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Whether you’re indulging in a late-night PB&J or lunchtime ants on a log, peanut butter is a tasty, dependable snack to fill up on (and much more crave-worthy than a bunch of baby carrots). Luckily, the condiment is pretty darn good for you, too. “Nut butters are a great source of plant-based protein,” says Dr. Felicia Stoler, DCN, a registered dietician, nutritionist and exercise physiologist. “The fat and fiber in peanuts help provide satiety, or feelings of fullness.”
As long as the ingredient list is clean (peanuts should always be the first one listed!), PB can easily be part of a healthy diet. Read on to learn its benefits, plus ten nutritionist-approved brands of healthy peanut butter we love.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Felicia Stoler, DCN, is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and exercise physiologist. She’s the author of Living Skinny in Fat Genes: The Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Feel Great and the former host of TLC’s Honey, We’re Killing the Kids.
What Are the Health Benefits of Peanut Butter?
Our favorite thing about peanut butter is how filling (and affordable) it is. Add it to smoothies, oatmeal, noodles and sandwich recipes, or pair it with apples and celery for a boost of protein that’ll help hold you over between meals. In addition to being protein-packed, peanut butter and nuts in general have a ton of health perks.
“[Nuts] are dominant in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are considered heart-healthy because they help lower LDL (aka ‘bad’) cholesterol,” says Stoler. “They also contain omega-6 fatty acids, as well as biotin, copper, niacin, folate, manganese, vitamin E, thiamin, magnesium and phosphorus.” Even better, peanuts specifically also contain fiber, since they’re legumes and grown underground.
What Ingredients Are in Healthy Peanut Butter?
To no one’s surprise, the first (and sometimes only) ingredient on the label should be peanuts. “Some stores make peanut butter fresh on location [by grinding] peanuts into nut butter or paste,” says Stoler. “Sometimes salt or other spices are added. In some instances, additional oil is also added to create a smoother texture.”
The 10 Best Healthy Peanut Butter Brands
This is one of Stoler’s go-to brands. Think of it as a more wholesome take on big-brand peanut butter that’s sweetened, salted and made with additional oil. “My favorite sandwich—which I've turned a lot of people onto—is Jif or Skippy Natural PB with jelly, jam or spreadable fruit on potato bread,” she says.
This other classic brand is pretty on par with Jif, except it has 1 less gram of fiber, higher sodium and no molasses. Skippy’s entire line of natural spreads are free of preservatives, artificial flavors and colors. Like most peanut butters, this one is also free of cholesterol and trans fat.
“I love that companies have started to make peanut butter and other nut butters in single-serve packs,” says Stoler, because of how easy they make maintaining portion control and snacking on the go. This popular brand contains no added sugar or salt, which explains its low sugar and sodium counts compared to bigger brands. Justin’s also uses sustainably sourced palm oil that doesn’t displace or harm orangutans in the areas where it’s harvested.
Phew, where do we begin? First of all, it doesn’t get cleaner than a one-ingredient label. Secondly, this pick is sugar-, oil-, salt- and cholesterol free *and* vegan. Each jar of natural nut butter is packed with 540 kinds of raw peanuts, all naturally processed and grown in the United States. Just use a stirrer to blend the oil and peanut crunch together to make it easier to spread.
It’s nearly identical to Crazy Richard’s nutrition-wise, but significantly cheaper (and perhaps more accessible, if you live near a Whole Foods Market). This organic PB is free of added sugar and salt, vegan and made with U.S.-grown peanuts. (BTW, you might think all peanut butter is vegan, but those that contain non-organic white sugar technically aren’t…just ask ketchup.) Similar to most natural peanut butters—especially those that are free of oils or emulsifiers—the peanuts’ natural oils will separate from the solids. But some Amazon reviewers claim that this particular one isn’t as hard to stir as other brands.
Try It: Soba Noodles with Peanut Sauce
There are a handful of peanut butters on the market that are naturally sweetened with dates, but this one also has the brag-worthy addition of egg white for extra protein. It’s keto-friendly (like most peanut butter) and doesn’t contain any added sugar. Use it to make a peanut sauce for soba noodles or drizzle it over oatmeal to make it even more protein- and fiber-rich.
Try It: Warm Sesame Noodle Salad
We love the concept of this squeezable pouch. You can spread the peanut butter over toast, stir it into a smoothie bowl or squeeze it onto apple slices just as easily as you can slurp it straight from the pouch (c’mon, it’s the same as eating it from the jar, minus the spoon). Just be sure to knead the pouch before squeezing to combine the oil and solids. Thrive Market’s PB is organic, vegan and free of preservatives and added sugars and sweeteners.
Try It: Cocoa Peanut Butter Granola
This California brand prides itself in its all-natural, small-batch peanut butter, which is vegan and free of salt, sugar, palm oil and preservatives. Producing the PB in small batches allows the brand to avoid any unnecessary food processing and stabilizers. Spread the Love is family-owned and frequently works with nonprofits, so even though this peanut butter is a bit of a splurge, it’s well worth the buy.
You know and love this brand for its famous Concord grape jelly. What better pairing for it than this natural peanut butter that has a clean ingredient list and solid nutrition stats? It’s free of hydrogenated oils and vegan to boot. Serve it with fruit, spread it on a sandwich or dig into the jar to your heart’s content—we won’t tell.
Try It: Peanut Butter Dip
Instead of using the spreadable stuff for smoothies, yogurt, soups and sauces, Stoler leans on powdered peanut butter. It’s great for blending or shaking, since it’s not as thick and sticky as regular peanut butter (meaning you won’t have to scrape the blades and blender clean every few seconds to make a protein shake). PB2’s powder also has 90 percent less fat and significantly fewer calories per two-tablespoon serving than most peanut butters.
How to Store Natural Peanut Butter
Standard big-brand peanut butters will last in a dark, cool pantry for about six to nine months unopened, or two to three months once opened. Refrigerating it extends its shelf life, but the cold definitely makes it less spreadable.
Natural peanut butter is even less spreadable when cold, since it’s unrefined and contains nothing but ground peanuts (and sometimes salt) and no preservatives or hydrogenated oils to keep it smooth. Many brands advise refrigerating it after opening, but natural peanut butter can last up to a month on a cool, dark shelf. (P.S.: Storing your natural peanut butter upside-down in the pantry will help keep the oil evenly distributed instead of pooled at the top.)
If you’ll likely finish the jar within a month, feel free to keep it at room temperature. If it typically takes you longer, keep it in the fridge for up to six months instead so the oils don’t spoil. Just be sure to stir the separated oil back into the peanut butter between uses—it’s tougher to reincorporate once the PB is cold and hard again.
What Peanut Butter Brands Should You Avoid?
Some peanut butters are sweetened with sugar, molasses or honey, which increases their sugar content. If that’s not an issue for you, Stoler wouldn’t consider naturally sweetened peanut butters like these unhealthy; they’re just not the most nutritious or plain options available. However, she does suggest staying away from peanut butters that are sweetened with non-nutritive or artificial sweeteners, if you happen to come across any at the supermarket.