Evidence Based

Peanut Butter During Pregnancy – Is It Good or Bad?

Kathy Shattler, MS, RDN

Published at 01:36

Peanut butter is a versatile protein option during pregnancy. Photo: Pixel-Shot/shutterstock

Knowing which foods are safe to include in your diet after confirmation that you are pregnant is a common concern. Although allergies to peanuts only affect 1.8% of U.S. children[1] allergic reactions can be fatal, with 40% of allergic children experiencing anaphylactic reactions. 

There is no evidence that pregnant women should avoid peanut butter[2] to prevent future peanut allergies in children, but this is a common misconception.

A CBS news poll of 2,000 pregnant women found that 42% craved peanut butter[3] and pickles. So, knowing if you can safely eat peanut butter during pregnancy seems relevant for almost half of pregnant women.

Peanut butter adds protein, fiber, unsaturated fatty acids, and antioxidants to your diet. However, because it is high in fat and calories, you should watch how much you eat.

Peanut Butter During Pregnancy

  • Peanut butter allergies affect 1.8% of the nation’s children, but no consistent evidence suggests it must be restricted maternally to avoid future allergies.
  • Peanut butter is a nutrient-dense food containing many elements needed for a healthy pregnancy.
  • Pregnant women should limit peanut butter to one serving per day due to the high fat and calorie content.
  • Peanut butter is not a complete protein source since it needs the essential amino acid methionine. 
  • Peanut butter is safe for mothers-to-be when eaten in moderation and is a good source of vegan protein, fiber, and monounsaturated fats.
  • Those on a lectin-free diet must avoid peanut butter.

Eating Peanut Butter During Pregnancy

Eating Peanut Butter During Pregnancy
Eating Peanut Butter During Pregnancy. Photo: VGstockstudio/shutterstock

To get the most out of peanut butter, you need to know its serving size, how many servings you can have daily, and how to choose the healthiest brands when you shop. 

Research on eating peanuts during pregnancy[4] and increasing childhood allergies to peanuts is conflicting and is considered insufficient to advise avoiding peanut-based foods.

What Is A Serving Size?

Two level tablespoons are considered a serving. However, the amount you actually use in a snack or meal may not equal two entire tablespoons, so it is recommended that you measure until you can accurately eyeball it. Get a set of standard measuring spoons to use, and remember to level it off.

How Many Servings Of Peanut Butter Should You Have Daily?

Most dietitians advise limiting peanut butter intake to one serving a day. This is because it contains a high amount of saturated fat and total calories. Eating too much peanut butter may cause excessive weight gain, a problem experienced by almost half of pregnant women.

Too much-saturated fat may cause preeclampsia[5] gestational diabetes, preterm delivery, and poor birth outcomes. A serving of peanut butter has 14 grams of total fat[6] and 2.4 grams of saturated fat, for a total of 181 calories. The listed database is in 100-gram portions, which is 3.5 ounces, with a serving being 1 ounce, and we adjusted values accordingly.

One ounce of beef steak has 33 kcal[7], almost 7 grams of protein, and 0.83 grams of fat. Only 0.35 grams of the 0.83 grams are saturated fat. Beef has 23% fat calories and 10% saturated fat calories.

For the same amount of protein as beef steak, peanut butter has 70% fat calories and 12% saturated fat calories, making it a high-fat protein choice. Fat is 9 kcal per gram, so the amount you can have daily is dependent on your total allowable calories. According to the Dietary Guidelines 2020-2025, pregnant women should not consume[8] more than 10% of their calories as saturated fat and less than 35% total fat kcal.

Choosing The Healthiest Brand 

There are two types of peanut butter. The creamy kind has hydrogenated oils in it, which are higher in saturated fats. Then there is natural peanut butter, which is higher in healthy fats with less saturated fat.

Look for the jar with oil floating at the top, which you must stir to make it creamy. This kind has more polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids and less unhealthy saturated fat from the hydrogenated oils. The label will list hydrogenated fat.

Hydrogenation increases fat saturation; look for brands that contain less of this kind of oil.
 Also, look on the label for sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup and avoid these ingredients if possible. Excess of these sugars has been linked to adverse maternal/fetal outcomes[9].

Benefits of Peanut Butter in Pregnancy


Peanut butter contains the following nutrients[10] per 1-ounce serving*:

  • Iron: 0.53 mg. 
  • Magnesium: 55.14 mg.
  • Zinc: .87 mg.
  • Selenium: 5.77 mcg.
  • Phosphorous: 112 mg.

*values adjusted from 100 grams


There are 1.8 grams of fiber[11] in a serving. Adequate fiber is needed[12] to prevent pregnancy-related constipation. A total intake of 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories[13] is recommended to keep a healthy digestive tract. 

Fiber also curbs hunger during pregnancy. Fiber slows down digestion, promoting a feeling of satiety. Increased satiety leads to less snacking and fulfillment of hunger during pregnancy.

Low-Glycemic Index

The glycemic index measures how fast food raises blood sugar, a concern of most pregnant women who want to prevent gestational diabetes. Sugar-free peanut butter has a glycemic index[14] of only 25, compared to 100 for table sugar. 

Note that this is sugar-free. You must read the peanut butter label, as many brands contain sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup.


Antioxidants like resveratrol and p-coumaric acid in peanut butter may help reduce the oxidative stress[15] commonly seen during pregnancy. Oxidative stress may lead to fetal growth problems, fetal loss, and gestational diabetes. So, getting antioxidants from foods helps reduce the reactive free oxygen species that cause oxidative stress.

Monounsaturated Fat

This kind of fat may increase metabolism and improve sleep quality[16] in pregnant women. Improved sleep quality leads to a better quality of life and improved health. Peanut butter is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, at almost 8 grams a serving.

Risks Of Eating Peanut Butter In Pregnancy

As nutritious as peanut butter can be, it does carry some risks. Peanut butter, for example, is:

Not A Complete Protein Source

Peanut butter is not a complete protein source since it lacks the essential amino acid methionine. A complete protein contains all eight essential amino acids. Methionine-containing foods, such as whole-wheat bread or some yogurt, must be added throughout the day. The body cannot use incomplete protein for tissue synthesis.

The total protein content of peanut butter is only 7 grams, which is low considering all the fat and calories that come with it. But it is a valuable source of protein for vegans who don’t include meat or dairy in their usual diets. The methionine source can be included anytime during the day since your body pools amino acids.

High-Fat, High-Calorie Content

We have already discussed the problem with excess saturated fat and total fat in peanut butter and the risk it poses for maternal complications. Peanut butter, having 70% fat calories, contributes excessive fat calories to the diet. 

At 181 calories per serving, just one extra serving per day over your daily calorie allowance will result in a weight gain exceeding one-fourth pound a week. That is one pound per month or nine pounds during your pregnancy term. Just a tiny caloric excess adds up to significant excess weight gain.

So, it is a food to be enjoyed in limited quantities. The exception to this would be if you are part of that small percentage of women who gain too little weight and need to increase their calories. In that case, peanut butter would be an excellent option for gaining weight.

Lectin Containing Food

Peanut butter has a small amount of lectins, a water-soluble protein that heat usually inactivates, so lectins are highest in the peanuts before roasting. Still, the lectins in peanut butter may cause problems for sensitive individuals. The lectin pathway increases during pregnancy[17] and is associated with intrauterine growth retardation.

Lectins are anti-nutrients that can cause digestive upset[18] and allergic reactions in some individuals and may be more problematic during pregnancy. Anti-nutrients inhibit the body’s ability to absorb other nutrients. Lectins are also associated with auto-immune disorders like arthritis.

Peanut butter has a minimal amount of lectins, so restricting your diet because of this small amount is usually unnecessary unless you are very sensitive to them or are on a lectin-free diet.


Peanut butter is a nutrient-dense food to be enjoyed in moderation. It is high in calories and fat while moderately high in incomplete protein. It is a good source of monounsaturated fats, fiber, and antioxidants that help promote a healthy pregnancy. 

Peanut butter lacks the essential amino acid methionine and must be combined with other foods containing this missing nutrient throughout the day to make a complete protein. Methionine-containing foods include yogurt, whole wheat bread, sunflower seeds, and black beans. 

More than one serving of peanut butter daily can result in excessive fat intake and gestational weight gain. There is conflicting and inconclusive evidence that avoiding peanut butter during pregnancy has any future effect on childhood allergies, so it should not be avoided for this reason. When it is eaten within limits, peanut butter is an excellent vegan source of protein and other nutrients that can fit into a balanced diet for pregnancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does eating pomegranate during pregnancy cause blood sugar problems?

One pomegranate may have 34 grams of sugar and cause a blood sugar spike. Eating fresh fruit with fiber instead of juice improves blood sugar control.

What happens if I overeat peanut butter?

You may gain too much weight and get too much fat in your diet. Too much dietary fat has been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes.

How much peanut butter is in a serving?

Two-level tablespoons is a serving, and most dietitians recommend one daily. A serving is about 1 ounce.

Should you avoid peanut butter to reduce the chances of your child getting allergies to peanuts?

The current research does not support the association between maternal peanut consumption and the development of peanut allergies in children.

What is the healthiest peanut butter brand to buy?

Buy the brand with oil floating at the top or natural peanut butter to lower your saturated fat intake. Also, read labels and avoid too much sugar and high-fructose corn syrup in your chosen brand.

Kathy Shattler, a Registered Dietitian for over 25 years, operates a Telehealth Clinic and freelances as a writer. Holding a Master’s in Human Nutrition from Michigan State University, her expertise spans clinical nutrition and public health. Recognized as a pioneer in her field, Kathy continually pursues excellence in integrative medicine public health education, and her writing endeavors.


MANA adheres to strict sourcing guidelines, avoids most tertiary sources, and uses only professional resources updated to contain accurate and current information. We majorly rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research from reputable medical associations. For more information regarding our editorial process, please refer to the provided resources.

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