The natural fats found in peanut butter can benefit your heart, lower cholesterol and satisfy. Some peanut butter products also include added oil or hydrogenated oil. These oils help to prevent the peanut butter from separating at room temperature. This article breaks down the different types of fat in peanut butter, so you can help your clients and patients understand what it all means.
Deconstructing peanut butter
Depending on the type of peanut butter you choose, there can be different ingredients. Some “natural” or “just peanuts” types of peanut butter contain only peanuts. Other types of peanut butter contain a little added salt for flavour. Some brands include sugars for those who prefer a sweeter tasting peanut butter. Lastly, some peanut butter brands add vegetable oil (such as soybean oil or peanut oil) or hydrogenated vegetable oil to make the peanut butter smoother or to keep it from separating in the jar at room temperature.
The facts on fat in peanut butter
Let’s break down the types of fats that you might find in a jar of peanut butter:
Naturally occurring fat in peanut butter is largely the good kind of fat, which includes monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These are also heart-healthy fats. There is a small amount of naturally occurring saturated fat in peanut butter – about 2 grams of saturated fat per 2 tbsp (30 mL) serving.1 If your natural peanut butter separates, you will see these oils floating at the top of the peanut butter. Just stir the oils back in and store your peanut butter upside down or in the fridge to reduce this separation.
Hydrogenated oils are fats that are liquid at room temperature and have been changed to become more solid at room temperature. Importantly, this process of fully hydrogenating fats does not create harmful trans fats, yet still gives a fat that helps improve shelf-stability and prevents oil separation.2 These hydrogenated oils do add a very small amount of saturated fat to peanut butter for a total of about 3 grams of saturated fat per 2 tbsp (30 mL) serving.
What about trans fats in peanut butter?
Trans fats can be naturally occurring in animal-based foods (such as in milk, cheese, beef and lamb) or “man-made”. The “man-made” trans fats are created by adding partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) to foods and can be harmful to our blood cholesterol levels. In the past, PHOs were often added to foods for taste and texture, as well as to extend the shelf life of foods. Effective September 17, 2018 however, Health Canada has banned the use of PHOs.3 It is now illegal for manufacturers to add PHOs to foods sold in Canada, such as cookies, snacks and peanut butter. When reading food labels of different types of peanut butter, you will notice that there is 0 trans fat, regardless of whether the peanut butter is natural, smooth, crunchy or lower in fat. So whichever peanut butter you enjoy, rest assured that it contains no PHOs and no trans fats.
Peanut butter is a delicious and nutritious food that comes in a variety of formulations to meet every preference. Choose the peanut butter that you like best. By comparing labels, you can find the brands that meet your taste preferences. Remember that a little added salt, sugars, and fat, doesn’t change the overall nutrition of peanut butter very much – and none contain harmful trans fats.
This article was adapted for Canadians from The Scoop on Hydrogenated Fat in Peanut Butter, by Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RDN, LD
1. Nutrition Facts tables of various brands of peanut butter sold in Toronto-based grocery store. (February 21, 2020).
2. Hinrichsen, N. (April 2016). Commercially available alternatives to palm oil. Lipid Technology, 28(3-4): 65-67. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4834613/
3. Government of Canada. (Sept 17, 2018). Canadian Ban on Trans Fats Comes into Force Today https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/news/2018/09/canadian-ban-on-trans-fats-comes-into-force-today.html