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Are All Peanut Butters the Same? 

by Brandon Williams
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Modern grocery stores put their predecessors to shame in regard to the number of items available for purchase. Gone are the days when grocery stores featured roughly 12 aisles and shelves stocked primarily with food and beverages. Modern grocery stores are much larger and feature everything from traditional groceries to kitchen essentials to clothing and more.

Consumers undoubtedly prefer more choices at the grocery store, but it can be difficult to make a decision when presented with so many options. Such is the case when picking peanut butter. Modern grocery stores typically feature an array of peanut butters in various styles (i.e., creamy, chunky, etc.) and others with packaging noting ingredients that the average consumer may know little about. That can make it hard to decide which peanut butter to bring home and which to leave behind on the store shelf.

According to the National Peanut Board, regulations established by the Food and Drug Administration mandate that any product labeled as peanut butter must contain at least 90 percent peanuts. Products that fall short of the benchmark must be labeled as peanut butter spreads. Recognition of that regulation can help consumers rest easy knowing that, whichever peanut butter they choose, the product is almost entirely peanuts.

So are all peanut butters effectively the same? No. Many natural peanut butters contain exclusively peanuts, which might make them preferable to health-conscious consumers who want to limit their consumption of salt and sweeteners that can be found in products that qualify as peanut butter but do not qualify as natural peanut butters.

Reading ingredient lists on product labels can help consumers make the most informed decision when choosing a peanut butter. The Nutrient Database at the United States Department of Agriculture notes some significant distinctions between natural peanut butters made from strictly peanuts and alternative peanut butters with additional ingredients. For example, the National Peanut Board reports that, according to USDA data, a 2 tablespoon serving of natural peanut butter contains zero milligrams of sodium and 1 gram of sugar. By contrast, the same size serving of an alternative peanut butter contains five milligrams of sodium and 3 grams of sugar. Natural peanut butters also contain less saturated fat (2 grams per each 2 tablespoon serving) than alternative peanut butters (3 grams) and more protein (8 grams to 7 grams). Some consumers may deem these differences negligible, while others may appreciate the nutrition profile of natural peanut butters.

Peanut butter lovers seemingly have more options to choose from than ever before. Knowledge of the differences between peanut butters and recognition that peanut butter and peanut butter spreads are not one and the same can help consumers make the most informed decision. TF23B477

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