Sunday, September 5, 2010

Natural Jif: What’s The Dif? -Lisa Cain, Ph.D.

Posted: 04 Sep 2010 05:32 AM PDT
This is a guest post by Lisa Cain, PhD, a.k.a Snack-Girl

Recently, one of Snack Girl’s readers asked me to define the difference between Regular Jif and “Natural” Jif.So, I went to the store and purchased them to evaluate.  Here are the ingredients in regular Jif:

Here is Natural Jif:

I looked and couldn’t understand what the difference was because the nutritional facts are exactly the same.  Then, I phoned Jif (note the phone number for questions).
It seems that the major difference is that Natural Jif includes palm oil as an ingredient while Regular Jif has hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed and soybean).  Why does this make Natural Jif natural?
The Jif representative informed me that palm oil hasn’t gone through the processing of “hydrogenation”.
I’m a bit of a geek, so I actually have taken a year of organic chemistry in 1993 (I am also old).  Hydrogenation is simply adding hydrogens to a compound.  So the rapeseed and soybean oils have added hydrogens which helps them to be solid at room temperature.  Why would you do this?
The Regular Jif that I purchased will last until June of 2012.  Basically, it helps the peanut butter to be shelf stable.
Okay, I bet your eyes are glazing over right about now, but I am not done.  Palm oil is a highly saturated vegetable fat.  What “saturated” means is that every carbon is bound to as many hydrogens as possible.  Basically, palm oil already has a bunch of hydrogens added to its carbons.  So, it didn’t need to be artificially hydrogenated because it is NATURALLY hydrogenated.
The Natural Jif that I purchased will last until June of 2011 (one year less that Regular Jif).
Okay, so I am a big advocate of healthy peanut butter see: How To Choose Healthy Peanut Butter. My definition is that the ingredients list should have one ingredient: peanuts.
Does it matter which one you choose (especially if you are a choosy mother)?
With natural peanut butter you get per serving:
*1 gram more fiber
*2 grams more protein
*1 gram less sugar
compared to Jif (Natural or Regular).  These differences can add up if you eat a lot of peanut butter.
My suggestion is to question the term “natural” on the front of the package.  This term is not regulated by the FDA and two products that say “natural” can be two VERY different things.
Clearly, Smuckers (which owns Jif), is trying to compete with the REAL natural peanut butters of the world.
Lisa Cain, Ph.D. writes about healthy snacks on She is a published author, mother of two, and avid snacker.

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