pb on knife

Peanut Butter usually with added salt, sugar and oil

March 29, 2015
Ingredients + Products

Why you have to read the ingredient list on nut butters

Did you know over 80% of the time, peanut butter has more than just peanuts listed on its ingredient list?  Before I really got into what was in my food, and started reading ingredient lists, I naively assumed peanut butter on the shelf was just the same as the kind you could make from scratch; it was just composed of peanuts ground up in varying stages to provide creamy or chunky options.

pb with peanuts

Once I started reading the ingredient lists, I quickly learned that was not the case. Other ingredients that show up in various peanut butter brands on the grocery aisle shelves include additional sugars, oils and salt to preservatives and emulsifiers.

A quick survey on Walmart.com of various full-fat, non-flavored, creamy peanut butter brands shows the most likely quantity of ingredients is four, and the most common ingredient combination consists of some mixture of peanuts, added sugar, oil, and salt.


Quantity of Brands by Ingredient List Length

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Beyond the fact that over 80% of the time, peanut butter has more than just peanuts.  Some other interesting insights came from this review of peanut butter brands:

♦ The brand with 12 ingredients had the highest calories (230), highest sugar (12g), but lowest fat (12g).  It was also Walmart’s Great Value brand, and was the lowest price option.

♦ The number of ingredients was highly correlated to the grams of sugar per serving. Brands with only 1 or 2 ingredients had the lowest sugar at 1g or 2g. The ones with 4 ingredients all had at least 3g of sugar.

♦ Price did distinguish the type of sugar and oil added with higher priced peanut butters containing palm oil and evaporated cane juice versus partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup in lower priced options.

We happen to be more of an almond butter family, and I discovered this pattern repeats itself with almond butter and in fact almost all other types of nut butters as well.  In fact, the ingredients brands elected to use in their peanut butter recipe were often identical to their almond butter one except for the substitution of peanuts for almonds.

I’m sure taste and texture figure into why some buy the multiple ingredient varieties, as does price.  But this analysis certainly made me question my family’s choice.  We now buy the Whole Foods 365 brand for both peanut and almond butter.  Click here to read my post on why.

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