Photo: PiccoloNamek, Wikimedia Commons
By Lisa D’Agrosa, M.S., R.D., EatingWell.com
Picking healthy foods at the grocery store can be pretty confusing. There are thousands of different products to choose from. It can even be mind-bending to figure out which peanut butter is the best choice.
Should you go with natural peanut butter or the reduced-fat version — officially called a “peanut-butter spread” because it has fewer peanuts? We compared the two head to head to find out. And the winner is…
Natural peanut butter! Yes, the full-fat peanut butter is actually healthier, so the next time you’re standing in the aisle at the store, go all-natural. As Joyce Hendley originally reported for EatingWell, here’s why:
1. Fat and calories: Reduced-fat peanut butter spreads do have less fat (12 grams for each 2-tablespoon serving). Compare that to 16 grams of fat with standard natural peanut butter. But it’s a tradeoff not worth making. The fat in peanuts is primarily the heart-healthy, monounsaturated type, and reducing this healthy fat doesn’t even save you a lot of calories. A 2-tablespoon serving is about 200 calories for the reduced-fat spread, as well for natural peanut butter.
2. Added carbs, sugar and salt: The fat that would be in the reduced-fat peanut butter spread is replaced with ingredients like corn syrup solids, sugar and molasses (read: even more sugar), plus starchy fillers. Those add-ins boost the spread’s sugar content to 4 grams and its total carbs to 15 grams. Compare that with natural PB, which has just 1 g sugars and 6 g carbs.
There’s also about twice as much sodium in the reduced-fat stuff: 220 mg vs. 105 mg in natural peanut butter.
3. Flavor. Reduced-fat peanut spreads don’t contain as many peanuts as the natural stuff, which by law must contain at least 90 percent peanuts. Reduced-fat spreads hover around 60 percent peanuts (which is why they’re not called nut butters, but spreads). That means less peanut flavor, and more additives like hydrogenated oils, sugars (in all their guises) and salt.
MAKING OR BUYING NATURAL PEANUT BUTTER
Natural peanut butters are made with just peanuts and sometimes a little salt. You can make your own healthy natural peanut butter in a food processor at home. Or do the deed while you’re out shopping. Many stores now have peanut butter machines already filled with peanuts you can grind yourself.
Peanut butter you make yourself has the same nutrition as store-bought natural peanut butters since it contains the same ingredients.
(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)
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