By Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RDN, LD
We’re all looking at ingredient labels more closely, and some consumers are concerned when they see oil listed on a peanut butter ingredient label. A label may say partially or fully hydrogenated oil, or palm oil or palm fruit oil.
Here we breakdown what each of these oils are and the affect they have on peanut butter and our health.
The big takeaway is that partially hydrogenated oil is very different from fully hydrogenated oil and palm oils. Partially hydrogenated oil contains trans fat. Fully hydrogenated oil and palm oils do not contain trans fat.
In the past, partially hydrogenated oil was used to keep foods at a stable consistency and to preserve freshness. In peanut butter, it prevents the oils naturally found in peanuts from separating and rising to the top of the jar. But, in 2015, the Food and Drug Administration determined that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer generally recognized as safe and manufacturers are removing them from their products.
Fortunately, most peanut butter manufacturers use oils without trans fats to help prevent this separation and preserve freshness. One common choice is to use fully hydrogenated fats. Fully hydrogenating oils does not create trans fats, yet yields some of the very same functional benefits of partially hydrogenated oils. Fully hydrogenated fats help reduce rancidity, resulting in longer lasting shelf stability. Without the trans fats associated with partially hydrogenated oils, fully hydrogenated oils provide an additional option for addressing the challenge of oils separating in peanut butter when stored in the jar, which many consumers prefer, without trans fats.
Likewise, peanut butter makers may choose to use palm oil, a natural stable tropical oil. Palm oil (sometimes referred to as palm fruit oil) and palm kernel oil both come from a palm tree. While palm oil does not contain trans fats, palm kernel oil is 80% saturated fat and palm oil is 50% saturated fat. In either case, only a very small amount of added fat is used in peanut butter – adding only about one additional gram of saturated fat to each serving.
One of the great things about peanut butter is that we have many choices! Most manufacturers have already eliminated partially hydrogenated oils. Compare nutrition labels and choose your favorite peanut butter, knowing that you’re getting a great total package of protein, fiber (8% DV), vitamins and nutrients, as well as mostly good fats.