Friday, May 31, 2013

Let’s Talk Low/No Sodium Peanut Butter

Which low/no sodium brand is your favorite, and where do you buy it? I’ve been thinking about peanut butter because of Bev’s comment on my recent post, Low/No Sodium Products – Amazon Wish List. I had listed Natural Jif, but Bev told me about another Jif product. It’s called Simply Jif, and the label says it’s low sodium and has 33% less sugar than regular Jif. Well, Bev was right. How I overlooked this product is puzzling. But I think it might be because I usually buy unsalted, natural peanut butter, either Laura Scudder’s , Trader Joe's, or Adams. You know, the kind you have to stir.

There are some differences between Natural Jif and Simply Jif:
  • Natural has 190 calories per 2 tbsp. serving, with 130 from fat. Simply has the same overall calories, but 140 are from fat.
  • Natural has 80 mgs sodium/serving. Simply has 65 mgs sodium/serving.
  • Natural has 3 g sugars/serving. Simply has 2 g sugars/serving.
  • Natural is made with palm oil. Simply is made with “fully hydrogenated vegetable oil (rapeseed [canola] or soybean).

Simply Jif really is lower in sodium and in sugars. However, Simply Jif uses hydrogenated vegetable oil, while Natural Jif uses palm oil (a naturally saturated vegetable fat that is semi-solid at room temperatures). The difference in oils used might be a concern for some.

So, which peanut butter do you like and buy? I never cared for peanut butter much until I discovered Laura Scudder’s natural version years and years ago. And that’s what I’ve used ever since. I think natural tastes more peanutty, and it’s not sweetened. Plus I’m not a fan of the ultra creamy, shortening-like consistency and mouth-feel of peanut butters like Jif and Skippy. But I realize I’m in the minority. Some people don’t like the slight grittiness of most natural peanut butters.

My half eaten jar of Laura Scudder's

However, the biggest downside to natural peanut butter is the need to stir the oil into the peanut solids. If the jar is fresh, that’s not a problem. But if the jar has been on the grocery store shelf for a while, then you’re dealing with a hard section of peanut mass that’s almost impossible to get a spoon into. (For some reason, Trader Joe's unsalted natural peanut butter is much easier to stir.) I usually microwave the open jar on the defrost setting for about 20 seconds at a time, stirring little by little with the handle of a wooden spoon until all the solids are evenly combined with the oil. Believe me, it takes some muscle power. And you’ve got to be sure you’ve blended every bit thoroughly. Otherwise, when you get near the bottom of the jar, you run into dry, hard, globs of peanut cement. I’ve got the patience to do that. My husband -- not so much. That’s why we started venturing into more traditional style peanut butters.

I have tried so-called “No-Stir” natural peanut butters, like Maranatha and Full Circle brands, and been disappointed. They’re usually made with palm oil to supposedly provide a no-stir, creamy texture. But despite what the label says, I’ve discovered that there is, indeed, stirring required. They often have a tell-tale layer of oil floating above the peanut solids. I’d heard good things about Justin’s brand, but yesterday when checking it out in Safeway, I spotted a layer of oil at the top of the jar. Plus it costs about $2.00 more than either Laura Scudder’s or Adams. And quite a bit more than Trader Joe's. So I passed it up, but maybe I really should give it a try.

What brands do you buy and why? Or, equally important, why don’t you buy certain brands? Just as Bev gave me a nudge to look for another peanut butter option, we can share information here. Who knows what we might discover?


Anonymous said...

When the peanut butter I buy fresh ground from a local natural food store is too dry, I add some peanut oil which makes it a lot easier to stir. Recently it's been pretty moist -- no trouble to stir it.


Rebecca Schaefer said...

Justin's peanut butter. It is made of oil and nuts, No salt.

PicturePerfectPixies said...

Krema. It doesn't have to be refrigerated and there is no salt! Yum!

Anonymous said...

Great info on peanut butter....thanks!

shambo said...

Thanks for all your feedback. Picture Perfect, I've never heard of Krema before. But I read the few comments on Amazon, and it sounds like it's really smooth & creamy for an all natural peanut butter. I'm going to have to give it a try. Same with Justin's.

I also like the suggestion of adding peanut oil to overly dry peanut butter to make a better consistency.

Jenny said...

Great info, Sue. I remember having a conversation with you about peanut butter before. Since peanut butter is an item offered by WIC, we tend to go for the versions that WIC covers, which, unfortunately, all contain sugar and oil. When we can afford to, I buy the "Natural" Jiff, which, as you explained, still leaves something to be desired as far as health is concerned. But I really do need to splurge and get a truly natural peanut butter, such as Laura Scudder's. I've heard good things about some peanut butter stirrers, maybe I'll take the plunge for one of those, too.

shambo said...

Jenny, I remember that a couple of years ago, Cook's Illustrated rated peanut butters. Jif & Skippy came out on top because of their creaminess. None of the "real" natural peanut butters were preferred. Mainly because true natural peanuts butters have a slight grittiness that some find objectionable. I don't mind it because I'd rather taste peanuts, and I don't like the uber-creamy shortening-like consistency of Jif, Skippy, et al. But as I said in the post, I know I'm in the minority.

Bev(QB) said...

As you know, it almost always pays to check each brand and each product within that brand because I'm constantly surprised what I find. It meant a few shopping trips measured in hours when my husband was first diagnosed with cardiac problems a couple of months ago, but as we've found favorites it has gotten quicker.

In addition to the whole Low Sodium Jif having higher sodium than Simply Jif surprise, I've found a couple of types/brands of fresh mozzerella and organic goat cheese are really low in sodium (who knew?!). Even Swiss cheese varies between types, brands, and even shape!

We STILL stop and spot check all the nutritional labels in random sections every trip. We've gotten smarter now and realize that sodium content AND serving size are important when comparing products. My husband doesn't have a cholesterol problem so, for us, low sodium usually means a low enough cholesterol count that we don't have to concern ourselves with it.

BTW, I can't remember if you had them in your wish list or not but XOCHiTL no salt, no trans fat, no gluten tortilla chips are now a staple in our house. If you're in Publix territory, they make a Publix brand no salt tortilla chip. Also in the Ethnic section, you'll find Goya Lady Fingers (a great no sodium cookie) and a little further down the aisle you'll find no sodium Matzo Crackers to spread you're Simply Jif on. Don't forget Matzo Meal as a no salt subsitute for bread crumbs.

LOL, can you tell that we are always on the hunt for snacks to munch on?

shambo said...

Bev, I'm so glad you commented. I didn't have much luck contacting you. Also, thanks for sharing all your discoveries. It's really helpful if we all share info about our favorite low/no sodium products. We may not be able to find the exact product, but the info will get us looking for something comparable.

I'm with you regarding Matzo meal & crackers. They're a great low sodium cracker.

Take care!

richard paterson said...

very good article..I was looking for such a article on sodium from many days.
thanks so much

Anonymous said...

I know I'm SUPER late to this conversation but I ran across this blog. I recently starting trying to watch my sodium intake and found that at Target the Simply Balanced nut butters (creamy peanut, crunchy peanut and almond butter) are all completely sodium free and they taste wonderful. They are all natural so they are grittier but I am like others and don't mind. Thanks for the info on low sodium items!

shambo said...

Thanks for the info about nut butters at Target. I'm going to make a point of checking them out. I never would have thought that Target carried no sodium nut butters because not every grocery store carries them. Great news! Thanks, again!