Low-fat peanut butter, also known as reduced-fat peanut butter, is a spreadable paste used as a substitute for regular or full-fat peanut butter. They come in two major varieties: replaced peanuts or replaced fat. Debate exists about whether these low-fat products truly are healthier than regular or all-natural versions of peanut butter.
Peanut butter is a staple paste for sandwiches and other foods such as bagels. It is the lament of dieters, however, because it can contain as much as 0.42 to 0.56 ounces (12 to 16 grams) of fat and roughly 200 calories per serving. Manufacturers developed the peanut butter as a way to provide healthier, more slimming alternatives.
Some low-fat peanut butter has a reduced fat and calorie content because the manufacturers reduce the percentage of peanuts in the product, sometimes using peanut flour. They add other low-calorie ingredients to make up the difference, such as tapioca starch. As a result of these efforts, some peanut butters cut the regular peanut butter calorie average by half and the fat content to just 0.07 ounces (2 grams).
In some instances, manufacturers opt to make a low-fat peanut butter simply by removing some of the fat. They replace the fat with other food additives such as corn syrup or maltodextrin. This is somewhat problematic because the additives essentially are carbohydrates that provide less satiety than the fat and protein peanuts normally have, providing only a 10 to 20 calorie cut while leaving a person hungry. Many people are unwilling to buy a low-fat product that might cause additional calorie consumption later on, especially when the number of calories is so slight.
A major problem with low-fat peanut butter products is that fat is largely what makes peanut butter so delicious. Take it out and the peanut butter doesn't have the same taste appeal. Some people who are used to regular peanut butter cannot get past the difference in taste, which can be considerable for products that reduce peanut percentages.
Another consideration with peanut butter pastes marketed as low-fat is that the fat in peanuts is monounsaturated fat, the kind that lowers bad cholesterol in the body. With the exception of all-natural peanut butters, most peanut butters, including low-fat versions, go through a hydrogenation process that creates trans fat, a substance which raises bad cholesterol. As a result, some people argue that reaching for a non-hydrogenated, all-natural peanut butter is better than a low-fat version, despite the higher number of calories and fat grams.