Peanut sittin', on a railway track...
.... heart was all a flutter
train came rollin' down the track
I still smile when my little girl sings that rhyme (there are many verses with many foods) and it brings me to this week's nutrition label lowdown. PB has had a bad reputation in the past because of the oft added sugar and salt, increasing total kilojoules and overall intake of sucrose and sodium. These days there is such a wide range of peanut butters that have no added salt or sugar, some with added protein, some with cacao, and I've even seen hempseeds added. But for today let's just talk about good old plain PB. Peanut butter is an excellent addition to a snack, as it's low GI (glycemic index) which means it has very little effect on your blood sugars. With natural protein from the peanuts it can help you feel fuller for longer with longer lasting energy. This is great for people wanting to reduce cravings for snacks or those with diabetes. Of course what you have it with may change that. The American favourite of PB and jelly (jam) on white bread increases GI substantially.
A better choice (and a favourite in our house) is a smear of peanut butter on cold crisp chunks of apple. The sweetness of apple (pink lady apples rock in my opinion) with the savoury of the PB works so well. Apples are low GI and full of fibre, further adding your long lasting fuel.
So let's dive into what I found from the nutrition labels of a variety of PBs in my local supermarket. Remember that the following is to be viewed as an exercise in the information you can gather from reading nutrition labels. It is to help you make the best choices for your shopping basket. I have not been approached by any of the brands listed and you may have different options in your local store. This week I noted an additional piece of info - the Made in Australia logo. The varieties of PB compared were:
Bega Smooth (Made in Australia with less than 10% Australian Ingredients)
Bega Smooth No Added Salt or Sugar (Made in Australia with less than 10% Australian Ingredients)
Pics Smooth (Made in NZ with at least 50% Australian Ingredients)
Mayver's Smunchy Unsalted (Made In Australia with 0% Australian Ingredients)
Mayver's Dark Roasted Smooth No Added Oil or Sugar (Made in Australia with less than 10% Australian Ingredients)
Mayver's Protein No Added Sugar (Made in Australia with less than 10% Australian Ingredients)
Oh So Smooth No Added Salt, Sugar or Fat (Made in Australia with at least 25% Australian Ingredients)
Coles Organic Smooth (Made In Australia with 0% Australian Ingredients)
Sanitarium Smooth (Made In Australia with 0% Australian Ingredients)
Have a look at my pretty graphs below or if you just want to get into it, scroll down to the analysis.
Most brands of PB have a serving size of 20g, however a few were on either side of that. So I have adjusted each to be the same serving size 20g which is about a tablespoon.
I found it interesting that even though several brands have nothing but peanuts and salt, there was a difference in kilojoules, albeit minor. Perhaps this is a result of the type of processing but when it comes down to it, PB is still something to be enjoyed in moderation. The lowest in kilojoules was the Mayver's Protein, but I feel this is offset by the addition of salt with 79mg sodium making it the second highest in that category. The highest in kilojoules was the Oh So Good which is interesting as they don't add any sugar. Regardless, my thoughts on this though are that watching kilojoules in your PB is not really the priority. We all know peanuts have naturally occurring fats and I the benefits of it as a healthy snack outweigh the kj's. What we should focus on is the added stuff.
Bega Smooth topped the list for sodium (115mg) with the runner up being Mayver's Protein (79mg) and bronze going to Mayver's Dark Roasted (51mg). If you have high blood pressure you should look for where there is hidden sodium in your diet and sneaky peanut butter could be adding to your total intake.
The content of sugar surprised me. Peanuts have naturally occurring sugars, so I expected to see some in all brands. I was expecting the one with added sugar (Bega Smooth) to be through the roof but there was a very small difference across the board. Bega Smooth has 2g of sugar per serve, but all others range from 1g to 1.4g per serve.
Peanuts area good source of protein, but if you are think added protein in your PB is going to be a bonus in your post-workout smoothie, look for other protein sources! The Mayver's Protein (6.4g) is only just over the Sanitarium (5.9g) with the others all fairly consistent around 5g in each. Total Fats and Saturated Fats are all very similar, but around 80% of the fats in peanuts are mono and unsaturated fats which if eaten in moderation are beneficial to your health.
I'm also awarding one last special prize this round and that is for the most local product, going to Oh So Good being Australian made with up to 25% Australian ingredients. While Picks is made with up 50% Australian ingredients, it's made in New Zealand. The others were all either under 10% or 0% Australian ingredients.
I feel there are several good choices from this selection and it comes down to avoiding the sugar and sodium and ultimately, taste preference. Enjoy your PB in moderation and do try it on a chunk of crisp apple for a yummy snack.