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)

  1. alicia says:

    I love peter pan pb with honey, I'm sure it's not the but it's super yummy! I'm eager to try Trader Joe's PB, but the last time I went there were like 3 different types/brands. TJ lovers, which brand do you recommend? HELP!!

  2. Carol Daniel says:

    We got into the habit of buying Arrowhead Mills (unsalted) a long time ago. We don't have Trader Joe's here. I also have almond butter in the fridge. If we are in Central Maket, I buy freshly made.

  3. Nutritionist says:

    Reseach has it that all of Jimmy Carters relatives died of pancreatic cancer! Why was this when they had grown up on their family "peanut farm"!? It's not the oil. As a Certified Nutritionist I can tell you it's the MOLD. Sadly, no one investigates food like I do!! If you are not a pH balanced person peanuts will make you sick even kill you. Why do schoolsl and hospitals (in Canada) BAN peanuts and peanut butter?? Anything heated and crammed in a jar or can should be avoided. To be safe try making your own butters-keep the old jar to fool younger inexperienced kids, ha, ha. Please realize that healthier alternatives do exist and a grain of real mineral sea salt about the whole deal is very satisfying! Salt is not tabu if the right kind. Mine has 30 minerals naturally, does yours? Don't go for cheap, go for quality people!! No counting calories either people. Don't sacrifice good fats for bad fats jut because of the number!! Get the facts.The real butter is REAL BUTTER, but that's another topic. Don't eat plastic!!

  4. sis, Kat says:

    thanx, Zack for the info site, Mom will not be buying a low grade food products that satisfiy an emotional group of people that have not been educated sorry. As a teen you will have to make a better nut butter from a superior legume! Tuff love, I know, but remember that all live to be 100 in mom's family!!

  5. Albert says:

    Hi, there. Nice post. Studies have proved that peanut butter provides health benefits such as protection against cardiovascular diseases Alzheimer etc. Unfortunately, processed peanut butter may not offer all these health benefits and can even contain trans-fat.

  6. Walt says:

    Skippy peanut butter crunchy!!

  7. Cerise Rowan says:

    Laura Scudder's Natural… nutty… funny, client and I were talking about this today. LSN peanut butter on toasted Trader Joe's corn rye bread…. OMG…. the breakfast I look forward too and almost no clean up… second best, San Luis whole wheat sour dough bread…….LSN on apple slices…. on celery…. on bananas
    Client was saying the stirring is a pain, but we agreed, to us, best flavor….
    Local Von's (yicky store) had a honey roasted fresh peanut butter that is pretty good when you want a desert kind of flavor….

    client tells me he eats if from the jar (less clean up than my method) and mixes it with mayonnaise… I don't get that one….

  8. Lauren says:

    I LOVE PB2 powdered peanut butter!!!!!!!!!!!!

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