Are You a Peanut Butter Lover?

National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day - March 1st - is YOUR day!  No matter whether you love it creamy, chunky, or natural, you’re an unofficial member of the Adult Peanut Butter Lover’s Fan Club.

Fun Facts

Peanuts are not really a nut. Actually, peanuts are a legume, like peas and lentils.  In 1890 an un-named doctor was given credit for first giving “peanut butter” to patients who had poor teeth.  Soon thereafter it began to be incorporated into snack foods. In 1923 Heinz became the first company to solve the oil separation dilemma by homogenizing the peanuts into a spread. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup was introduced in 1928.

Reasons to make peanut butter a pantry essential:

  • packed with healthy nutrients in a practical serving size (2 Tbsp.)
  • inexpensive, ready-to-eat, very shelf-stable
  • satiating (provides a sense of fullness, curbs appetite)
  • minimal (if any) added sugar, oil, and/or salt

What’s the BEST peanut butter?  Likely the one you enjoy eating!  However, let’s take a peek under the jar lid.

Peanut butter, which is 90% peanuts, offers a good dose of protein, healthy fat, essential nutrients and naturally occurring (antioxidants) plant compounds. A 2-tablespoon serving of “peanuts only” peanut butter provides:

  • 7-8 g protein (compare to egg’s 6 g)
  • 16-17 g fat (85% healthy types)
  • 190-200 calories
  • 4 g carbs
  • 0 sodium
  • 2 g fiber
  • 1-2 g sugar (naturally)

Added ingredients may include a little sweetener (sugar or molasses) or a pinch of salt to accommodate consumer taste preferences. Many brands include a touch of palm oil (or vegetable oil) to keep natural oils from separating; thus, “no-stir”. Products with added oil stay creamy and spreadable. With environmental concerns related to the deforestation of oil palm plantations, brands without palm oil may influence your choice.

Low or reduced-fat peanut butters add even more sugar or corn syrup solids to enhance flavor, which was affected by removing some fat. Brands that include honey or chocolate, while tasty, bump up the calories and added sugars.

Features of the healthiest choices:

  • short ingredient list
  • zero or low amount of added sugar (2 g)
  • zero or low amount of added oil (2-3 g total saturated fat)

Sorry, it’s too challenging to highlight particular brands.  Food manufacturers may introduce new ingredients or adjust ingredients at any time.  Best to check the ingredient and nutrition labels on your favorite.

Back to the question, What’s the BEST peanut butter?  Likely the one you enjoy eating!  

Consider your usual food choices in a day or even over a week.  Will a little added sugar, salt, or oil really matter? A touch of oil can be a worthy tradeoff for a creamy texture. The 2-tablespoon serving size is plenty for a sandwich or snack.

Easy ways to squeeze in peanut butter:

  • warm toasted whole grain bread or English muffin
  • grilled PB&J: whole grain bread + low-sugar fruit spread
  • Lundberg’s brown rice cakes + thin banana slices
  • dip for apple or pear slices
  • smear on banana slices or pretzels
  • addition to warm oatmeal
  • smoothie ingredient
  • ants-on-a-log: celery, PB, raisins
  • straight up on a spoon

If you like to bake with peanut butter, check out this Cook’s Illustrated article:

For recipes:

P.S.  Other nut and seed butters will be covered at another time.

About Mary Lynne Hixson, MA, RD:

Mary Lynne, a registered dietitian, helps others enhance their health through the advocacy of nutrient-rich food choices and safe food-handling practices. Her expertise also includes counseling patients who have Type 2 diabetes and advising those who are in medically-managed weight loss programs. After her 35+ year career, she retired and became involved with the launch of Harvest of Hope Pantry in 2012 as a Board of Directors member. Mary Lynne is a weekly volunteer with Cultivate’s Carry-Out Caravan program, shopping and delivering groceries to seniors in the Boulder area, and also a frequent volunteer with Harvest of Hope.