Newsday - Battle of the Peanut Butters
Now, let me say that I'm not usually particularly touchy about seeing stories that extol the virtues of PB, but for some reason this one got under my skin. To be fair, there was a small article posted along with it that discussed the rising prevalence of PA and how schools are dealing with it.
I wrote to the author and suggested that perhaps she should do a story comparing various PB substitutes for those who are PA, and those who are attending peanut free schools. I mean, after all, is this really news? Articles like this are a dime a dozen:
Skippy takes 1st place in peanut butter tasting
BY ERICA MARCUS
[email]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email]; BETH WHITEHOUSE
September 5, 2007
This week, thousands - if not millions - of kids will set off for their first day of school, secure in the knowledge that no matter what happens during morning classes, lunchtime will bring the familiar comfort of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
While it poses a real threat to those with peanut allergies, peanut butter remains an eternally popular sandwich filling, and so, two weeks ago, Newsday assembled 11 school-age kids at Kitchen Time's Party Place in Massapequa to settle the age-old question: Which is the best peanut butter? (We left the jelly out; moms, it's up to you to conduct your own taste test.)
The lineup included 16 peanut butters, five national brands plus store brands from Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Because most kids have a decided preference for either creamy or crunchy, we conducted separate tastings for each style.
In both categories, Skippy took first place, followed closely by Peter Pan and then Jif. With the exception of Skippy Natural, regular peanut butters bested the natural brands.
Jif, made by J.M. Smucker Co., is the nation's best-selling peanut butter; Skippy (Unilever) and Peter Pan (ConAgra) round out the top three.
WHAT'S INSIDE THE JARS
Across the great creamy-crunchy divide, peanut butters fall into two distinct categories: traditional and natural. Left to its own devices, the oil will separate from the peanut butter if it is not constantly stirred back in.
Traditional peanut butters add a small amount of stabilizer to the other ingredients (peanuts, salt and, sometimes, sugar) to keep the mixture homogenized and smooth. Natural peanut butters eschew stabilizers, and thus, can usually be recognized by a crowning layer of oil and a relatively loose texture.
What exactly is a stabilizer? In most cases, it is a partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, that is, a dreaded trans fat. However, peanut butters that list "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" in their ingredients can still claim to be "trans-fat free" if the amount of trans fat in a 2-tablespoon serving is less than .5 grams. In fact, all of the leading traditional peanut-butter brands list partially hydrogenated vegetable oil as an ingredient, yet they all contain 0 percent trans fat.
We found one exception to the rule that natural peanut butters are loose-textured and oily: Skippy Natural, the winner in both our creamy and crunchy contests. Instead of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, Skippy Natural employs palm oil as a stabilizer. Palm oil is derived from the fruit of the palm tree. Unlike most vegetable oils, it is quite high in saturated fat and, thus, is semi-solid at room temperature. It is only marginally healthier than trans fats, but it gets the stabilizing job done while still being considered "natural."
Despite small amounts of partially hydrogenated oils or saturated fat, however, peanut butter remains a very healthy food. A typical 2-tablespoon serving contains 7 grams of protein and from 2 to 3 grams of fiber. Of the approximately 16 grams of fat, 13 grams are mono- or polyunsaturated - in other words, good fats. Peanut butter is a good source of vitamin E, niacin, iron and calcium. Plus, it's satisfying and filling, which makes it less likely that your kid will require a dose of Oreos.
AND THE WINNERS ARE . . .
We conducted a blind taste test with 11 participants, ages 8 to 13. The peanut butters were spread thickly onto slices of white bread which were then cut into smaller pieces. Tasters were asked to rate the peanut butters - "yuck!" to "yum!" Here are the results in order of preference:
Skippy Natural Creamy ($2.39 for 16.3 ounces)
Skippy Creamy ($2.39 for 18 ounces)
Peter Pan Creamy ($2.29 for 18 ounces)
Jif Creamy ($2.59 for 18 ounces)
Trader Joe's Natural Creamy ($1.69 for 16 ounces)
Smucker's Natural Creamy ($3.19 for 16 ounces)
365 (Whole Foods) All-Natural Creamy ($2.99 for 18 ounces)
Trader Joe's Organic Creamy ($2.99 for 16 ounces)
(tie) Skippy Natural Super Chunk ($2.39 for 16.3 ounces) and Peter Pan Crunchy ($2.29 for 18 ounces)
Skippy Super Chunk ($2.39 for 18 ounces)
Jif Extra Crunchy ($2.59 for 18 ounces)
365 (Whole Foods) All-Natural Crunchy ($2.99 for 18 ounces)
Trader Joe's Natural Crunchy ($1.69 for 16 ounces)
Smucker's Natural Chunky ($3.19 for 16 ounces)
Trader Joe's Organic Crunchy ($2.99 for 16 ounces)