Recently I was at the grocery store perusing the aisle of peanut butters when I started looking at the labels of the various brands. I realized that most people don’t understand the difference between real natural peanut butter (or other nut butters), and the other popular brands such as Jiffy, Smucker’s, or Skippy.
I decided to share my insight into nut and seed butters, as I actually think it’s incredibly important to know what you’re putting in your body. I can tell you, there are a few brands I will NEVER give my kiddos again. I know it seems crazy but when you have healthier alternatives, why wouldn’t you give your child the best?!
Many choose other nut and seed butters because instead of peanut butter because:
- They love the flavors
- They realize there are a lot of health benefits
- And of course, nut allergies
Personally, I love nut butters. As in, I’m sort of obsessed. I could have a nut or seed butter in or on almost anything. In my daily nutrition shake, in my oatmeal, on rice cakes, with sliced apples or with a banana—you name it! And luckily for me, nut/seed butters are packed full of nutrients!
There are so many health benefits of nut and seed butters!
Nut and seed butters contain good, healthy fats.
Namely, monounsaturated fat which has been linked to more healthy cholesterol levels, as well as polyunsaturated fats, and a small amount of naturally saturated fat. Most of the time we try to stay away from fats, but actually, a healthy balanced diet needs fats—healthy fats like those in nut butters. Learn more about healthy fats here.
They also contain fiber, protein, vitamins. minerals, and phytochemicals such as resveratrol.
I’m going to pause for a second to explain resveratrol because truth be told, until I sat down to write this, I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. I had heard of it before but never took the time to read about it. Resveratrol is a natural compound found in peanuts but also in blueberries, red grape skin, and Japanese knotweed. “Resveratrol has been hypothesized to be responsible for low rates of heart disease in the French population compared to other populations, in spite of the fact that they have many risk factors including a high-fat diet, smoking, and consumption of high amounts of coffee. All of these are known contributors of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stroke and heart attacks.” (Source) Furthermore, other studies have explored the theory that resveratrol may also have possible cancer-preventing effects. Pretty cool, right?!
Nuts, in general, have been thoroughly researched and have been suggested to not only lower the risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease but may help with other diseases as well. Seeds also have loads of nutritional benefits that I’ll speak to in another blog.
So, not only are nut and seeds butters delicious but they are good for you too! BUT only if you choose the right ones. AND only if you eat it in moderation. Don’t eat the entire jar in one sitting, ok? Ha!
How to Choose The Right Nut or Seed Butter
Look at the ingredients.
If you’ve read some of my other blogs, you’ve probably seen a common theme: less is more when it comes to ingredients. Same goes for nut and seed butters.
You want to search for those with very little to no added fats, sugars, salt, or other oils. Basically, you want to see ONE ingredient.
Look for: Peanuts. Or Almonds. Or cashews. You get my point. That’s about it. That seems easy, right? Not so much, at least not when food companies are trying to trick us into thinking their nut/seed butter is “natural” when it really isn’t.
Don’t let them fool you.
Many of the most popular brand name nut butters add in fats, specifically saturated fat which, unfortunately, is associated with increased storage of fat in the belly. Additionally, in order to create a lower-fat product, they add in different carbohydrates, sometimes even soy.
Another thing I found that is common in many of the more popular brands of peanut butters is the ingredients monoglycerides and diglycerides, which are considered emulsifiers. Found in many other products, they’re commonly added to help blend ingredients typically fats and water that aren’t meant to blend well together (ie oil and water) and increase shelf life. In the case of peanut butter it helps the oils from rising to the top of the jar and helps with spreadability.
Mono- and diglycerides are part of fatty acids, similar to triglycerides and may contain trans fats. Trans fats have been associated with increased risk of many health problems including heart disease, stroke, diabetes. They can also increase inflammation and obesity, and raise cholesterol levels. Mono and diglycerides undergo a process by which different chemicals are used to make the final product. Some potentially harmful ingredients including hardened palm oil, nickel, tartaric acid, synthetic lactic acid, and more.
Palm oil has actually made its way into some of the peanut butters you might have normally thought were “natural.” Keep an eye out for this one! This one might not sound too bad, but it can be potentially harmful, so keep an eye out!
Many of our typical name brand peanut butters contain less protein, more salt, and more saturated fat. Yikes! That basically negates any health benefits you were trying to get from your nut butter.
“Natural” doesn’t mean anything.
The word natural doesn’t have a true definition when it comes to food labels. There’s no USDA standard for “natural” foods—this is a word companies throw around to make you think a food is healthy. The word means something different to everyone. To you “natural” could mean no added sugars, to another person it could mean no artificial ingredients. That’s why we look at the labels: to find out what these claims really mean.
Unhealthy Peanut Butter Brands to AVOID
Nutrition information below is based on a 2 Tbsp serving.
JIF Extra Crunchy
This is the #1 peanut butter in America and is it made with fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed and soybean). Also contains added sugar (from molasses), partially hydrogenated soybean oil.
Ingredients: Roasted Peanuts and Sugar, Contains 2% or Less of: Molasses, Fully Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (soybean and rapeseed), Mono and Diglycerides, Salt.
Nutrition: 190 calories, 16 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 105 mg sodium, 8 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 7 g protein
You will find the calories per serving is the same, and although you have less grams of fat per serving, there are actually more grams of carbs in the reduced-fat JIF because of other ingredients they add to compensate for the reduced fat. Look at this LONG ingredient list:
Ingredients: Peanuts, Corn Syrup Solids, Sugar, Pea Protein, Contains 2% or less of: Salt, Fully Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (soybean and rapeseed), Mono and Diglycerides, Molasses, Magnesium Oxide, Niacinamide, Ferric Orthophosphate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Folic Acid, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride
Nutrition: 190 calories, 12 g fat (2 g saturated), 200 mg sodium, 15 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 7 g protein
The claim to fame with Simply Jiff is that it contains 33% less total sugar than regular JIF. However, it still contains hydrogenated vegetable oils, added sugars, salt, and mono and diglycerides.
Ingredients: Roasted Peanuts, Contains 2% Or Less Of: Fully Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (Rapeseed And Soybean), Mono And Diglycerides, Molasses, Sugar, Salt.
Nutrition: 180 calories, 16 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 65 mg sodium, 7 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 7 g protein
Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter
Skippy and JIF have many similarities, both contain fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (Skippy added cottonseed in addition to soybean and rapeseed), but Skippy contains more saturated fat than JIF.
Ingredients: Roasted Peanuts, Sugar, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Cottonseed, Soybean and Rapeseed Oil) To Prevent Separation, Salt.
Nutrition: 190 calories, 16 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 150 mg sodium, 6 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 7 g protein
Skippy Natural Peanut Butter
In my opinion, added sugar isn’t natural, is it? They just mean instead of artificial sugar, they’ve added real sugar.
Ingredients: Roasted Peanuts, Sugar, Palm Oil Salt
Nutrition: 190 calories, 16 g fat (3 .5 g saturated fat), 150 mg sodium, 6 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugars, 7 g protein
Smucker’s Reduced Fat Peanut Butter
You should ALWAYS question a nut butter if their first ingredient isn’t the nut itself. Smucker’s adds maltodextrin which is a caloric sweetener and thickening agent (aka sugar).
Ingredients: Maltodextrin, Reduced Fat Ground Peanuts, Salt.
Nutrition: 190 calories, 12 g fat (2 g saturated), 115 mg sodium, 12 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 8 g protein
Smart Balance Omega “Natural” Peanut Butter
They’ve added flax oil to this peanut butter. Additionally, though, they add palm fruit oil, resulting in a total of 3 grams of saturated fat per serving. The good news: they at least don’t add refined sugar.
Ingredients: Peanut butter (peanuts, dried cane syrup, salt, molasses) natural oils (palm fruit and flaxseed oils).
Nutrition: 200 calories, 17 g fat (3 g saturated), 140 mg sodium, 15 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 7 g protein
Peter Pan Creamy Peanut Butter
This contains 4 added oils, sugar, and salt make this peanut butter one you surely want to avoid.
Ingredients: Roasted Peanuts, Sugar, less than 2% of: Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (cottonseed and rapeseed), Salt, Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil
Nutrition: 210 calories, 17 g fat (3 g saturated fat,) 140 mg sodium, 6 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 8 g protein
HEALTHIEST & Best Peanut Butter Brands
Trader Joe’s Organic Peanut Butter (Unsalted)
One ingredient. Nearly no sodium. No added sugars. No added oils. Easy to find (in store or on Amazon!)
Ingredients: Organic peanuts.
Nutrition: 190 calories, 16g fat (2g saturated fat), 5 mg sodium, 7g carbs, 3 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 8 g protein
Once Again Unsweetened & Salt-Free Peanut Butter
Crunchy or creamy, you choose! I LOVE this brand for various nut butters. Also available on Amazon. This is a gluten-free, Vegan, Kosher certified product. This one packs in more protein than most peanut butters!
Ingredients: Organic peanuts.
Nutrition: 210 calories, 16g fat (3 g saturated), 0mg sodium, 6g carbs, 2 g sugar, 2 g fiber, 9g of protein
Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter (No Salt Added)
One instance where the brand’s definition of natural matched my own! While not organic, you should be able to find this more readily in your local grocery store.
Nutrition: 210 calories, 16g fat (2.5 saturated), 0mg sodium, 6g carbs, 2g fiber, 1 g sugar, 8 g of protein
Adam’s 100% Unsalted Peanut Butter
This is one of the go-tos in our family. It’s easy to find in the stores! It also has the lowest calorie count per serving of the other healthy peanut butters and lowest saturated fat content. It also has 1 gram more of fiber than most!
Nutrition: 180 calories, 16g fat (2g saturated), 5mg sodium, 5g carbs, 3g fiber, 2g sugar, 8 g of protein
Brad’s Natural Peanut Butter
I found this one while researching and I plan on ordering some for a few reasons. It’s organic. The peanut butter is cheaper than most organic brands. It also has less fat and more protein than most of the other companies. It also comes in almond butter, cashew butter, and hazelnut butter!
Ingredients: Organic peanuts.
Nutrition: 190 calories, 15g fat (2g saturated), 0mg sodium, 6g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g sugar, 9g protein
HOT TIP: They have a spread called Chocolicious, a chocolate hazelnut spread similar to Nutella. BUT, unlike Nutella, it doesn’t contain palm oil. While I wouldn’t recommend Chocolicious on a daily basis for your good fat intake (stick to those other nut butters), this is a great alternative for that special treat or when you treat your kiddos!
Maranatha Organic Peanut Butters (Hint of Sea Salt)
This option is one of the lowest calorie & sugar content per serving (similar to Adam’s but this one is organic. WOO!)
Ingredients: Dry organic roasted peanuts, sea salt.
Nutrition: 180 calories, 15g fat (2g saturated), 60mg sodium, 6g carbs, 2g fiber, 1 g sugar, 8 g protein
Although I normally suggest the no salt added nut butters, this one has such a low amount of sodium that I give it the go-ahead. Some of the versions contain Palm Oil. So, if you’re like me and try and avoid palm oil, you’ll want to stay away from the “no-stir” options of Maranatha.
Again, this is a brand that does contain a bit of sea salt and isn’t organic. However, a little salt never hurt anyone. The amount in 1 serving is just 4% of the recommended daily intake of sodium. Like anything, if you don’t over do it, you’ll be just fine! I also like that you can order individual packets as needed for those road trips, airplane rides, or long business meetings.
Ingredients: Roasted peanuts, sea salt.
Nutrition: 190 calories, 15g fat (2g saturated), 90mg sodium, 7g carbs, 3g fiber, 2 g sugar, 8 g protein
So, I will say this... Many people love Justin’s. But after my research with palm oil & monoglycerides, I personally wouldn’t typically use Justin’s. Having said that, it’s definitely better than some of your other classics such as JIF, Skippy, etc.
Looking for Healthy Alternatives to Peanut Butter?
I had to do the same thing... I recently found out that I don’t tolerate peanuts.
While I am not allergic, my body/stomach does not respond well to peanuts. So, I’ve found an abundance of nut butters I love. I also know there are a lot of various nut and seed allergies out there, so, hopefully this helps you find healthy and delicious options for you, too!
My favorite seed or nut butter? That’s a tough one. I think it’s a tie between sunflower seed nut butter and pumpkin seed butter. I also love almond butter and cashew butter!
I try to use a different nut or seed butter every day as each nut and seed contains different health benefits. Spread the love! Please note, many of the other nut and seed butters don’t contain quite as much protein as peanuts (but pumpkin seed butter has even more protein!)
Ok, so, this blog helped me find an AMAZING website with the most nut butter options I’ve ever seen!!! Futter’s nut butters...
Futter’s Nut Butters
They have almond butter, almond haze (almonds and hazelnuts), brazil nut butter, cashew butter, hazelnut butter, macadamia butter, pecan butter, pistachio butter, walnut butter, pumpkin seed butter (0g sugar!), and sunflower seed butter. Also, for that special treat for the kiddos, skip the Nutella & go for Futter’s walnut chocolate butter, hazelnut chocolate butter or macadamia nut butter chocolate!
Even cooler, I think, is they have a nut butter allergy pack with six 2 ounce jars of cashew, hazelnut, walnut, almond, pecan and pistachio butters!
Omega Nutritional Organic Pumpkin Seed Nut Butter
This actually was my go-to pumpkin seed butter until I wrote this article. Truth be told, I’ll be switching to Futter’s above. However, this is also a great option… It has much less protein, however, than the Futter’s brAnd and also contains a small amount of sea salt. Pumpkin seeds have an incredible amount of great health benefits that I’ll touch on in another blog. I order it from Amazon.
Offers almond butter and hazelnut butters!
Trader Joe’s Almond Butter (No Salt)
Such a great price! Made with almonds and less than 1% of cashews, interestingly.
Kirkland Signature Almond Butter
Found at Costco, and you can get a large jar! Just almonds. Non-GMO, too!
I’m obsessed with their version of sunflower seed butter—I opt for the unsweetened and salt free version with just sunflower seeds and sunflower seed oil. They also have almond butter, cashew butter, and sesame tahini in addition to the peanut butter I discussed above. You can also order this in bulk (9lbs) if you really want a lot of these seeds and nut butters. HA! I choose organic when possible, too.
Also has an almond butter. Be aware of the other spread they offer as they contain other ingredients such as honey, maple syrup, etc. It’s totally ok if you’re aware that it will be more of a treat as it will contain far more sugar than your peanut and almond butters that have no added sugars!
"Is PB2 Healthy For You?"
Last but not least. A common question I get in my health and accountability groups is, “What about PB2?” "Is PB2 Healthy for you?
If you're not familiar, PB2 is a powdered peanut butter that many have been lead to think is a healthier alternative to peanut butter.
I personally do NOT recommend powdered peanut butter and here’s why.
You just read (and thank you so much for sticking with me!!) how good the fats are from natural nut butters can be for you. What happens in powdered peanut butter? It is processed by pressing peanuts to remove fat and oil content, resulting in cutting down the fat and calories by more than half.
Here’s the problem… as consumers, we often get fooled. We see less fat, less calories and assume the product must be healthier. Wrong! Hopefully, you’ve read some of my previous blogs on how important fat is for you.
And more often than not, less fat and less calories means the product contains fillers and artificial ingredients that can cause other health issues.
So yes, while Bell Plantation’s PB2 has only 45 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 1 gram of sugar, you’ve lost most of the health benefits you want in peanut butter.
Trust me, you want and need good fats. And plenty of it… if it’s the right stuff. Trust me, I eat a TON of good fats. Good fats can actually help promote weight loss, and will keep you much fuller for longer – Stick with the real stuff!
Want some great ideas for how to use your nut butters?
- Spread on sprouted bread (such as Ezekiel) instead of butter or cream cheese
- In smoothies (I have 1 tablespoon every day in my Shakeology!)
- Add nut butter to crackers, celery sticks, apples or bananas
- Spread nut butter on your rice cake (and even add a little bit of honey for extra sweetness)
- Add 1-2 tsp of nut butter to plain greek yogurt for a sweet treat at night
- Add 1-2 tsp to your oatmeal in the morning
- Add nut butter to your waffles or pancakes (I have some great “clean” waffle and pancake recipes if you’d like!)
What is your favorite nut or seed butter? And when it comes to peanut butter: Crunchy or Creamy? Leave a comment below!
Ready for more bests and worsts?! Check out the best and worst yogurt brands here!