Peanut butter is one of those natural foods that you'd think would be good for you, but in reality, there are a lot of nutritional facts that dieters and others should know before they dig into a jar of their favorite brand.
Unwanted Fats and Sugars
When you're looking at the range of popular PB brands that have traditionally lined store shelves, you might not notice that a lot of them contain astronomical amounts of sugar and salt. Looking for no-salt varieties and natural or organic types of peanut butter can help you avoid some of the sweetest and saltiest kinds, but some nutritional estimates still put the average sugar content of one cup of peanut butter as high as 24 grams. Similar estimates show that the same one cup serving can have up to 1200 mg of sodium, almost half of the daily recommendation.
Another big item in peanut butter is the fat. Sometimes, looking at the fat counters on your jar of peanut butter, you might think you haven't read the label correctly. Over 100 grams of fat can get packed into that one cup of peanut butter, and many of those can be composed of saturated fats, a dangerous category that food makers have to spell out on those nutritional labels in order to warn health-conscious consumers away.
Another big statistic for peanut butter is the number of calories this food packs: many jars of peanut butter will carry over 1500 calories per one cup serving, with the majority of those calories coming from the fats mentioned above. Despite the fiber and proteins in peanut butter, for many eaters who are watching their weight, it wouldn't be fair to call this stuff a diet food.
When it comes to getting the stuff that's good for you, peanut butter does contain some essential vitamins. It's highest in calcium and iron, but realistically, health-minded people can get these elements from other foods that won't wreck their daily calorie counts or overload their plates with fat. Some kinds of greens and other natural foods provide the calcium and iron necessary for a balanced diet.
Some people looking at the high numbers above will point out that the classically labeled serving size for peanut butter is not one cup, but something like 2 tablespoons, where adjusting the fat and calorie content downward can make this nutty spread look a little more healthy. The point, though, is that most peanut butters, especially the "generic" kinds that sold well in previous decades, are still loaded with the kinds of stuff that fitness-oriented shoppers look out for.
Next time you are in the PB&J aisle, take a look at the back of your jar of peanut butter and think about how this traditional condiment affects your overall diet, and whether it's worth substituting other foods or switching to another brand.