Can I Eat Peanut Butter While Pregnant?

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Peanut butter is a low-cost, readily available, simple-to-prepare source of protein that lots of people find enjoyable. For many, it makes a great snack or meal during pregnancy. However, some pregnant people may wonder if it's off-limits. Specifically, they question if they should avoid eating it due to a potential risk of causing nut allergy in their baby.

However, peanut butter can safely be eaten while pregnant. In fact, not only is it considered safe by medical experts, it is encouraged. "It's specifically recommended to not avoid potentially allergenic foods in pregnancy or lactation unless medically warranted," explains Christie Naze, RD, CDE, a clinical dietician at the Oregon Health Sciences University Center for Women’s Health.

Eating Peanut Butter During Pregnancy

"Enjoy your peanut butter," says Diana E. Ramos, MD, MPH, an OB-GYN and adjunct associate professor at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. In addition to being a tasty, ready-to-eat food, peanut butter also has a number of health benefits.

Peanut butter is a good source of protein, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, niacin, and vitamin B-6. On the other hand, peanut butter is also high in calories, saturated fats, and sodium.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about eating peanut butter while pregnant.

Is It Safe for Baby?

Yes, eating peanut butter while pregnant is safe for you and your baby, says Dr. Ramos, as long as you aren't allergic.

In the past, pregnant people were advised to abstain from peanut butter. The guidance had been based upon the belief that consuming peanut butter during pregnancy would make the baby more susceptible to peanut allergy. However, researchers have found that the reverse is true. Exposing babies to peanut butter in the womb helps to prevent the allergy—and not eating it makes the allergy more likely.

So, if you like peanut butter and don't have a peanut allergy yourself, it is recommended that you eat it during pregnancy. Doing so can help protect your baby from developing this potentially dangerous food allergy, says Dr. Ramos.

Benefits of Eating Peanut Butter During Pregnancy

When eaten in moderation, peanut butter can be part of a healthy prenatal diet. Eating it during pregnancy can also help prevent peanut allergy in your baby. There are no health concerns associated with eating store-bought peanut butter, says Naze. With homemade, natural, or processed peanut butter, just be sure it is stored properly and is fresh when eaten.

Nutritional Benefits

"There are a lot of healthy fats and nutrients in peanut butter, and you can combine it with other healthy foods—apples, celery, bananas, and of course, make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich," says Dr. Ramos. However, the doctor also recommends being mindful of portion size to avoid consuming excess fat, calories, and sodium. "A balanced healthy diet is what should be strived for."

Naze adds that she also encourages including a mix of nuts and seeds in your diet rather than only eating peanuts. So consider adding options like sunflower seed butter and cashew butter as well.

Preventing Peanut Allergies

"Studies are now demonstrating that eating peanuts in pregnancy can decrease the likelihood of your baby having a peanut allergy," says Dr. Ramos. Peanuts and tree nuts are among the most common and deadly food allergies in both children and adults. (While these allergies are separate, many people have both).

About 1 in 13 children in the U.S. have a food allergy. Peanut and tree nut allergies are among the most common.

Researchers are trying to figure out why the number of kids who are diagnosed with these life-threatening food allergies is on the rise. One factor may be the former practice of abstaining from peanut butter during pregnancy and delaying its introduction to babies and young children. This thought is why it's now recommended to eat peanut butter during pregnancy.

Safety Precautions

If you have a peanut allergy, you should continue to abstain from peanuts due to the danger of having an allergic reaction. "Don’t eat it if you are allergic to peanuts," agrees Dr. Ramos.

Additionally, you'll want to discuss the best timing and method for introducing peanut butter to your baby once they start eating solid foods to ensure that it is done safely. That said, it is still usually recommended that peanut butter is introduced before baby's first birthday even if one or both parents are allergic.

The good news is that following the new guidelines of introducing peanut butter to babies earlier (often recommended between 4 to 11 months old) and serving it regularly reduces the likelihood of them developing a peanut allergy by 81%. Crucially, these benefits were found in children at high risk of getting peanut allergies, which include those whose parent or sibling has the allergy.

If your child does end up with a peanut allergy, evidence shows that about 20% will outgrow their allergy. However, you should not let a child diagnosed with a peanut allergy eat peanuts before you have consulted with your allergist. An allergist can safely test whether your child has outgrown their allergy.

A Word From Verywell

Eating peanut butter is a nutritious option during pregnancy. Even better, enjoying peanut butter may help prevent your baby from developing a peanut allergy. So, enjoy a PB&J, order a peanut curry, or dip your favorite fruits and veggies into the nut butter knowing that doing so is both delicious and healthy for you and your baby.

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7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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