There’s an Albertson's nearby our office at work and and I occasionally stop by if I’m going out for lunch anyway. And, I recently needed some peanut butter which I figured would be an easy purchase — I’ve only had natural peanut butter for the past couple years but it’s readily available in stores these days. Or so I thought.
I walked over to the peanut butter aisle and looked for the big glass jars of natural peanut butter (for some reason, natural peanut butters always seem to be in glass jars). But, I didn’t see any. I was about to give up when I saw a jar of Carb Options Creamy Peanut Spread. It had a small “Skippy” banner in one corner so it appeared to have a reasonable pedigree. And, while my previous gripe with regular peanut butters had been their sugar content, this one was sweetened with Splenda :).
The other issue I originally had with non-natural peanut butters was their trans fat from partially hydrogenated oils. Now, as it turns out, I later learned that even regular peanut butter may have negligible trans fat content; but, by then, I had become quite accustomed to the full-peanut flavor of natural peanut butter.
Getting back to the Carb Options Peanut Spread, I checked its label and, even though partially hydrogenated oils were listed among the ingredients, the Nutrition Facts portion confirmed that it had no trans fat. I figured that it would probably resemble the taste of regular peanut butter but without all the normal disadvantages; so, I added a jar to my basket.
Upon returning home, I decided to put it to the test. I still had a jar of natural peanut butter in the fridge and so I could compare them directly. It took me a moment to come up with a meaningful procedure, but then I recalled that a peanut butter & jelly sandwich — in addition to being tasty — would work well as a testing platform. So, I pulled out a slice of low-carb bread along with sugar-free jam. Then, I spread some natural peanut butter on half the slice and Carb Options Peanut Spread on the other half. Finally, I spread jam across both sides.
This dual-testing configuration allowed me to directly compare peanutiness bite-for-bite. I also had a glass of water on hand to cleanse my palette in between tastings. I started on the Carb Options side of the sandwich and took a bite. At first, it seemed fine: I could taste both the sweetness of the blackberry jam along with the peanut flavor of the spread. From there, I moved on to the natural peanut butter side — and I couldn’t help but notice a more intense peanut flavor.
I soon finished the sandwich and, while neither side was bad, the natural peanut butter side was more organically peanutty. As I looked more closely on the Carb Options label, I soon realized why it was called merely a “peanut spread” — it only had “65% peanuts”. And, considering that the natural peanut butter (Ingredients: Roasted Peanuts, Salt) was probably 99% peanuts, it was a little disconcerting to ponder what the other 35% was within the peanut spread.
The second stage of my testing battery was the sliced-apple test. I had some apple in the fridge that I had sliced earlier and I had hunch that it could be more nourishing with a little peanut butter on top ;). Once again, I made use of both peanut spreads — some slices had one and some slices had the other. And, even though the natural peanut butter was more intrinsically tasty, the Carb Options spread did have a slight edge in one sense. As it contained partially hydrogenated oils, it was a semi-solid product. So, while the natural peanut butter tended to flop over the sides of the apple slices (and even ooze off), the Carb Options spread obediently remained affixed to the slices as if it was some kind of peanut Jell-o.
Finally, I had to taste the spreads alone, without the influence of other food items. Spoon in hand, I dove in. At this point, there was no contest. The natural peanut butter was creamy (yet grainy) with a pleasant saltiness. And, the Carb Options spread, while resembling peanuts, just didn’t compare. In fact, it was as if I was eating some other food — it seemed like a familiar flavor. Finally, I figured it out: the Carb Options spread tasted just like peanut-flavored butter. Really.
Nutrition line-item for nutrition line-item, these peanut spreads are fairly similar: 190 Calories each, 16g fat (natural) vs 17g fat (spread), 4g net carbs (natural) vs 3g net carbs (spread) and 8g protein (natural) vs 7g protein (spread). So, if I ended up liking the spread more, I could have eaten it without guilt. But, the natural peanut butter was the easy winner in this case.