People are often surprised to learn that only 60 percent of reduced-fat Jif peanut butter is peanuts; the other forty percent includes corn syrup solids, soy protein, and hydrogenated oils. “Natural” Jif, meanwhile, is 90 percent peanuts; the remaining ten percent composed of palm oil, sugar, and molasses.
The best thing you can do from a health standpoint is eat real peanut butter; that is to say, 100% ground-up peanuts (varieties that only contain peanuts and salt are fine too; some quick math reveals they contain roughly 99.5% peanuts and 0.5% salt).
Over the past few weeks, I have been asked via e-mail and Twitter about niche peanut butter brands that claim to be “better” and “healthier” versions. Despite their self-described hoopla of nutritional superiority, they manage to remove one of peanut butter’s most healthful components.
Better’n Peanut Butter “boasts” an 85 percent reduction in fat grams and a 40 percent reduction in total calories. While a 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter contains 16 grams of fat and 200 calories, their product clocks in at 2 grams of fat and 100 calories. According to the folks at Better’n Peanut Butter, “those regular high calorie, high fat peanut butters won’t cut it”.
In reality, extremely low-fat peanut butter doesn’t cut it. One of the main nutritional highlights of peanut butter is its high oleic acid content (the same heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acid prominent in olive oil, avocados, almonds, and pecans that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and beneficial cardiovascular effects).
Decreasing peanut butter’s monounsaturated fat content by 85 percent makes as much sense as stripping away most of the soluble fiber from oats or calcium from kale.
Better’n Peanut Butter’s unnecessarily-convoluted ingredient list should be enough to make you reach for real peanut butter:
“Peanuts (as defatted peanut flour and natural peanut butter), tapioca syrup, pure water, dehydrated cane juice, rice syrup, vegetable glycerin, soy flour, salt, tapioca starch, natural food flavors, paprika & annato, calcium carbonate, lecithin, vitamin E & C (antioxidants)”
The folks at PB2, meanwhile, mention that “ingredients include roasted peanuts, salt, and sugar”. There are no other additives, they claim. Instead, they simply press roasted peanuts and squeeze 85% of the oil out. Again — what a shame.
These “enhanced” and “diet-friendly” peanut butter products stem from outdated low-fat dogma and strict calorie counting taken to an extreme. Skip them; eat actual peanuts and buy real peanut butter (heck, if you have a high-powered blender like the Vitamix, grind your own).
When in doubt, always remember my food mantra: “keep it real and keep it simple”.
UPDATE: I was asked about “Naturally More” peanut butter in the comments section.
Billed as “what peanut butter should be”, it advertises 50 percent more fiber, 25 percent more protein, and 20 percent fewer carbohydrates (the latter is rather silly, considering peanut butter is not even moderately high in carbohydrates).
The ingredient list reveals:
Roasted Peanuts, Wheat Germ, Flax Seed, Cane Sugar, Egg Whites, Honey, Flaxseed Oil
Meh. While it is nice to see peanuts’ fat remain intact, all this tinkering and “enhancement” is unnecessary. Let peanut butter be peanut butter.