natural is a word that companies found increased their sales when they slapped it on a product. since "natural" has no legal definition, anyone can put it on pretty much anything. "lower sodium" by contrast can only be put on something that has 25% less sodium than the original formula.
the thing with peanut butter is that most of the time it's mostly peanuts. so with the bulk of peanut butter being peanuts, most of the difference in the nutritional information is going to be if any extra oil is added or sugar. and relative the bulk of the actual nut, that's not going to make a huge difference from brand to brand. in other words, almost all peanut butter is going to be about 100 cals per Tablespoon. the dump the nuts in a grinder in store kind will be about 90 cals per Tablespoon and the added sugar and oil kind might run you closer to the 110 side. personally i prefer to grind my own in store. i don't have to buy a pound of the stuff at once, and, like buying the fancy sugar, i find i use less of it when i buy it this way.
My favorite is Trader Joe's almond butter with sea salt. Ingredients: almonds, sea salt. You know what you are getting! (And its also very yummy)
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The big difference is the trans fats. I'm quite surprised no one has mentioned that elephant in the room yet. Most regular peanut butter contains hyrogenated oil (ie: hidden trans fat), added sugar and salt.
Natural peanut butter contains roasted peanuts and I believe there are some salted varieties. But for the most part it's just peanuts. It also tastes way better, imo. I LOVE peanut butter and it has a super nutty taste compared to the "watered down" regular variety.
You also store them differently. Natural peanut butter must be refridgerated after opening, you can get a non-stir variety or one you have to stir. Just take it out of the fridge about 30 mins before you plan on using it or you can microwave it.
***edit: I reread your question. I originally thought you were asking the difference between regular peanut butter vs. natural peanut. So you can safely ignore my response. ;)
Some peanut butters are half sugar, some have lots of salt. Tahini, is made from sesame seeds. If you add some salt to it, it tastes just like peanut butter. A good replacement if allergic to nuts or want to control the amount of salt.
On the nut butters I select, the only ingredient is the nut itself -- peanuts, almonds. It can be a chore to get the jar started because of separation but just refrigerate and you don't have to do it again.
I like to take it all out with a spatula, put it in a bowl and use the mixer and then spoon it back in the jar.
What is the difference between natural peanut butters and ones that are "simple" or less ingredients? I looked at at the differences between two brands and did see a little difference, not a boatload though. I am thinking about trying a different kind, my concerns: unhealthy ingredients or ones I cant pronounce, and that the food itself really is healthier from a nutrition ingredient point.
I can say right now that I dont mind peanut butter, if it tastes burnt or like the nuts are scorched, its not great. Thats what I find with a few really cheap generic peanut butters and am trying to avoid. I am open to others like cashew or almond, though I have never tried either.
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