Does Peanut Butter Lower Cortisol? Yes—Here’s Why

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

Does Peanut Butter Lower Cortisol? Yes, it does! 

Peanut butter isn’t just a delicious comfort food. It’s also a rich source of beta-sitosterol, a natural compound that can help lower cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone.  

Discover the health benefits of eating peanut butter and learn how just two tablespoons daily may lower stress levels, support the immune system, and promote balanced blood sugar levels. 

Peanut butter jar

What is cortisol?

During periods of stress, the adrenal glands convert cholesterol into cortisol, a steroid hormone that regulates metabolic pathways and energy-making processes to sustain the body during stressful events such as injury, trauma, surgery, or exercise. 

Cortisol plays an essential role in the body’s fight or flight response by mitigating the physiological effects of acute stress. Once the stressor passes, cortisol levels return to normal levels. 

However, chronic stress can lead to excessive cortisol levels linked to various negative effects and health problems.  

Watch the video below to learn if you can enjoy peanut butter on a low-carb ketogenic diet. 

Symptoms of high cortisol

Elevated cortisol is linked to serious health problems, including diminished insulin sensitivity, impaired sleep quality and brain function, a greater risk of heart disease, and weight gain, also known as adrenal body type

Here are some common warning signs of high cortisol:

  • Weak immune system

  • Insomnia 

  • High blood pressure

  • Unexplained weight gain 

  • Muscle weakness

  • Digestive issues and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

  • Skin problems 

  • Hair loss

  • Anxiety

  • Brain fog

  • Memory problems 

Cortisol illustration

How does peanut butter lower cortisol?

Peanut butter is incredibly nutritious and contains several health-promoting and protective nutrients, including vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, and unsaturated and monounsaturated fats. 

Peanut butter is also a rich source of beta-sitosterol, a phytosterol structurally similar to cholesterol that has been found to lower cortisol production.

A study published in The Clinical Journal of Nutrition investigated the potential stress-relieving properties of peanut butter and concluded, “Roasted peanuts and peanut butter consumption may enhance memory function and reduces stress responses in a healthy young population.”

The exact link between beta-sitosterols and lower cortisol levels isn’t yet fully understood. However, phytosterols can balance cholesterol concentrations, thereby buffering steroid hormone production, which may explain why consuming peanut butter can lower cortisol. 

In addition, peanut butter contains the amino acid tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin. This crucial neurotransmitter directly suppresses cortisol production and can help lower anxiety and stress levels. 

Research published in Psychoneuroendocrinology confirms that dietary tryptophan can significantly reduce stress-induced cortisol levels.  

If you have a peanut allergy or don’t like to eat peanut butter, it doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the cortisol-lowering effects of beta-sitosterols. Popular nut butters, including sunflower or almond butter, are also rich sources of beta-sitosterols and offer the same health benefits.  

Heart drawn on peanut butter

Other benefits of beta-sitosterol

Beta-sitosterols are naturally occurring compounds found in various foods such as nuts, seeds, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, avocado, and cauliflower. 

“Beta-sitosterols are a truly unique group of plant-derived phytosterols with profound benefits for human health,” explains Dr. Berg.

Here are six potential health benefits of beta-sitosterols.

1. Heart health  

Because beta-sitosterols are structurally similar to cholesterol, they help regulate cholesterol balance in the body by lowering levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and, at the same time, raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL) linked to a lower risk of atherosclerosis.  

2. Immune defenses 

Phytosterols can stimulate specific immune cells such as T-cells, macrophages, and natural killer (NK) cells.

By increasing the activity of immune cells, beta-sitosterols boost the body’s defenses against invading microbes, help combat inflammation, and may prevent cancer development.  


3. Cognitive health 

Research published in BioMed Research International found that beta-sitosterols have anti-inflammatory properties and are particularly beneficial in lowering inflammation in the central nervous system. 

Neuroinflammation is associated with a range of cognitive issues such as memory loss, brain fog, and lack of focus and significantly increases the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's disease. 

Prostate enlargement symptoms

4. Prostate health  

Beta-sitosterols may be beneficial for men with prostate enlargement and may improve urine flow and the frequent need to urinate at night, also known as nocturia. 

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone derived from testosterone, plays a role in the development of prostate enlargement. Beta-sitosterol is believed to inhibit the enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into DHT, which may help prevent excessive prostate growth.

5. Blood sugar control 

Beta-sitosterols may benefit individuals with high blood sugar, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes. 

Phytosterols can enhance insulin sensitivity, which is a measurement of how well your cells respond to insulin. Insulin is the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels and energy production. 

6. Cancer Prevention

Evidence published in Chemico-Biological Interactions found that beta-sitosterol can trigger apoptosis, or programmed cell death, of certain cancerous cells. 

In addition, it’s believed that phytosterol's ability to lower inflammation and boost immune cell function also plays a role in reducing the risk of various cancers, including prostate, breast, liver, and colon cancer.

Keto foods

Is peanut butter keto-friendly?

Yes, peanut butter is keto-friendly. It’s a low-carb food rich in healthy fat, making it an excellent choice for a nutritious low-carb diet like Healthy Keto®

You can find peanut butter in many varieties, such as organic peanut butter, crunchy peanut butter, and creamy peanut butter, and it’s crucial to pick the right one. 

While traditional peanut butter is made using only peanuts and salt, many commercial peanut butters contain added sugars that can quickly exceed your daily net carb counts and kick you out of ketosis. 

Many foods are treated with pesticides—including peanuts—which may increase the risk of liver damage, fertility issues, and central nervous problems. 

Check the product labels and opt for a sugar-free and certified organic brand. Alternatively, it’s incredibly easy to make your own peanut butter. Simply blend organic peanuts with a pinch of Himalayan pink salt in a high-speed food processor until smooth.

Peanut butter is a versatile ingredient that can add depth of flavor to a wide range of dishes and can be used to make delicious keto treats such as these chocolate coconut keto fat bombs or keto peanut butter cookies.

Peanut butter nutrition facts

According to data published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), two tablespoons (30 grams) of natural peanut butter contains:

  • 190 calories 

  • 16 grams total fat content 

    • 3 grams unsaturated fat

    • 10 grams monounsaturated fat 

    • 3 grams polyunsaturated fat 

  • 8 grams protein 

  • 6 grams total carbs

    • 2 grams dietary fiber

    • 4 grams net carbs

  • 8 grams of protein

Woman licking peanut butter off a finger

Key takeaways

Does peanut butter lower cortisol? Yes, it does. 

Peanut butter is a rich source of beta-sitosterol, a natural compound that helps to keep cortisol levels balanced, which reduces stress and anxiety levels and is linked to improved well-being and lower risk of disease. 

If you don’t love peanut butter, opt for other types of nut butter, such as sunflower or almond butter, which also contain beta-sitosterols and offer the same health benefits.  


1. Does peanut butter lower cortisol levels?

Yes! Peanut butter contains beta-sitosterol, a naturally occurring phytosterol that has been found to downregulate cortisol production, which may explain why eating peanut butter has stress-relieving properties. 

2. Does a spoonful of peanut butter drop cortisol levels?

According to a study published in The Clinical Journal of Nutrition, two tablespoons of peanut butter per day can help lower cortisol levels and reduce stress. 

3. What foods reduce cortisol levels?

Several foods are believed to have the potential to lower cortisol levels, such as nuts, avocados, blueberries, fatty fish, chia seeds, dark chocolate, and green tea.

4. Does peanut butter reduce stress?

While peanut butter itself does not reduce stress, it can support the body’s fight or flight response during periods of stress. 

Peanut butter contains beta-sitosterols with cortisol-lowering properties and is a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan, which can help lower anxiety and stress levels. 

5. What is beta-sitosterol?

Beta-sitosterol is a type of phytosterol with a similar structure to cholesterol. Dietary intake of beta-sitosterol has many potential health benefits, including lower cortisol and balanced cholesterol levels, and may lower the risk of cancer and prostate enlargement.   

6. How does beta-sitosterol lower cortisol?

The exact link between beta-sitosterol and reduced cortisol levels isn’t clear yet. However, it’s thought that phytosterols help to regulate steroid hormone production, which may explain why eating peanut butter has been found to lower cortisol levels. 

7. How much peanut butter can I have on keto?

How much peanut butter you can have on keto depends on your daily net carb limit to maintain ketosis and your overall carb intake on any specific day. 

Two tablespoons of natural peanut butter have four grams of net carbs and should be included in your daily net carb count. 

8. How much peanut butter does it take to reduce stress?

Evidence suggests that consuming two tablespoons of peanut butter daily can help lower cortisol and reduce stress levels. 

9. What are the best sources of beta-sitosterol?

Peanut butter is an excellent source of beta-sitosterol. However, individuals with peanut allergies or arachibutyrophobia (the fear of getting peanut butter stuck to the roof of the mouth) can opt for other food sources of beta-sitosterols such as nuts and seeds, avocados, Brussels sprout, broccoli, and cauliflower. 

10. Is peanut butter good for your brain?

Peanut butter is a rich source of brain health-promoting fats, including unsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These fats are an essential component of brain cells, play a crucial role in producing neurotransmitters, and have been found to protect the central nervous system from oxidative stress and inflammation.

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