Peanut Butter: Good or Bad?

by in Healthy Tips, September 23, 2009

peanut butter
I’m a peanut butter fanatic, but I always warn my clients that all peanut butters are not the same. Peanut butter is good, but some kinds can be bad. Don’t worry — I’ll explain.

Nutrition Facts
One tablespoon of peanut butter (crunchy or smooth) has about 90 to 100 calories, 4 grams of protein and 8 grams of fat. The majority of the fat is the heart-healthy, unsaturated kind; some peanut butter brands have more saturated fat depending on the added ingredients. Peanuts, which are technically legumes and not nuts, also contain healthy doses of niacin (good for your energy levels) and antioxidants like vitamin E and resveratol (the same one you’ll find in red wine). Experts say that peanuts rank right up there with fruits for their high antioxidant content.

What You DON’T Want
Sadly, most of the peanut butters at the market aren’t really peanut butters (at least according to my definition). They’re a mixture of peanuts, sugar and various oils. To keep the peanut spread thick at room temperature, manufacturers add artery-clogging saturated or trans fats. When shopping, scan the ingredients for “partially hydrogenated oil,” “hydrogenated oil” or “palm oil” — those are ones you want to skip.

Reduced-fat peanut butter may also seem like a smarter choice, but it often contains more sugar than the full-fat kind. While the fat content is lower, the total calories aren’t that much different.

What You DO Want
Real peanut butter has two ingredients — peanuts and salt! There’s no need for sugar or extra oils. The biggest complaint I hear about natural peanut butters are about the way the (natural) oils rise to the top. To relieve this “separation anxiety,” all you need to do is mix it up VERY well when you first bring it home and then store it in the refrigerator. A good brand will never separate on you again. Out of all the peanut butters I’ve tried (and there’s been lots of them), my favorite is Trader Joe’s.

The trick to making it a healthy choice is portion control — one tablespoon for a snack and two tablespoons for meal (like in a sandwich). You can also make your own. Some dry roasted peanuts, a sprinkle of salt and a few minutes in the food processor is all you need. If you want a hint of sweetness, add a little agave nectar or honey.

Bottom Line: Avoid all the extra sugar, fat and bad-for-you add-ins by choosing peanut butter made from just peanuts and salt. Period.

TELL US: What’s your favorite brand of peanut butter?

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Comments (75)

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  7. Josee says:

    I didn't know Palm oil was so bad, I was just checking for no trans fat, no hydrogenated oil. I personally do the following: skippy natural cream (if regular shopping at pathmark) trader joes (when I make my way up there, is the best and cheapest) and when I want to "splurge" and get crazy with my Peanut Butter, I go Peanut Butter and Co, love the Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, lots of protein, but a little high on sugar, once a week is okay!!!

  8. Bobbi says:

    Excellent idea, Phil! I think I'll try this next time.

  9. Pankygirl says:

    My favorite has allways been Jif. Now I am a diabetic so I looked for one that I could use. I also like Smuckers. Its the only one Ive tried. Very good peanut taste.

  10. Sarah says:

    I agree. Great brand. We love their organic creamy because even though it's in the fridge it doesn't take much muscle to weasle it onto a sandwich. Most fridge pb's get quite difficult when cold.

  11. Parker says:

    Thanks for the high recommendation. I will try both of them!

  12. Do you like the flavor Linda? I have bought Better n Peanut Butter or Peanut Wonder. It was ok but I so love peanut butter so I found it a bit flat.

  13. Susan says:

    Can't believe after reading this article and knowing the facts you are still buying that horrible stuff!

  14. Beth says:

    Have you tried the natural peanut butters? The artificial Skippy, Peter Pan, Jiff, etc, types do get hard in the 'fridge. However, the natural ones, if stirred up before you put them in the 'fridge (especially if you store them upside ddown first so that the oil gets all the way to the bottom of the jar) stay smooth and creamy even cold.

  15. janie says:

    store the peanut butter upside down until ready to use. this makes it easier to stir.

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