couldn’t live without for a while, but then I was “over it” and now I eat them in occasional, moderate amounts. Stress can do crazy things.

  9. Alex says:

    Absolutely fantastic article! I was at the store today and just asked myself “What could my body use the most right now?” For some reason I found myself being drawn to the organic peanut butter.

    “Hmmmm….I though. Is this just a mental craving or does my body actually want something in the peanut butter?” I was also a bit hesitant because I have read mixed reviews as to whether or not peanut butter is “healthy”.

    I decided to just cave and indulge when after eating some I immediately felt better and less stressed. The tension in my head was gone and I felt relief. I think my body was calorie and fat deficient and the anti-stress compounds helped to relieve some of my anxiety. I’ll never underestimate the power of peanut butter again!

  10. Brenda says:

    I eat it because I love it. I have it every morning for breakfast on an english muffin and topped with a banana. It is my pre-work out super food and it quells my hunger well into early afternoon.

  11. Mel Merenda says:

    MAGNESIUM

    If you’re stressed out you should take magnesium!! Raw chocolate has plenty of it.

    Re: sugar in peanut butter: I make my own my organic peanuts, I add honey in it, not refinned sugar, which is better. So now I’ve tried Honey + peanut butter + coconut oil on a gluten free cracker. That’s perfect, since as a gluten free dairy free refined sugar free person I don’t have many yummy snacks :) Peanut butter tastes BETTER with cocnut oil :)

  12. Mcihelle List says:

    I am on a quest to find out why there is a family correlation between those who crave peanut products daily, (often excluding most other foods), and those who are seriously/fatally allergic to legumes–which is the category into which peanut fits.

    I have observed that there are many families who exhibit the phenomenon of having a SET of “Peanut opposites”: that is, at least one family member of EACH type’: (1.) “Craver of peanut,” AND ( 2.) one who is dangerously “Allergic to peanut (legumes).”

    (Note: Peanuts, Soy beans, peas, etc. are are Legumes.)

    Cravings are not merely responses to lack of nutrients or stress responses. There is something else that is going on in these families, of which my family is an example. What scientists will research this phenomenon that is becoming (dangerously) more and more common.

  13. Anya Vien says:

    What a great post! I do love my peanut butter and I will start mixing it with coconut oil from now on!

  14. Charise says:

    Love peanut butter here! I am just responding to the post about peanut butter and peanut allergies in the same family. I wonder if you are experiencing an allergy/addiction? Maybe the family members who love peanuts are actually have a very slight allergy, exhibited through addiction, while others in the family have severe allergies. I think I see something similar in my family. I CRAVE dairy constantly, and I am HORRIBLY allergic to it… whether it be raw milk, goat milk, cow milk etc…My son is the same way. When he was a nursing baby, I had to give it up all dairy, but was told he would outgrow it, and when he was a year, I reintroduced it. Milk was almost the only thing he would drink or eat. To make a long story short, we discovered he was still allergic to it, even the raw goat milk we had sourced. It took a while to get him completely off it and for the cravings to go away for him. I think cravings do usually tell us something, but not always the same thing!

  15. Rejan says:

    Couldnt you be allergic to peanuts (on some level) if you are having cravings for it? I know this is the case with most sensitivities or allergies, and I’ve experienced it first hand with peanut butter. I know I’m mildly allergic to peanuts, and peanut butter is one of the strongest cravings I have.

  16. LOVE everything about this post. For all the reasons you mentioned and more, I created A Loving Spoon, my own (purely unprocessed) nut butter line. We are (finally) launching soon…..with (to one of your solutions!) the Honey Vanilla-Bourbon Peanut Butter! It’s alovingspoon.com

    Thanks for the awesome post….sharing all over the place! Ps I’d love to get you the flavor when it launches!

  17. Rachel says:

    I love this post… and I am one of those who can eat and enjoy peanuts and peanut butter…. I am curious though, since i have a couple of family members who are quite allergic to peanuts… what other plants out there give us that badly needed Beta-sitosterol? Thanks for this!

  18. Angela says:

    Great post! I used to eat a lot more peanut butter out of convenience too. I used to crave it when I was first nursing and my supply was still getting established. Maybe the extra fat that my body needed. I’m still nursing, but I’m not eating as much peanut butter these days. Must be getting enough fat from eggs and coconut oil (yum!) Thanks again for the insight.

  19. Awesome post! All of these reasons make sense to me. Now if only we could figure out why I have nonstop cravings for Trader Joe’s cookie butter too ……

  20. Marie says:

    Interesting post! When I was 19 I joined the AF and during basic training I ate really poorly because the food was so different than what I was used to in Hawaii. That and the fact that there was a bizarre rule that as soon as one person at your table was done eating, everyone was done whether you just sat down or not. When I got to my tech school I was obsessed with peanut butter and peanuts. I didn’t stop until I gained 30 pounds in a month! I’ve always remembered that because I’ve never been addicted to a food like that before and I always wondered why.

    • That’s really interesting. My husband had a similar experience in basic training–he looked like he was starving when he got out! It’s amazing what the body will do to compensate for a huge energy deficit like that.

  21. Melissa says:

    cravings for peanut butter can be a result of a lack of essential fats, which you mentioned. However, peanut butter is actually not healthy. The peanuts are roasted, which changes the molecular structure of the fat. Also, peanuts are legumes and are very hard to digest, especially today. Most people have poor digestion and do not make enough stomach acid. Lastly, peanuts are very high in arginine, which depresses the immune system. Lastly, some people need to eat low carb if they have auto-immune disease. To say that humans need starch and sugar when they actually need vegetables is a little misguided. Ketosis is completely healthy and necessary for people with compromised immunity.

    • Thanks for your comment, Melissa. I agree, some people do better with peanut butter than others. I think it’s good to follow your cravings, but also to figure out the deeper reasons behind them so your body gets what it really needs.

      On low-carb, I’ll agree to disagree–but regardless of my opinion, I firmly believe that a person should listen to their body and do what they feel is best for their health and well being.

  22. TJ says:

    How about craving peanut butter because you’re actually allergic too it…and you don’t know it yet? YA- that just happened to me this week. Have you heard of this?

    • Sorry to hear about that! Hopefully your reaction wasn’t too severe. I’ve heard of this happening, so it’s something to watch out for, but if someone has eaten peanut butter without a reaction before they should be fine.

  23. Amy says:

    I’ve never been a big peanut butter fan, but ever since I started my dieting and exercising I’ve been craving it like crazy. Now it all makes sense. Thanks!

  24. Raquel says:

    Just a quick note to let you know that we shared your “story” today on our “Healthy Living Arkansas” FaceBook wall…thank you for sharing it.

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