At some point, years ago, the message filtered into my brain that “Jif peanut butter is bad for you because it contains more sugar, added to make it more attractive to kids.” Like most such social messaging (see “Coors is anti-gay”, etc.), once this made it into my consciousness, I accepted it as truth without every questioning it.
And yet, I continued to buy and consume Jif in preference to Skippy or other national brands. Every couple years, I try something else — be it Skippy, or one which needs to be stirred (and thus sloshes half the peanut oil out of the jar onto the floor, leading to inconsistent consistency over the life of the jar), or chocolate hazelnut Nutella — and every time, I come back to Jif.
Recently, buying a new jar, I remember this “truth” and decided to look at the nutrition labels:
- For Jif — Serving size: 2 tablespoons. (About what you actually use for a sandwich. You know that isn’t always the case with serving size values.) Calories: 190. (Mmm, that seems high, in this era of 100 calorie sized snacks.) Calories from fat: 130.
- For Skippy — Serving size: 2 tablespoons. Calories: 190. Calories from fat: 140. (Interesting.)
- For Adams (which needs to be hand-stirred) — Serving size: 2 tablespoons. Calories: 210. (What?!) Calories from fat: 150. (What?!)
- For O Organics (Safeway brand) — Serving size: 2 tablespoons. Calories: 200. Calories from fat: unclear, but has higher saturated fat amount than Jif/Skippy, so figure at least the same as Skippy.
Jif actually has lower from-fat calories, which certainly could map into higher from-sugar calories (the difference has to come from somewhere, after all), which means that the data portion of the “sugar message” from years ago may be technically true. But that then raises other questions: is it worse for the sugar calories to be higher, or the fat calories to be higher? If the “better” peanut butters are 5-10% higher in calories, are they actually better?
Of note as well, this website rates brands based on issues such as trans fats, water usage, and community support. It tags both Jif and Skippy very low due to trans fat inclusion, but the brand’s websites indicate no trans fats in their peanut butter products, so the website info is a few years out of date. (Many companies removed trans fats a few years ago.)
In the end, my limited research is inconclusive. There is no clarity that one brand is notably better than another in terms of nutrition — a little higher here, a little lower there — which leads back to the only thing that really counts, taste preference.
I admit that I’m probably going to try the almond butter at some point, and maybe non-chocolated hazelnut butter (if such exists), but in the end, I know what I’ll come back to: “Choosy Jims choose Jif.”