Chunky or creamy? The argument for peanut butter superiority has been debated across kitchen countertops in America for ages.
Let me tell you how I like my peanut butter.
Natural, in a jar and upside down on a shelf.
Rather than texture or flavor, I’d argue for health’s sake that natural peanut butter is the way to go.
Natural peanut butter is one the most nutrient-dense foods and a great fuel source especially for athletes. A tablespoon of peanut butter will net you 5g of protein and 100 calories, along with an assortment of vitamins and minerals including iron and potassium.
Though it spreads smooth and easy, regular peanut butter has its reputation smeared by the unhealthy combination of partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats.
Hydrogenation is a common industrial process which adds hydrogen to a liquid unsaturated fat like peanut oil and turns it into a solid fat.
Since it is now a solid fat, the oil in regular peanut butter does not separate. This helps to extend the shelf life of regular peanut butter and also gives it that soft and smooth texture.
In a jar of natural peanut butter however, an oil slick would have pooled at the top. This is perfectly normal.
At room temperature, the heat breaks down the oil, which liquifies and separates, thus forming a layer atop the peanut mix. Everyone who’s enjoyed a nice natural PBJ sandwich will understand the pain of having to stir the mixture frequently upon use.
Unlike natural peanut butter, where the oil is digested and passed through the body naturally, because the fat in regular peanut butter stays solid, it remains in that state even after digestion. This can have detrimental effects on the body.
While regular peanut butter has its conveniences, studies have shown that partially hydrogenated oil increases the production of low-density lipoprotein, a “bad” cholesterol that builds up in blood vessels.
Partially hydrogenated oil is known to be a key source of artificial trans fats.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), trans fat increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke and is also associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
In response to the dangers of partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially banned their use in all foods sold in American restaurants and groceries stores.
Just like most packaged or processed foods, alternative stabilizers like fully hydrogenated oil are used to maintain the texture and flavor profile of your favorite peanut butter.
Natural peanut butters are mostly made up of ground up peanuts and with salt sometimes added to the mix.
Since it can be a hassle to stir, I keep my jar upside down and let it sit on a shelf. Sure, it takes time but let gravity do the work for you.
The next time I crack open the jar, the oil would have worked its way through the peanut butter and I have a nice spread waiting for me.