Peanut butter has made up for jam as our favorite breakfast, with a revenue increase of 35.5 percent in the past 12 weeks.
Peanuts are high in satiating protein and fiber and provide decent amounts of iron that fights fatigue, phosphorus (a mineral that helps maintain strong bones), and B vitamins, to draw energy from food.
But a sensible serving size is no more than 30 g (2 tbsp) because the spread has so many calories and saturated fat.
So how healthy are they? Helen Bond, a dietitian from Derbyshire, judged a selection; we then reviewed them.
SUN-PAT CRUNCHY PROTEIN +
400g, £ 3.50, most supermarkets per 100g: calories, 619; saturated fat, 10.6 g; protein, 31.6 g; fiber, 9.7 g; sugar, 3 g; salt, 1.1 g
HEALTHY BIT: This is 30 percent protein per serving; no added sugar.
EXPERT VERDICT: This gives you a good amount of gut-friendly fiber, 2.9 g per serving. It also contains peanut flour, made by grinding roasted peanuts and squeezing out the oil to leave a powder, to increase protein content: one serving provides 9.5 g – more than a boiled egg. While this is one of the highest protein levels for peanut butter, the extra amount makes no sense as most people’s diets are high enough in protein. This spread has added salt, and the extra peanut oil means it has one-sixth of your daily saturated fat limit.
PIP & NUT SMOOTH
400g, £ 3.50, most supermarkets per 100g: calories, 605; saturated fat, 5.9 g; protein, 26.4 g; fiber, 8.8 g; sugar, 5.7 g; salt. 0.4 g
HEALTHY BIT: Rich in fiber and monounsaturated fats.
EXPERT VERDICT: This is made with peanuts bred to have less saturated fat and more oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat thought to help control ‘bad’ cholesterol. A serving provides 1.74 g of saturated fat compared to the typical 2.46 g – not a big difference, but every bit helps, especially when you look at your cholesterol. This also contains less than half of the salt found in many peanut butter.
JIF OMEGA-3 CREAMY PEANUT BUTTER
454g, £ 8.99, amazon.co.uk Per 100g: Calories, 570; saturated fat, 10.5 g; protein, 21 g; fiber, 6 g; sugar, 9 g; salt, 1 g
HEALTHY BIT: Contains omega-3 from salmon and anchovy oil.
EXPERT VERDICT: The added fish oils provide some omega-3 fatty acids (known as DHA and EPA), which are said to be good for brain and heart health, but the amount in a serving (32 mg) is small; For comparison, a salmon fillet provides 752 mg (the recommended daily intake is 500 mg).
This has half a teaspoon of added sugar per serving, and hydrogenated canola and soy oil contribute saturated fat, so it provides about one-sixth of your daily limit per serving.
It also contains 5 percent of your daily salt limit.
THE SKINNY FOOD CO CRUNCHY
400g, £ 3.99 theskinny foodco.com Per 100g: Calories, 658; saturated fat, 9.1 g; protein, 27 g; fiber, 7 g of sugar, 4.9 g; salt, traces
HEALTHY BIT: Only 99 calories per serving.
EXPERT VERDICT: These are 100 percent roasted peanuts. You get 8.1 g of protein in a serving, the same as a boiled egg, and 2.1 g of fiber. Because the peanut content is so high, you get about a quarter of your daily vitamin B3, for a healthy gut and nervous system, and half of your daily recommended biotin, another B vitamin needed for healthy hair, skin and nails. Despite the ‘Skinny’ name, a serving of this has one of the highest amounts of fat and calories of the products here.
NUTS ‘MORE PEANUTS SPREAD
454g, £ 10.95, amazon.co.uk Per 100g: Calories, 510; saturated fat, 6 g; protein, 33 g; fiber, 9 g; sugar, 9 g; salt, traces
HEALTHY BIT: Added protein and omega-3.
EXPERT VERDICT: Made with 62 percent peanuts – one of the lowest amounts here – it also contains whey, sweetener, oils, and flaxseed. Whey, derived from milk, increases protein content to 3.5 g per serving, although most adults easily get their daily 50 g. The lower proportion of peanuts means it’s about a third lower in B vitamins, iron and magnesium – useful for energy levels – than others here. There is omega-3 from the linseed, but the amount is unclear.
100% 280g, £ 2.50, most supermarkets per 100g: calories, 596; saturated fat, 8.2 g; protein, 29.6 g; fiber, 8.5 g; sugar, 5.9 g; salt, 0 g
HEALTHY BIT: No sugar; 100 percent peeled peanuts.
EXPERT VERDICT: This is made by crushing roasted peeled peanuts – these are high inresveratrol, a plant compound associated with reduced inflammation. A 2014 study in the journal Food Chemistry by scientists at the University of Georgia, in the United States, reported that the intake of peanut shells contains increased levels of antioxidants – antioxidants help protect our cells.
WOWBUTTER CREAMY NUT-FREE SPREAD
Three 500g jars, £ 18.07, amazon.co.uk Per 100g: Calories, 626; saturated fat, 9.6 g; protein, 21.2 g; fiber, 7 g; sugar, 12.7 g; salt, 0.75 g
‘HEALTHY BIT ‘: Suitable for people with nut allergies; complete protein source; rich in omega-3.
EXPERT VERDICT: This is an alternative to peanut butter made with soy, which, like peanuts, is high in fiber and protein, so the nutritional level is no different than in real life.
Soy contains more vitamin B folate and iron than peanuts, but it does not have as many other vitamins and minerals and is a modest source of omega-3. This is also high in saturated fat, with 14 percent of the daily limit per serving, along with half a teaspoon of added sugar.
Not a bad option to have occasionally, but the real thing is better.
PROFUSION HEMP PEANUT BUTTER
350g, £ 4.29, ocado.com per 100g: Calories, 579; saturated fat, 6 g; protein, 25.3 g; fiber, 11.2 g; sugar, 4.2 g; salt, traces
HEALTHY BIT: There is no sugar or salt; hemp seeds added.
EXPERT VERDICT: Made with 90 percent peanuts and 10 percent hemp seeds. The latter increases the amount of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects cells, as well as iron and blood pressure-lowering potassium. They also add fiber – you get about 10 percent of your daily needs per serving. The hemp, which is part of the cannabis plant family but without the psychoactive substances, contributes 0.2 g of alpha-linolenic acid per serving – an omega-3 fat that can help lower cholesterol, although you need a lot of this spread eat to see a meaningful benefit.
COCO FARM HEALTHY EVER AFTER
280g, £ 8.99, amazon.co.uk Per 100g: Calories, 557; saturated fat, 21 g; protein, 13 g; fiber, 12 g; sugar, 25 g; salt, 0.2 g
HEALTHY BIT: High in fiber, no refined sugar.
EXPERT VERDICT: These are only about 40 percent peanuts – so you would be missing vitamins and minerals here; the rest is coconut pulp and other coconut-based ingredients. That includes ‘unrefined’ coconut sugar, which treats the body like any added sugar – you get a fifth of your daily added sugar limit here. Added chicory fiber makes it a good fiber source, but this can cause gas in sensitive stomachs. And coconut pulp plus some coconut milk powder add saturated fat, with a serving that provides a third of your daily limit.
PBFIT PEANUT BUTTER POWDER
680g, £ 12.78, uk.bodybuilding.com Per 100g (supplemented with water): Calories, 166; saturated fat, 0 g; protein, 18.8 g; fiber, 6.25 g; sugar, 6.25 g; salt, 0.9 g
HEALTHY BIT: Less fat and calories than standard peanut butter.
EXPERT VERDICT: These are ground, roasted peanuts with pressed oil, plus a splash of sugar and salt. Add water to make a spread or use it in smoothies. It’s certainly a huge calorie saver, with only about a quarter of the calories from peanut butter and no saturated fat, but you don’t get the good fats or the vitamin E in whole peanuts. And there’s a little too much sugar – just under half a teaspoon in a serving.
It can even make cookies less sinful
Here are some ways to include peanut butter in recipes to make them healthier; choose a spread made with only peanuts.
- Divide peanut butter over breakfast pancakes instead of golden syrup. Each tablespoon of swap removes nearly 3 teaspoons of sugar and adds 3.8 g of protein and 1 g of fiber.
- Reduce your saturated fat intake by swapping peanut butter for sour cream to make a satay dip (this provides 0.9 g per tablespoon of fat compared to 1.7 g) in chicken fajitas. To make the satay (for two people), add a dash of soy sauce, water and rice vinegar to 75 g of peanut butter and mix.
- Swap 100 g of butter in a batch of 12 cookies for 50 g of peanut butter and 3 tbsp rapeseed oil. You lower the saturated fat content from 4 g to 1 g per biscuit. It adds a nice mild nutty flavor.
- For healthier ice cream, mix 125 g soft peanut butter with a banana, 3 tbsp sweetener (eg Stevia), 20 g dark chocolate chips and freeze. Instead of the 5.5g of saturated fat and 10.5g of sugar found in a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream, this provides about 2.5g of saturated fat and 5.3g of sugar (the natural kind , from peanuts) – although calories are similar.