The Real Reason Peanut Butter Cravings Are So Powerful

Peanut butter knows how to press our buttons. Cravings for Skippy, Adams Natural Peanut Butter, and their ilk are common because they often bring the salt, the sugar, and the fat — three things our bodies really enjoy consuming (via HuffPost). And while science has confirmed that eating celery burns more calories than the stalks actually contain (via Food & Wine), the same most definitely cannot be said of smooth, creamy peanut butter, which goes down so easily while really bringing the calories. Whether you're looking at the Skippy nutritional info or the Adams nutrition facts, the answer is the same: 2 tablespoons of the stuff has 190 calories. If you give in fully to your peanut butter craving and eat an entire 14-ounce jar, you will consume 2,660 calories — more than most people need in a whole day, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

We asked celebrity chef, nutritionist, and reiki master Serena Poon for some tips on how to stave off peanut butter cravings well before we're looking at the bottom of the jar. Poon, the founder of Just Add Water superfoods and her Culinary Alchemy healing programs, brings a holistic set of solutions to our peanut butter problem.

Sometimes a craving can be conquered by eating a small amount of peanut butter

Peanut butter has a lot of what our body needs. Fat in moderation is good for us, and peanut oil in particular provides some health benefits (via Healthline). Adams peanut butter has an impressive 8 grams of protein per 2-tablespoon serving, per the brand's website, and peanut butter also has some vitamins and minerals. But nutritionist Serena Poon says our cravings for peanut butter most likely don't stem from its dietary benefits. "It would be unlikely for someone in the United States to be deficient in fat or protein," she said. A lot of times, food cravings are rooted in stress or a person's emotional state, according to Poon. She added that people on low-fat diets that promise quick results can be more susceptible to a peanut butter craving.

What to do when the peanut butter urge hits? "Oftentimes, if you have a strong craving I recommend eating a small amount of that food," Poon said. She would prefer you eat an all-natural product over the more processed peanut butter brands, which can have added oils, sugar, and excess sodium. If it turns out that you can't stop at just one spoonful of peanut butter, Poon said a glass of water or a walk around the block could help. For more deep-seated emotional heating, however, Poon calls for more thorough interventions.

Some peanut butter cravers may benefit from meditation, Serena Poon says

If short walks or glasses of water don't cut the peanut butter craving, then Serena Poon said people should turn to mindfulness, to try to separate their emotional state from their physical hunger. "Developing a mindfulness practice can help you increase your emotional awareness and response," Poon said. "If your cravings are mostly emotion-based, practices such as mindful eating and meditation can help you regulate emotions and tune into your natural appetite signals."

It may not be easy for an individual to distinguish emotional eating from genuine hunger. An athlete, for example, may crave the salt in peanut butter because they are dehydrated. A simple solution in this case would be something salty and less calorific, Poon said, such as a bone broth or an electrolyte supplement.

A craving for peanut butter also could signal a deficiency in some of the food's micronutrients, such as niacin, magnesium, or manganese, Poon said. Someone with a persistent peanut butter craving would do well to see a nutritionist to check their vitamin levels. If your physical health checks out, Poon emphasizes that you need to focus on your mind, too, and "address any psychological things that could be impacting your eating habits."