What Types of Peanut Butter Are Unhealthy?

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What Types of Peanut Butter Are Unhealthy?
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What Types of Peanut Butter Are Unhealthy?

Peanut butter comes in many forms but all are not created equal. Organic or natural varieties are best while reduced fat options fail to deliver on their health promises. Check out the slideshow to learn more about different kinds of peanut butter.

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If you can’t bring yourself to enjoy the taste of a natural- or organic-style peanut butter, it is ok to eat the standard, commercial variety in moderation. All peanut butters are fatty, but even standard varieties contain mainly unsaturated fats (healthy fats) and minimal saturated fats. They also contain protein, fiber, zinc, potassium, vitamin E, and can help quell hunger. Still, standard, commercial peanut butters contain hydrogenated oils (which often mean traces of trans fat) and other additives that can be avoided by selecting most natural or organic varieties.

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Many health food stores now offer the ability to grind up peanut butter yourself. While these organic peanut butters are the healthiest option in most ways as they lack added sugar or salt (plus no hydrogenated oils or trans fat), they do often contain higher levels of aflatoxin, a carcinogen linked to liver cancer if ingested in high levels over a significant period of time. The chemical comes from a fungus that grows on peanut shells. While it can be found in all peanut butters, significantly less aflatoxin is found in big label products as they have detailed measures in place to assure quality control.

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Natural (or Old-Fashioned) varieties are often not without additives such as salt and sweetener, but they do lack partially hydrogenated oils (which feature trans fat) sometimes used in standard varieties to stop the peanut butter from separating. Like organic peanut butters, natural varieties take a bit more effort to enjoy as the oil separates, requiring a strong stir before use. Natural varieties from trusted brands offer the piece of mind of strong quality controls on aflatoxin.

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While it may be counterintuitive, reduced-fat peanut butters are among the worst for you. “Peanuts, being half oil, are half fat,” writes Jon Krampner, author of Creamy & Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food. Thus, brands selling a reduced-fat peanut butter product must replace the removed fat with something else, such as more sugar or carbohydrates. Reduced-fat varieties typically contain the same amount of calories as the original.

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Now, check out our favorite peanut butter recipes!

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Silky Chocolate Mousse with Peanut Butter Crunch

Any chocolate and peanut butter lover will adore this elegant dessert from pastry chef Rachel Lansang-Hidalgo of Manhattan's Aureole. Lansang-Hidalgo tops a rich milk-chocolate mousse with a roasted-peanut cream and addictively crunchy cornflakes mixed with peanut butter, milk chocolate, and peanuts.

Get the Recipe: Silky Chocolate Mousse with Peanut Butter Crunch

Broiled Banana Bagel

Great for breakfast, dessert, or a flavorful snack, these peanut butter and banana sandwiches go under the broiler to caramelize the cinnamon-sugar topping.

Get the Recipe: Broiled Banana Bagel

Peanut Butter & Pretzel Truffles

These peanut butter-pretzel truffles satisfy your craving for something sweet and salty with 1/2 cup crunchy natural peanut butter for every 20 servings.

Get the Recipe: Peanut Butter & Pretzel Truffles

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Orange-Peanut Sauce

This flavorful dish calls for 3 tablespoons of chunky peanut butter (preferably natural). The combination of peanuts, pork and napa cabbage give this roast an Asian feel. The technique of butterflying and stuffing a pork tenderloin is surprisingly straightforward, yet it yields an impressive result, worthy of a special dinner.

Get the Recipe: Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Orange-Peanut Sauce

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Moon Pies

Moon pies are classic Southern cookies filled with marshmallow and coated with chocolate. Rebekah Turshen, the pastry chef at Nashville's City House, models hers on the classic, but also on the excellently named Goo-Goo Clusters, a peanut candy invented in Nashville in 1912. She spreads crispy sugar cookies with chocolate and peanut butter, then sandwiches them around a marshmallow filling.

Get the Recipe: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Moon Pies

Thai Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Satay is Southeast Asian street food--strips of spiced meat, threaded on skewers and sold at carts all over the region. Although it's served with all sorts of condiments, peanut sauce has become the Western favorite. And why not? It's spicy, sweet, salty and the perfect match to the chicken strips. This perfect dipping sauce utilizes 2 tablespoons of smooth, natural peanut butter.

Get the Recipe: Thai Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

Do you have rotten bananas you're dying to use? Try making these combination muffins using creamy peanut butter.

Get the Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

Double Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chewies

These soft chocolate cookies have a big peanut flavor since they use peanut butter and peanut butter chips.

Get the Recipe: Double Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chewies

Chocolate-Peanut-Butter-Banana Upside-Down Cake

Food & Wine Editor Grace Parisi uses one of the world's great flavor combinations (chocolate with peanut butter) for her unusual marble cake topped with bananas, which caramelize on the bottom of the pan (ideally a glass one).

Get the Recipe: Chocolate-Peanut-Butter-Banana Upside-Down Cake


Peanut butter is one of America's favorite spreads. The average American eats more than six pounds of peanuts and peanut butter products every year, and, despite a growing number of peanut allergies, peanut butter is still enjoyed in 90 percent of American homes, according to the National Peanut Board. Still, for many health-minded individuals, choosing the right peanut butter can be a confusing process.

We break down the pros and cons of popular peanut butter varieties to ease the uncertainty. But no matter which peanut butter you choose, be sure it remains part of your diet. People who eat nuts and peanut butter regularly are less likely to have heart disease or Type 2 diabetes.

Find out which type of peanut butter you should avoid and check out some of our favorite peanut butter recipes, in the slideshow above.

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