Let’s look behind the buzzwords to see if Peanut Butters are as healthy as they seem. We compared Smuckers, Jiff, Skippy, and Peter Pan brands. Here’s how they rank in order from most to least healthy.
What are we looking for in a Peanut Butter?
We are looking for a Peanut Butter that fits the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendation to limit added sugar, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. On ingredient lists, they appear as sugar, corn syrup solids, molasses, honey, palm oil, hydrogenated oil, fully hydrogenated oil, and salt.
How do they line up?
#1- Natural Stir:
Smuckers was the only brand that had the stir option. The only ingredients were peanuts or peanuts and salt!
#2- No Added Sugar:
I only found this in the Jiff brand. It’s basically their Natural No Stir peanut butter without sugar.
#3- Natural No Stir:
Usually All Natural means that the hydrogenated oils have been replaced with a naturally occurring oil. No Stir peanut butters usually use palm oil, which is solid at room temperature but high in saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to around 5% of total calories. Read The Skinny on Dietary Fat for more info.
#3 & 4 Reduced Fat & Omega 3 and DHA
Reduced Fat- These varieties are usually a little lower in fat but higher in sugar. They also may still contain hydrogenated vegetable oils. You also might see multiple forms of sugar like corn syrup solids and molasses and a higher gram amount of sugar on the Nutrition Facts Panel compared to regular peanut butter.
Omega 3/ DHA- Again, Jiff takes the lead in innovation since the other two peanut butter brands didn’t have this option. This peanut butter is their Regular peanut butter with anchovy oil, sardine oil, and tilapia gelatin.
Usually these peanut butters have hydrogenated oil, sugar, and peanuts.
Hydrogenated oils are vegetable oils (often cottonseed and rapeseed oil) that have been chemically altered to be solid at room temperature. The American Heart Association recommends against hydrogenated oils
These peanut butters do contain honey, but they also contain sugar and molasses. Skippy’s Roasted Honey Nut peanut butter contains more honey than sugar. They also contain either hydrogenated oil or palm oil.
What’s the Best?
While we’re counting pennies here, remember that all foods are acceptable in moderation. The serving size for peanut butter is only a couple of tablespoons. However, if you eat peanut butter often you may want to consider switching to a healthier version. While claiming healthy properties, many of the peanut butters available in the market contain added ingredients that make them less healthy than they seem- like palm oil, hydrogenated oil, or sugar. Instead, look for peanut butters that have the oil on top. On the ingredients list, look for peanut butters that contain only peanuts or peanuts and salt like Smuckers.