Peanut butter is a staple dietary item across many households in the U.S. Unless you have a peanut allergy, it’s more than likely that you’ve enjoyed the delicious treat in one way or another, whether it’s in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or simply digging in with a spoon directly into the jar (no judgments here).
While the delicious spread does hold some nutritional value – it’s a rich source of protein and magnesium – the true health benefits all depend on which brand you choose to buy and the ingredients.
In this article, we’ll be exploring the ins and outs of what constitutes a healthy jar of peanut butter.
Is Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter Better?
According to research done by dietitians, the better peanut butter to buy in bulk may not be the one you think. Traditionally, when you see the words “reduced-fat” written on a food product, you assume that it is the healthier option. However, when it comes to the peanut spread we all love, research suggests that this may not be the case.
When peanut butterfat is removed, manufacturers often replace it with sweeteners to compensate for the taste, including corn syrup solids and sugar. In turn, this not only strips the product of its natural healthy fats but transforms it into a heavy carb substance, which can have worse health consequences for consumers in the long run.
Thus, because there are many versions of peanut butter with increased amounts of sugar, seeing one being presented as a reduced-fat option that seems healthy may lead to their overconsumption.
Adding reduced-fat peanut butter to already high-in-carbohydrates bread and jelly only makes matters worse. The medical effects of a high intake of carbohydrates include an increased risk of diabetes and obesity.
According to the FDA, for a jar to be considered peanut butter, it needs to consist of 90% peanuts. However, many reduced-fat options only use 60% of the nut. Advertising agencies are aware of this and are careful to label the jars as peanut butter “spreads” rather than just plain old “peanut butter.” This seemingly small detail in wording can be very deceptive.
Additionally, in order for reduced-fat versions of peanut butter to be considered nutritionally equivalent to their natural counterparts, pea protein is added to match the natural protein amount. Whilst pea protein does offer some health benefits, such as being rich in iron, the substitute is known to have high levels of sodium. Therefore, if you are following a sodium-restricted diet, you may want to watch out for this.
A Look Towards a Healthier Future
So, how can you ensure that you are investing in the healthiest option available?
The answer is simple. Next time you’re browsing your local supermarket for a jar of peanut butter, have a look at the label. The rule of thumb is the smaller the ingredient list, the better (and more likely healthier) the jar of peanut butter.
To get the most health benefits out of your peanut butter experience, dieticians encourage you to look for options that simply state the ingredients as being peanuts and salt. Additionally, beware of peanut butter jars which are advertised as having “reduced-fat.” Despite their seemingly health-conscious labeling, these are often the jars that pose the highest risk to those trying to cut down on sugar and carbs and are to be avoided at all costs.
Are you a lover of peanut butter? Do you often find yourself diving into a jar, spoon in hand? We’d love to hear your opinion on the topic. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment in the section below.