There are a few foods I love dearly, and peanut butter is definitely on the list. I find it makes the perfect spread on toast, adds a nice creamy texture on bananas, apples, and celery, and is a beautiful addition to desserts and smoothies. Plus, peanut butter is a heart-healthy food source, so of course, it gets its own spotlight on Hearty Palate.
We’re going to cover peanut butter’s:
- Heart-healthy fats
- Vitamin E content and its relation to heart health
- Nutrition Label – 4 tips when shopping
- Added sugars
Peanut butter is a good source of heart-healthy fats. Two tablespoons of natural peanut butter contain about 5g of polyunsaturated fats and 8g of monounsaturated fats. Studies show that replacing saturated fat with sources of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can improve your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. For example, you can improve your LDL cholesterol by opting for peanut butter over bacon and sausage for breakfast. Another example is to replace butter with olive or avocado oil when you cook.
Peanuts naturally contain vitamin E, and 2 tablespoons provide 3mg of it. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 15mg. While research has found lowered risk of cardiovascular disease with a diet rich in vitamin E, more research is needed to solidify its role in heart health. Vitamin E is an antioxidant and fat-soluble vitamin believed to protect your cells from damage that may cause heart disease. It may help by managing your LDL cholesterol, which prevents plaque buildup in your heart. Currently, the American Heart Association encourages getting your vitamin E from food rather than supplements.
Nutrition Label on Peanut Butter – What to Look For
It’s intimidating to see a large number of choices when you shop in the peanut butter aisle. Crunchy or creamy? Salted or unsalted? Natural or emulsified? In regards to heart health, there are four major items on the nutrition label to help you make the right decision.
Below is a visual comparison between the nutrition labels for Laura Scudder’s unsalted natural peanut butter and Skippy’s creamy peanut butter. Parts of the labels have green-outlined boxes to zero in on when you shop. Let’s take a look at each of them.
Tip #1: Sodium
Keeping your sodium intake low (under 2,300mg per day) is ideal for managing your blood pressure. Processed food and restaurant meals tend to be high in sodium, so keeping it low whenever possible will help you keep your intake low. Opting for unsalted peanut butter is the best option. Peanut butter already has a distinct flavor and, when mixed with other food, really reduces the need for salt. In brand comparison, Laura Scudder’s contains 0mg of sodium, and Skippy’s contain 150mg sodium for every serving of 2 tablespoons.
Tip #2: Added Sugars
Although a bit of added sugar in peanut butter helps sweeten it up a bit, you’ll be surprised with the results if you spread natural peanut butter on toast and fruits. It will be sweet already from the fruits you’re spreading it on, so there’s no need to have added sugar if you don’t need it. Find labels with 0g of added sugars. Laura Scudder’s has 0g of added sugars, and Skippy’s has 3g.
Tip #3: Potassium
Potassium is a nutrient that helps manage our blood pressure by countering the effects of sodium. As of 2020, potassium is a required nutrient on nutrition labels, because Americans struggle to reach the recommended amount of 4,700mg of potassium a day. Laura Scudder’s 2 Tbsp of peanut butter has a total of 203mg of potassium, while Skippy’s only contains 94mg. Since Laura Scudder’s also has 0mg of sodium, it’s clearly the better heart-healthy option!
Tip #4: Ingredients
There should only be one ingredient in your peanut butter: PEANUTS. Nothing else. No sugar, no salt, no oils. What I want you to find is natural peanut butter, which is just good ol’ grounded peanuts.
Natural means the product only has peanuts and can also contain a bit of salt. If the product has other ingredients, it cannot be labeled as natural. Laura Scudder’s only has peanuts, so it’s labeled as natural. Skippy’s, on the other hand, has extra ingredients of sugar and hydrogenated vegetable oils, so it cannot be labeled as natural.
Fun Fact: The only kind of oils allowed in peanut butter is hydrogenated vegetable oil since it contains no trans fats. These oils are used to keep the peanut butter and oil from separating (unlike what you’ll see in natural peanut butter). You’ll also see palm oil sometimes as an ingredient which is used for the same purpose.
Visually, you can quickly see if peanut butter is natural if you see a layer of oil sitting on top of the peanut butter. Don’t freak out, it’s just the natural oils from the peanuts themselves. Remember when we talked about how peanut butter has polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats? You’re looking right at it when it’s floating on top of the peanut butter. Mix it in and enjoy it.
I hope you’re now equipped with the knowledge you need to find the best peanut butter concerning your heart health. Laura Scudder’s unsalted natural peanut butter is my favorite go-to. It’s natural, tasty, has no sodium or added sugar, and is a good source of potassium. Let me know if you find other brands that fit our natural, unsalted guidelines.
Now, excuse me, I need to make myself a peanut butter toast.