Whether it’s used as a sandwich filling, added to protein shakes, in sauces or a delicious dessert, one thing is for certain: peanut butter is popular around the world. In fact, over 65% of all peanuts grown are eaten in the form of peanut butter, with over 700 million pounds of it consumed annually in the United States alone.

As a simple vegetarian protein source, this affordable, sustainable legume has for over a century shown its flexibility as a pantry staple across a large number of brands. And as consumers become more interested in the creation of their food, newer, “natural” variations have arrived, along with some confusion as to what those variations entail. How great are the differences between creamy, chunky, natural and commercial peanut butters? Are some unhealthy? We’ve compiled a short list to help you know the facts. But before we begin, it’s important to note that to be classified as real peanut butter, all commercial and natural types must contain a minimum of 90% peanuts. In addition, a study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that peanut butter contains non-detectable levels of trans fatty acids per serving.1

Natural Peanut Butter

  • It’s normal for separation to occur between the peanut butter and its natural oils, so stirring is encouraged before enjoying.
  • Natural peanut butters normally contain no added sugar or salt, but can vary depending on the manufacturer. If you have specific dietary needs or restrictions, be sure to check the label.
  • Due to a lack of homogenization and blending, natural peanut butter
    might not be as smooth in texture.

Commerical Peanut Butter

  • For convenience and creaminess, commercial peanut butters are
    normally blended or homogenized.
  • To stabilize their blends and eliminate the separation of natural peanut butter, some manufacturers may add a small amount (less than 1-2%) of stabilizer. Most major manufacturers do not use trans fats.
  • For added flavor, some commercial brands may also add a small amount of sugar or salt.

The good news is whether you choose creamy or chunky, commercial or natural, the nutrition content of peanut butter remains largely the same. All variations are high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, which can help improve
cholesterol and reduce the risk of disease, as well as several other health benefits. And with over 7g of protein in just 2 tablespoons, any form of peanut butter can help make a significant contribution to your daily protein intake.

Sources:

1. Sanders, T.H. Non Detectable Levels of Trans-Fatty Acids in Peanut Butter. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2001;49:2349-51.

Link to study:

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf001455a