Creamy or crunchy? That used to be the only choice when it came to choosing your peanut butter. Now you can choose peanut butter with honey, maple syrup, flax seed, natural peanut butter that is no stir, natural that separates, almond butter with all of the same options as above cashew butter, hazelnut butter, coconut butter, sunflower butter, soy nut butter, defatted peanut butter flour that you mix with water (with or without cocoa), and more!
You heard peanut butter could be a healthy snack, but might seriously wonder how are you supposed to know which one is best? I thought I would sort out some of the confusion and lead you to some of my favorites.
I recently became curios how there could be a natural peanut butter that did not need stirring like most natural PB’s do, so I dug into some of the ingredients behind one of America’s favorite snack!
Some of you probably have heard that the original standard peanut butters that everyone grew up with have fats that are hydrogenated to help the peanut butter keep its smooth no separating texture. Hydrogenated fats were introduced into our foods in the 1940’s to help maintain the shelf life of foods. Healthy vegetable oils are taken and heated up to 500-1000 degrees and a metal is usually injected (nickel, aluminum, or platinum) which gives us the hydrogenated oils. This process increases the density of the molecules, and when they are consumed they increase the density of your blood so your heart has to pump extra hard. These molecules are also closely related to plastic. Yum. (You can read more about hydrogenated oils at http://www.naturalnews.com/024694_oil_food_oils.html).
Label form a regular standard peanut butter:
Label from a reduced fat standard peanut butter: Even more chemicals! (Usually reduced fat or fat free is the tip off for high chemical content)
Here is a label from Planters’ NUTrition. It is labeled to make you think it is a healthy option, but still contains too many chemicals! (Sorry the picture is a little too small to make out the label.)
The real natural peanut butters usually just just peanuts and salt, and you can find some without the salt as well. These contain no chemicals. These separate and must be stirred in order to be usable. The flavor on these is different than your original creamy JIF, but once you make the switch to a natural peanut butter, you will be able to taste the ‘fake-ness’ in the other stuff. There is a great technique for stirring, storing and using these natural peanut butters at http://www.peanutbutterboy.com/peanut-butter-101/.
So how can natural peanut butter be no stir and not contain hydrogenated oils? Well several brands use palm oil as a stabilizer. Palm oil still may not be the best fats for us as they are mostly saturated (89%), but they are still better than hydrogenated oils. There is still some oil on the top, but it is very easily mixed in as it is a small layer. This type of peanut butter most closely resembles the taste of the standard peanut butters. These no stir brands typically do not specify between palm kernel oil or palm fruit oil, so I would assume it is the less healthy palm kernel oil.
Then there is a powdered peanut butter (PB2 and Just Great Stuff ). I tried one of these years ago and did not like the taste. One of my clients recently told me she liked to use it so I thought I would check it out again. I went to our local health food store Seeds and picked up some of the organic Just Great Stuff. I mixed it with water and tried it with my apple and almost spit it out! I will eat a lot of different kinds of foods, but I this tasted nothing like the peanut butter it claimed to be. I am still unsure what I think about the powdered peanut butter. I am currently using it for peanut butter flavor in protein shakes and baking or creating different desserts, (Check out Fluffy Peanut Butter Dip and Chocolate Peanut Butter Mug Cake) but I do not like the taste on it’s own. I don’t mind the ingredient list as it is short and organic: organic peanuts, organic coconut sugar, sea salt. The one problem I could have with it is that the peanut flour is defatted, which is how the calorie and fat counts can be so low. One problem with removing all the fats is that fats help your satiety level. So if you have an apple and 2 TBSP of peanut flour, it won’t last you as long as 2 Tbsp of peanut butter and you will soon be looking for another snack.
There are still a ton of other nut butters out there. Almond, cashew, and soy nut butter are among the top most consumed. I LOVE almond and cashew butter. I use minimal soy in my diet so I would stay away from the soy nut butter.
The Better’n Peanut Butter brand is also not my favorite because of more ingredients/chemicals. It also tastes really bad!
My conclusion is this: Stay FAR FAR away from that hydrogenated stuff! Go for the natural peanut butter or better yet almond butter or cashew butter. Almonds and cashews have more health properties than peanuts do. If you can’t do the natural, the next best thing would be the natural no stir. I would save the powdered stuff to add peanut butter flavor to things and use the real stuff when eating it as a snack.
My personal favorite brands:
Justin’s peanut/almond butter. I usually buy the single serving packets of Justin’s because then I know once the serving is gone, I am done. (I am a PB addict!) I usually get their plain or maple almond butter. It does contain palm fruit oil, which is different than palm kernel oil. Palm kernel oil is 89% saturated fat, while palm fruit oil is only about 50% saturated fat, but has more nutrients in it that are good for your health. You can read more about palm fruit oil vs. palm kernel oil on Justin’s website.
Smuckers Natural Peanut Butter with Honey. This is my #1 pic for taste. I LOVE this stuff. I have to get the plain one without the honey sometimes so I don’t eat the whole jar in one sitting. 😉 Ingredients are just peanuts and salt.
Naturally More Peanut Butter. I liked this one a lot because it added flax seed to it. It was recently pulled off the shelves because of a recall in a plant that they shared with another company. It was supposed to be back this late spring, but I still haven’t seen it anywhere yet.
365 Brand at Whole Foods. I usually make a trek to Whole Foods every couple months for some needed supplies. I like to get their brand cashew butter and almond butter because it is a lot cheaper than the other brands.
Just Great Stuff. Like I said, I have just started onto this one, and just use it in my chocolate shakes, and to add peanut butter flavor to things.
Peanut Butter and Co. This brand is popular among health enthusiasts so I thought I would give it a try. They have a couple flavors and I have tried White Chocolate Wonderful and Dark Chocolate Dreams in different recipes. I find the White Chocolate Wonderful to be too sweet, but many people rave about this one. The Dark Chocolate Dreams is more my style. This one also contains palm fruit oil like the Justin’s.
Related posts (Some yummy recipes using nut butters!)