For those trying to add muscle, peanut butter is a rock star—packed with about eight grams of protein per two-tablespoon serving. But not all peanut butters are created equal. “The big thing you want to avoid is hydrogenated oil,” says Rachele Dependahl, a registered dietitian with Cedars-Sinai Medical Group in Beverly Hills, CA. “Our bodies can’t get rid of that stuff. It’s trans fat, and it’s associated with free-radical damage and heart disease.” Dependahl recommends avoiding big brands like Jif and Skippy in favor of peanut butters with oil at the top—a tip-of that there’s no hydrogenation. Also, pair it with vegetables like celery and carrots or whole-grain, high-fiber bread. And hold the jelly.
As for which one tastes best: We asked 10 M&F staffers to sample and rate five peanut butters on a scale of 1 (disgusting) to 5 (delicious).
1) JIF EXTRA CRUNCHY
“Great balance,” says photo editor Gaby Chiang. “That’s what peanut butter should taste like,” adds copy editor Jeff Tomko. But while most love the flavor, the dietitian hates its nutrition profile. “Jif is the worst of the bunch,” says Dependahl. “It’s got hydrogenated vegetable oils and sugar. You don’t want that stuff.”
2) PEANUT BUTTER & CO. OLD FASHIONED CRUNCHY
“It’s dripping everywhere,” says designer Miguel Paredes. Adds Tomko: “No taste to it. Like peanuts dipped in water.” But Dependahl loves this one for its short ingredient list. “It’s really simple. Natural. No hydrogenated oil.”
The powdered peanut butter was not a favorite. “Looks like my cat’s litter box,” says deputy editor Zack Zeigler. “I imagine that’s what cat turds taste like, too. I hate it.” The nutritionist, on the other hand, praised its makeup. “It still has protein without the fat,” says Dependahl. “It would work well in oatmeal or a smoothie.”
4) SMUCKER’S NATURAL CREAMY
Staffers said this one lacked flavor. “There’s no there, there,” says Men’s Fitness senior editor Nina Combs. “It’s too runny for me,” adds associate editor Andrew Gutman. But the nutritionist raves about it. “I like this one the best,” says Dependahl. “Only two ingredients. A simple, natural product.”
5) JUSTIN’S CLASSIC
Samplers describe it as “chalky,” “glue,” and “too dry.” “It’s taken away all my moisture,” says art director Ian Robinson. “Scary aftertaste as well.” But the nutritionist approves in a big way. “Simple ingredients and low sodium,” notes Dependahl. “And I’m not bothered by the small amount of palm oil.”