Peanut Butter is a Nutritional Catastrophe

Now that I’m not eating sugar, peanut butter is one of the hardest foods to find. All of the major brands contain significant amounts of sugar (usually disguised as dextrose or some syrup), even the organic brands. This got me thinking about the peanut butter I used to eat when I lived in the states, so I went to the Jif homepage to look up the nutritional information on their Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter, which was a staple of my breakfast from about 10 years old to 19.

I’ve been out of the US food environment for quite awhile, and Germany and Denmark, say what you want about them, don’t have deceptive labeling or choice-overload the way the US does. Still, a few things surprised me about the spreadable options back in my homeland:

  • All of Jif’s peanut butters have exactly the same calories per serving: 190. As a kid, I would have been better off just eating the full-fat version rather than the ‘reduced fat’, which just makes up for the lost fat with extra sugar.
  • Even the ‘natural’ peanut butter has a shitload of sugar in it, and basically the same nutrition info and ingredients as the standard peanut butter. If you want proof that the term ‘natural’ is pure marketing, look no further.
  • The Jif Omega-3 Peanut Butter is a joke. It’s still laden with sugar, and the nutrition label admits that it contains ‘less than 2%’ of the ingredients that contain omega-3s.
  • All of Jif’s peanut butters contain sugar, even the ‘natural’ and ‘simply’ versions.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that American consumers should just ignore what is on the front of the label and go straight to the nutrition facts on the back. What does it say about America’s political culture that consumers have to maintain constant, hawklike vigilance just to avoid eating products that are demonstrably unhealthy? I’d like to see a survey of how many Jif consumers know that their peanut butter is up to 30% sugar.

Jif obviously has the right to make peanut butter with the nutritional profile of cake frosting. What’s less obvious is why it is allowed to market such cake frosting as ‘natural’, ‘simple’ and containing health-promoting ingredients without any regulation by the government. It’s one thing to make an unhealthy product. It’s another to hide behind a cloak of nutrition and trick consumers into feeding that product to their children.

11 Comments

Filed under Food

11 responses to “Peanut Butter is a Nutritional Catastrophe

  1. Whau. That’s awful. I do feel the need to point out that – under the tag “journalistic turpitude” – peanut butter isn’t in itself a nutritional catastrophe; only the brands that add shit (without saying so and your other valid points) are.
    For example – and without this being about any alleged health benefits of organic foods – the stuff from Urtekram that we ate in Copenhagen is just 99%+ peanuts and less than a percent salt. Nothing else.

  2. Russell Quinn

    I love how in the U.S. everything is labelled as being about 150 calories, and containing x servings (‘x’ being real-number-of-calories / 150). And I mean things like small-ish bags of chips or drinks or even things that are in one discrete mass, which are obviously going to be consumed entirely by one person in one go. I’ve even seen things that are 150 calories, and 2.5 servings.

  3. Great post. I especially found it useful.

  4. DJ

    I don’t suppose there’s a co-op or some other food market in Berlin that might have a peanut grinder. I love PB and pay extra just to avoid sugar.

  5. Drew

    Kraft makes a natural peanut butter that is literally nothing but peanuts. I have the crunchy kind in my cupboard right now.

  6. Jenny

    i agree with you, peanut butter has lots of sugar, and plenty of fats: and so lots of calories. But, if you pay attention to the fats contained in peanut butter, you can see that they are mainly monounsatured fats which are excellent for preventing heart diseases and increasing fat-loss!
    Plus, one serving of peanut butter contains 2g of fibers which fills you up, and 9g of proteins! That’s why peanut butter is actually recommended for you if you’re trying to build muscles or lose weight, and even if you’re not!

  7. In Australia, we have to go straight to the back of the label too. It’s trickery and deceit. I find a good brand, all nuts, nothing else, then buy it in bulk. I like almond butter straight out of the jar. Yum.

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