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 Stop Binge Eating.)

Craving Peanut Butter?

Here are three 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.

What does this mean?

That’s often your body’s signal that it needs more quality fats. Peanut butter is usually the easiest and seemingly benign choice, but the solution lies in solving the root cause.

Remember, the latest research says fat is not the enemy (and really there is no enemy here — that kind of thinking only leads to the path of food obsession).

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.

What happened when I started eating carbs again?

I stopped craving peanut butter!

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.

What is 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.

How much beta-sitosterol is helpful?

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 books 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, 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–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 groups 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 (which 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.ย 

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.

Nourished-Metabolism-PAGESWant to Learn More?

You can read more about my thoughts on nutrition, stress and metabolism in my eBook The Nourished Metabolism. No gimmicks, just a balanced perspective on how you can improve your metabolic health. Click here to check it out.

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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    • It could be that they’re craving the sugar, but anyone reading these articles should know to buy peanut butter that is purely just peanut butter with no added ingredients. There are several out there that are just peanuts and salt and they taste great, just be open minded.

  1. 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! :(

  2. 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.

  3. 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… :)

  4. 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.

    • 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.

  5. 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).

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.


    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 :)

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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

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

  14. 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!

      • Thank you for listing other foods with beta-sitosterol!
        Because I too crave peanut butter and eat only the organic kind with no salt or sugar or palm oil.
        BUT peanuts have mold, and I was recently exposed to black mold and have to stay away from all mold in food and environment best I can.

        ALWAYS discard the oil off the peanut butter jar. It is highly toxic.
        Peanut oil is never good.

        • But even still, peanuts have mold, and are NOT the best choice to get the nutrients we are speaking of here.

          Avocados are by far the best choice, with just a 2/3 cup giving you 76 mg of beta-sitoterols.

          Second choice is almonds or almond butter, pistachios, pecans or walnuts in the nut category.

          Dark chocolate 72% or more is a far better choice as well for numerous reasons to our health.

          Still not ready to claim peanut butter, even organic, is a great, great option.

          Keep it in moderation.

          My healthy two cents :)

          Laura Maria Grammatico
          Certified Holistic Health Educator and Public Speaker

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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.

  21. I think it could also be that we aren’t getting enough protein. The price of meat and dairy have skyrocketed to the point we survive on pasta, sandwiches, and vegetables. Once, maybe twice a week do we have any meat – chicken, turkey, beef. I have been craving PB intensely for the last couple weeks – as in eating 2-3 heaping soup spoons full every day, in addition to my daily PB&J sandwich.

  22. Best forum I ever read. Peanut butter (natural) has so many health benefits!! And people need to focus more on living life and better choices just fall into place. If you stress about what your eating you are actually doing more harm than good

  23. I also get INSANE cravings for peanut butter. Literally subbing most of my meals for PB for around 6 months straight until it just stops without me even noticing. Then one day, a friend will be eating some PB and i’ll try some and then I’m hooked for another 6 months. I truly feel that it’s acting more like a DRUG instead of my body telling me I’m lacking something. This happens only with peanuts and it makes me think about how many people are allergic to peanuts and can die just from a whiff. I’m sure there’s a connection. Also, peanuts are high in a mould called alfatoxins so it could be something to do with this.

  24. OMG! I was really scared when you mentioned that I shouldn’t eat peanut butter and that my cravings are evil!! Thank goodness you were kidding! :)

  25. Finally found justification after finishing a jar of pb in 3 weeks! Before reading your article I always thought this terrible crave is due to my diet, which made no sense because I’ve been pretty generous about using fat in cooking, and there’s plenty of carbs to go with it. Now the stress factor is hitting me hard! I’m glad that I looked it up, and found your article =) Time for more peanut butter and a good change!

  26. I just joined your newsletter and this is the first post I read. Great post – it makes so much sense. I just have one problem – I was diagnosed with a peanut sensitivity when my homeopath did a BEST allergy test on me. I do get peanut and peanut butter cravings. Is there another nut that I can substitute that will have the same effect for fat-levels and stress? Looking forward to reading lots more of your posts. Thanks for sharing and for your common-sense approach.

  27. One more addition! Allergy! I have always been confused about why we can often crave foods we are allergic or sensitive to, and recently discovered its because of the beloved endorphins! Allergens entering the body create a stress response and voila – endorphins! (I am talking about sensitivities not anaphylaxis!) As a kid I actually did not like peanut butter, but after lots of body stress, eating disorders (under and over: the works!), and being on a restrictive diet due to candida overgrowth and food allergies I would eat it by the cup! And think obsessively about it! I know it can be difficult for a lot of people to digest also, and wondering if that would cause the same endorphin type response (coupled with heavy lethargy of having eaten 1/2 cup peanut butter, swearing every spoon is the last). The peanut is actually a legume, and I have heard it is similar to an African kidney bean, uncooked, which for people with sensitive digestion definitely takes its toll. In response to Mandy I imagine the alfatoxin mould likely has something to do with that addictive cycle too! I did a similar cycle for a long time, but each time I restarted it, I noticed in the first few bites that it tasted strange to me, and I was eating it more from compulsion than actual enjoyment – a big theme for me with food addiction stuff!
    Definitely the fats as well, and I know nut butters in all their delicious glory tend to be a binge food for a lot of people! Just discovered your website and love your approach and information, and the clarity and compassion with which you present it!
    Thank you so much for your site and information!! <3

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Katherine. So glad you’re enjoying the blog so far! Good input about allergies and endorphins — I think endorphins may have to do with a lot of the possible reasons we crave peanut butter! Giving in to a food on the “no-no” list can cause a rush of feel-good chemicals, as well as eating a lot of calorie-rich food when you’ve been starving yourself.

  28. Fantastic! I used to fight the peanut butter so hard but when I decided that I was going to give up that fight I found I didn’t crave it nearly as much. Like, months will go by before I feel like peanut butter is the only thing that will hit the spot. I also love the advice to cut it with coconut oil- I love doing it with butter and making savory sauces!

  29. I really enjoyed reading this article! I have been craving sugary snacks in the evening as well as craving peanut butter and sliced apples for my afternoon break at work. I have been feeling exhausted everyday from a stressful job! I know I need to give my body more nourishment and rest! Thank you for your great tips!

  30. Hi Elizabeth, I had laser surgery two weeks ago and was told I could not read anything at all for 2 weeks, to prevent my implant from getting stuck in the “near focus” position. Talk about stress! What? I can’t READ?! But somehow I made it through. Today I was catching up on my email and read your article. You are such a wonderful writer. Not only is the information so valuable, but the good energy of your posts and all your commentators is always a pick-me-up, and brings a huge smile to my face and a warm feeling all over like a good hug. Thank you so much for all you do. Such sheer pleasure to READ again, and to have your writing be one of the first things to celebrate my new vision on! Thanks also to your wonderful followers and their good energy too. Just feeling this goes a long way towards mental, emotional, and physical health! I believe this with all my heart.

  31. What a well written informative post! I loved it. Actually I was just eating a lot of raw peanuts and wondering why they tasted so dang good.. Then I stumbled upon your article and realized that it was because I only ate a salad and raw veggies today – definitely not enough! I’ll try to pay more attention to what I eat during the day :)

  32. Regarding comments that PB might be a drug, and one of the posts here remarked that the first time eating PB after a layoff was not particularly pleasant to the mouth, I remember the singer Stevie Wonder’s question. “do you feel that good when you stick a needle in your vein?” For all that, I’ve found this whole discussion very helpful. Will be trying to increase magnesium-rich food intake.

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