Peanut butter is a must have in any healthy pantry. The spread is high in protein, high in healthy fats, and a good source of niacin (35% DV of the vitamin that supports energy metabolism) and a good source of magnesium (13% DV of muscle and nerve function – regulating nutrient). The fact that it is an affordable ingredient makes it all the more attractive.
But to get the most bang for your buck, there are a few jars of peanut butter to avoid, and many Dietitians say the worst type of peanut butter you can buy is low-fat peanut butter.
Why the Worst # 1 Peanut Butter You Can Buy Is Low Fat.
“As a nutritionist, my least favorite type of peanut butter is ‘low-fat’ versions,” he says Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, Founder of Nutrition Now Counseling and author of Fueling Male Fertility. “A lot of people assume that ‘low fat’ means healthier, and this is not always the case.”
When peanut butter is stripped of its fat, manufacturers replenish it with other, less healthy ingredients. “Peanuts contain fat naturally, and in addition to some health benefits, the fat helps make the nut butter taste really good. When the fat is removed, sugar is often added to make up for the lack of satisfying taste,” says Manaker.
These sweeteners turn the spread less into a healthy fat food than into a carbohydrate. “Many are often made from corn syrup solids, sugar, and other carbonaceous ingredients and don’t know that a serving of this type of peanut butter is considered a full-carbohydrate serving,” says Manaker. “Take that on the carbohydrates you ingested with your jelly and two slices of bread and you may ingest more carbohydrates than you might think, which can lead to high blood sugar or weight gain,” along with other side effects of eating too much peanut butter.
Low-fat PBs aren’t the only unhealthy peanut butter. There are many flavored jars loaded with extra sugar, but Manaker believes that fat loss is the worst option because of its health halo: “While there are brands of peanut butter mixed with ingredients like chocolate that not many people know that these options for healthy PB are not a healthy sub. Low or low fat versions sound healthy, which can lead to overeating, “says Manaker.
The story goes on
Let’s take a closer look at the nutritional information for a low-fat peanut butter.
JIF Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread is one of the worst culprits, says Manaker. The jar is called a “spread” rather than plain peanut butter for a reason – It’s only 60% peanuts! To be considered peanut butter, 90% of the product must be real peanuts. According to the FDA, the seasoning and stabilization of ingredients must not exceed 10 percent of the weight of the finished food.
The rest of the glass is full of it three types of sugar (Corn syrup solids, sugar and molasses), Vegetable oils (fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, mono- and diglycerides), Pea protein (to add protein as a significant amount is removed as not as many high protein peanuts are used), and it’s fortified with some Micronutrients like magnesium, folic acid and zinc.
The reason JIF must contain pea protein is because, according to the USDA, peanut spread “must be nutritionally equivalent to peanut butter”. Since the formulation is only 60% peanuts, this would result in a product that only contains 4 grams of protein. So JIF uses pea protein up to the standard 7 grams, which is the same reason JIF micronutrients its PB. Peanut butter naturally contains magnesium, niacin, and these other vitamins and minerals. So the brand needs to add these back as less peanuts are used.
What should you buy instead?
What should you look for in healthy peanut butter? Manaker recommends sticking to a simple list of ingredients: peanuts and salt. No need to look for fancy brands – Manaker likes Smucker’s Natural Creamy Peanut Butter. (Just know that to combine it, you have to stir it first. Then stick it in the fridge and it stays nice and spreadable like a no-stir version.) And we don’t want to hate JIF too much. The popular brand is a great option: a glass with no added sugar. It has some palm oil to make it spreadable, but otherwise it’s just peanuts and salt – so it actually counts as peanut butter.
For more options, we’ve also put together a guide to the healthiest peanut butter brands you can buy.
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