The Worst Type of Peanut Butter Might Surprise You

November is National Peanut Butter Lovers Month. That makes us feel like it’s a month dedicated to our team! We’ve written a lot about our love for nuts. They’re such a healthy snack and delicious. Packed with protein and nutrients, they can be a wonderful part of a healthy diet. And nut butters are an excellent ingredient in both savory and sweet recipes!  

We know that our customers are always trying to make the best choices for their health. We applaud that and want to be a part of your healthy journey. Trying to navigate the supermarket when you are sticking to a healthy diet can be a minefield. And reading the label on everything can be exhausting. It can be easy to buy into the large print on the packaging without taking a closer look. One of the worst offenders for putting a “health halo” on foods is labeling something as low- or reduced-fat and implying that it is always better.

Steer clear of reduced-fat peanut butter. The fat in peanuts is the healthy kind. Yes, you can overeat it. But, reduced-fat peanut butter isn’t a healthier alternative.  

What happens when brands reduce fat in their peanut butter, is that they have to add other ingredients that are less healthy,” said registered dietician Courtney D’Angelo, “for example, sugar or corn syrup may have to be added to compensate for the lack of taste from removing the fat.”

You aren’t getting the health benefits of peanut butter with fewer calories. You’re getting a peanut-based product. In fact, some of them can’t even legally be labeled as peanut butter, but you might not notice because it’s a brand name. JIF Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread is called “spread” because it’s only 60 percent peanuts. The spread has three types of sugar, along with vegetable oils and pea protein added to it. They have to add the pea protein to make it nutritionally similar to peanut butter in protein content to be sold. They also have to add nutrients that would naturally be found in regular peanut butter.

As a dietitian, my least favorite type of peanut butter is ‘reduced fat’ versions,” said registered dietician nutritionist Lauren Manaker. “Many people assume that ‘reduced-fat’ means healthier, and this is not always the case.”

Ms. Manaker pointed out that there are nutritionally less healthy peanut butter options available. Some brands are filled with sugar or mixed with chocolate! But, the biggest problem with the reduced-fat ones is that they can trick us. When you’re in a rush at the store, you grab the one that seems healthy without taking a closer look. You know that the peanut butter and chocolate combo won’t be good for you without having to study it, but “reduced-fat” can be a bait and switch.

You don’t need to buy expensive peanut butter to get good quality. Peanut butter should be made of two ingredients: peanuts and salt. Smuckers Natural Creamy Peanut Butter does fit the bill. But that is one you have to stir. If you want a more traditional version, the no-sugar-added version of JIF is very good. It has some palm oil to keep it solid (so you don’t have to stir), but it’s fine other than that.

This is a good reminder to read labels. It can be shocking what foods have health halos!  

Banner image: Karolina Grabowska via Pexels

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