peanut butter for children

What is peanut butter?

Peanut butter is a smooth creamy paste prepared with peanut as the main and dominant ingredient.

A little peanut oil is added to one or two cups of dried peanuts and baked well. Then baked peanuts blended with a little sugar and honey to get the peanut butter. A little salt also may be added, if desired. The blending is done so as to obtain a creamy soft paste called peanut butter. Readily available peanut powder may also be used instead of peanuts.

Peanut butter has been in use in the United States for more than 200 years. U.S is the major exporter of peanut butter to the rest of the world. In recent times, peanut butter is being used by most countries.

Nutrition information

Peanut butter is a high energy food. It also contains high amount of fat and protein in addition to a number of vitamins and minerals.

100gm. of unsalted peanut butter provides 588 calories of energy, 20gm. carbohydrates, and 4.8gm. Starch, 9.28gm. Sugar, 6 gm. dietary fiber, 50gm. fat and 25 gm. protein.

It contains niacin (B3) 13.2mg (88% RDA), Vitamin (B6) 0.55mg (42%RDA), Vitamin E 5.9mg (39%RDA), pantothenic acid 1.1mg (22%RDA), thiamine (B1) 0.11mg (10%RDA), Riboflavin (B2) 0.11mg (9%RDA), folate (B9) 35 microgram (9%RDA).

It contains a number of minerals. They are: Manganese1.5mg (71%RDA), Magnesium 179 mg (50% RDA), Phosphorous 335mg (48%RDA), Zinc 2.7mg (28% RDA), Iron 2.2mg (17% RDA), Potassium 649mg (14% RDA) and Calcium 54mg (5% RDA).

Health benefits of peanut butter

Many health benefits are derived from peanut butter. Most important of them are:

  1. Controlling hunger, thereby helping weight reduction program
  2. Decrease the risk of coronary heart diseases and cardiovascular problems
  3. Reduction of incidence of colon cancer in women
  4. High niacin content Prevents Alzheimer’s disease
  5. Reduces the risk of formation of gallstones
  6. Contain heart friendly mono saturated fat
  7. Potassium, magnesium, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin E and antioxidants in it help reduce the risk of heart diseases and strengthens the muscles and bones.

Precautions

While the benefits from peanut butter are many for adults, the benefits accruing to children are different. Parents, in general have to be very careful in introducing any new variety of food to children.

For children up to 12 or 18 months of age, peanut butter is bit of a high risk food. After that age, the digestive system of babies grow and develop sufficient immunity fit enough to consume food items other than mother’s milk or any other milk.

Below are the precautions you should take before introducing peanut butter to a baby:

  1. If one of the parent is allergic to peanuts, then test the child for peanut allergy before introducing peanut butter. According to an estimate, about 4 to 6% people are allergic to peanuts.
  2. Peanut butter causes a hazard called choking. Hence introducing peanut butter is safe only after 12 or 18 months for a baby even where there is no family history of allergy. While introducing the butter, start with small quantities and then gradually increase it. Even the small quantity must be by spreading or mixing with other foods like bread. This is to enable the baby to properly chew the butter without it sticking to their tongue.

Observe the baby for three days while testing for peanut allergy. You must give the butter only after three days. You can increase the quantity as the child grows.

Health benefits of peanut butter for children

Energy for growth

Peanut butter contains high levels of protein which is the most important ingredient to develop strength in a child. As this protein is natural plant protein, it is a good energy source for the child. This protein hence does not have any side effect in comparison with animal protein.

Source of vitamins and minerals

Most of the vital vitamins and minerals essential for the growth of a child are present in peanut butter. In addition to providing high calories of energy, peanut butter also provides high amounts of niacin, vitamin B 6, vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium. They also have many other vitamins and minerals that help in the all round development of the child from a tender age.

Protection from anti-oxidants

Even as the child grows, the metabolism in the body produces harmful free radicals. The antioxidants in peanut butter eradicate these free radicals.

Immune system

A very important biochemical called resveratrol is present in high amount in peanut butter. This biochemical is a very good fighter of diseases and protector of immune system in the child.

Brain development

Omega 3 fatty acids present in peanut butter enhances the development of brain in the child. Peanut butter is the best alternative for those who do not consume fish which is the best source of omega 3 fatty acid.

Peanut butter based foods are used in famine struck countries to fight malnutrition.

Expert Medical Opinion – By Dr. HemaPriya, MBBS, AFIH

1.     Peanut is very tasty and addictive, especially for children. How much peanut butter is good for children?
You can give 1 or 2 tbsp. But while introducing give little and then gradually increase the quantity.
2.     Can a toddler eat peanut butter?
Avoid giving exclusive peanut butter (choking hazard). You can add it with bread or roti and give small pieces. Homemade peanut butter is only recommended –  https://www.mylittlemoppet.com/homemade-peanut-butter/
3.     Does regular consumption of peanut butter support good brain development?
 Yes, Peanuts are considered to be a brain food as it’s loaded with the nutrients that are crucial for cognitive development, boost memory and help the brain functioning.
4.     How to identify if a child is allergic to peanuts?
There might be allergic reactions. 
  • Skin reactions, such as hives, redness or swelling.
  • Itching or tingling in or around the mouth and throat.
  • Digestive problems, such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea or vomiting.
  • Tightening of the throat.
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing.
  • Runny nose.

Side effects

Some pediatricians recommend that you give peanut butter to children ]only after three years of age so that they become more allergy resistant. However, on the basis of family history of allergy, you can introduce peanut butter after one year.

Ramya Srinivasan, PDGBA, earned her Master’s degree in Business. As a result of her passion in native medicine, she got her Diploma in Traditional Siddha Medicine from Bharat Sevak Samaj registered under the Indian Planning Commission. She is certified by Stanford University School of Medicine in Introduction to Food and Health.