Natural Jif: What's The Dif?

August 25, 2010   67 Comments

After Snack Girl's recent exposé on Whole Grain vs Original Wheat Thins, readers have started sending her other potential food fakes.

Natural Jif: What's The Dif?

Valerie wrote:

While grocery shopping yesterday, a new product caught my eye. Jif is now making a "natural" peanut butter. Since even Jif PB contains so few ingredients, I've always been a little skeptical about people who make a big deal about "natural" peanut butter.

I picked up the two and compared the labels. I looked, and looked, and looked. Same nutritional profile. I think I finally figured out that the natural one didn't contain some of the preservatives, but otherwise they look identical to me.

So, I went to the store and purchased them myself. Here are the ingredients in regular Jif:


Here is Natural Jif:

Natural Jif nutrition label

You know, Valerie, I looked too 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. Recently, Krema sent me some "natural" peanut butter. Krema's ingredient list is: peanuts.

But what about Valerie's point about the Jif peanut butter not having many ingredients? Does it matter which one you choose (especially if you are a choosy mother)?

With Krema's peanut butter you get per serving:

  • 1 gram more fiber
  • 2 grams more protein
  • 1 gram less sugar

than Jif and (I think) it is tastier. The differences may be slight, but if you eat a lot of peanut butter they will add up. And, they cost the same! Krema's peanut butter will last until May 2011.

What to do?

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 Kremas of the world.

Which type of peanut butter should choosy mothers choose?

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I'm not sure that they are "clearly" trying to compete with Krema as Smuckers already has a product with just 2 ingredients (peanuts, salt) in their Smuckers Natural Peanut Butter - which is a whole lot closer to Krema than Jif.

Labels like "Natural" are bad, bad, bad. Consumers think they are getting one thing and they get something else. In this case, probably paying more for the label change than any real product change. Also, I agree with Snack Girl--peanut butter should be made from peanuts, that's it. Jif is better than most processed peanut butters, but still who needs the added sugar? It may take a bit to convert your tastes from a sugary peanut butter to an all-natural one, but it's worth it.

The only kind of peanut butter i buy has peanuts and nothing else.

I went online to order a jar of Krema peanut butter and saw that it was only $3.29 per jar. That's pretty good! However, shipping is $10. $13.29 per jar is not good...I didn't see that they sell anywhere in stores. Am I wrong?

we have been buying krema for awhile now and we buy it at kroger or walmart.

Thanks, Lisa. I concur! I'm a label reader. Food manufacturers could call their product "miraculous" at this point and I would roll my eyes and go straight to the ingredients list. The peanut butter in our household is made from peanuts, period. And it will be consumed long before May 2011. However, I'm always curious about the types of oils being used in so-called healthy foods: palm, rapeseed, soy. I thought palm oil, for example, is something to stay away from. Am I wrong?

I get the Peanut Butter from Trader Joes. Only peanuts in it.

You know the label for the Natural Jif is kind of funny. It says 90% Peanuts. Guess I would assume it should be 100% peanuts. What is filling in the 10%?

Thanks Jill, I'll take a closer look at Wal-Mart next time I'm there. I might also check out Trader Joe's as their stuff is always good!

Incomplete hydrogenation=trans fat=heart disease. Saturated (which completely hydrogenated is) isn't great but is better. Though I appreciate less chemical processing either way (have you seen how they make Splenda? ick).

Meijer (a grocery store mainly in the midwest) carries a natural peanutbutter in their store brand. The only ingredient is peanuts.

Thank you very much!! How fun to have my question answered.

In the grand scheme of things, I'm not really convinced that eating natural peanut butter is a huge nutritional advantage over eating conventional PB. If I really want to cut down on sugar, I tend to think of us not eating desserts all the time instead of cutting a couple grams of sugar out of peanut butter.

How interesting that the only part that makes it "natural" is the type of oil used. I think this is pretty clearly just a marketing strategy.

Having eaten conventional peanut butter my whole life, I did make it from scratch one day. And you know what? I liked the result best when I added a little bit of oil and a little bit of sugar.... so there you go.

Products like these are why I am a Food Science major. That "natural" Jif peanut butter has too many unnecessary ingredients and it is being marketed as "healthy" to parents for their kids. The deception truly bothers me. On the other hand, the Krema's shelf life is only one month shorter than the PB with the added oils (Jif Natural). I also noticed on the Jif Natural, it says "Natural ingredients minimal oil separation is natural." Oil separation occurs with UNsaturated fats at room temperature; therefore the PBs with ONLY peanuts as their ingredients will have much more of an oil separation than the Jif Natural. Original Jif will have no oil separation at all because it has been chemically altered not to, which is extremely unnecessary in my opinion.

Just want to put a plug in for Crazy Richards - another one with only peanuts as the sole ingredient. Better yet, though, invest in a vitamix! I make all kinds of fantastic nut butters - especially raw ones, which cost about $12 for a little jar in the store!

Adams Natural Peanut Butter only has peanuts and it is distributed by...Smuckers!

This column is so timely! We were just having a discussion the other night about peanut butter because I refused to continue buying Jif for my family.

I was, however, I didn't understand that the full hydrogenation of the oils eliminated the trans fats.

That said, I still won't buy Jif because I also believe that the only thing needed for peanut butter is PEANUTS! Well, and maybe a tiny bit of salt.

My son -- the one who doesn't like all the naturals PBs I've tried so far because they're "too salty" -- has agreed to try Trader Joe's unsalted version and is going to sweeten it to his taste by adding a little agave nectar.

Oops ... a little type up there: 2nd paragraph. Just take out the first 2 words. :-D

Not only does palm oil promote heart disease, but the vast plantations that grow oil palm trees have contributed to the destruction of the rainforest and wildlife of Southeast Asia.

Just a few more reasons not to purchase products with palm oil!

The Adams peanut butter is unsalted. I tried some today and I think it will take some getting used to. I am a Jif girl and find others like Skippy too sweet or not creamy enough but the Natural just doesn't have the flavor I'm used to. Also, I think a lot of people don't like Natural because you have to stir it and it's a little yucky. It's an acquired taste!

Hydrogenated oils are bad because of the body's reaction to them not just because hydrogen has been added. Palm oil is less inflamatory. High added sugar content is what sets commercial peanut butter apart from the truly natural kind.

Judy - you only have to stir it once - after that you can pop it in the fridge and it will stay beautifully mixed up. I also got a PB crank on amazon (about $10 - great stocking stuffer too) to make the mixing more "fun" for whoever in our house gets to do it first and that seems to have eliminated all complaints!

Thanks, Kate! I did put it in the fridge after I used it and noticed this morning it stayed nice and creamy. Still missing the sugar for now...I'll check that out!

I love Krema. It is the best tasting pb I've found and it hardly separates at all. My kids love it too.

all this peanut butter information is great. I love the Science stuff.

But, as far as nut butters go, I like Almond Butter and Cashew Butter best. (from Trader Joe's)

I've tried truely natural peanut butter and cannot stand it. I love the new palm oil natural products. Jif Natural is pretty good but I like the Skippy Natural even more. Maybe its not completely healthy but we all have our indulgences.

I read this article, and it got me so fired up that when I went grocery shopping the next day, I spent some real time looking at peanut butter labels, and I wound up buying Crazy Richard''s good, and very similar in flavor and texture!

Why do companies insist on using palm oil? Horrible for the environment.

I was also wondering with all the comments on PB what about the Sodium Content..that's what I have really been noticing on alot of foods lately and I can't remember what brand Jif or Skippy but their "Natural" brand had less sodium..sooo what do you buy..less sodium and more "processed"? Please help we are trying to eat more healthier!

I would probably worry less about the sodium than the sugar content. The sodium in peanut butter is pretty minimal (80 mg per serving). Thanks for your question!

My gosh! WHY in the world would you buy anything LESS than simply TWO ingredients: peanuts and salt??!! The rest is junk and fillers and flavor modifiers that have nooooo business in peanut butter. You will never win your battle with "healthy" food until you start buying HEALTHY food. Food processing companies like the manufacturer of Jif and Skippy do NOT make healthy food. Get yourself some peanut butter that is 100% peanut butter with added salt. THEN you and your child will be far better off. When you continually buy food with vegetable oils of any kind and sweeteners in it, you will never get healthy. Get off the processed food wagon!

Thanks for posting this! I've been debating on what kind of peanut butter I want to get since my doctor is warning me that I'm showing signs of pre-diabetes. She recommended eating a spoonful of peanut butter when my sugar drops... it really helps, but I don't want to be consuming peanut butter with a ton of sugar, obviously.

A few years ago I lived on the west coast and really enjoyed Adam's peanut butter but it takes getting used to. It definitely tastes different but after a while I started to prefer it. But that's true of anything, like if you're going to make the switch from white to wheat bread. You'll like it eventually.

Unfortunately I've moved back to the East cost and they don't sell Adam's here, so I'm kind of at a loss. I saw the Smucker's stuff that looked similar to Adam's and separates quite a bit so I thought it was probably the same thing. Either way I think I'll be doing some label reading at the grocery store this week....

And, for what it is worth, palm oil in general is to be avoided if you are into eating with justice in mind as well as much of it comes from palms planted on land from which small farmers were forced to leave. So yeah, go natural!

I now buy the store brand (Hannifords) ORGANIC peanutbutter. (peanuts are the only ingredient). No one has yet mentioned ORGANIC... I understand that organic PB grown in drier conditions that prevents need for herbacides... Also, store PB at home upside down on shelf. Stir when opened and store in the fridge. mmmmmmmm! Me Love Peanut Butter!

I am and always will be a Jif buying mom. I grew up on Jif. I have tried other brands and just can't get past the taste and creaminess. Healthy or not I buy the Jif. It goes great with celery. And who can't pass up a good "pb&j sammich"

Palm Oil is the number 1 reason for the destruction of rainforest in Sumatra. Orangutangs live in the forest and palm oil farmers burn down the trees to plant palm plants. They kill the adult apes if they are killed via the fires and then sell off the babies. That is why I do not purchase products with palm oil.

Ugh! Here I was thinking the natural Jif didn't remove the peanut oil and replace it with a cheaper unhealthy hydrogenated oil. Why, Jif? Whyyyy!!!

No... Try again. Can't believe no one has corrected this yet. Hydrogenated oils are trans fat. Fully is WORSE than partially. The only reason there is no trans fat on the nutritional label is the FDA says less than half a gram, you don't have to list it BUT if you have 2 pieces of toast and spread the PB on thick, you are apt to get more than twice a serving and a good dose of trans fat. Enough to do permanent damage to heart, arteries, etc.

I recently became a "regular" PB convert after deciding the worst thing about "unnatural" PB was the sugar. Jif Creamy PB has a mighty three grams of sugar per two tbsp! Three grams isn't even worth mentioning (besides, one tbsp is all I need on my multi-grain English muffin). Aside from the sugar, this PB has 2.5g saturated fat per serving. I think this is the worst ingredient but with the rest of my diet having very little sat fat, I'm fine with this. Total fat is 16g and trans fat is zero. The ingredients "contains 2% of less of... fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed and soybean)..." I see nothing here to worry about. Does anyone else?

Most nutritionist will say any amount. When measured it is less than an eighth of a teaspoon that is enough to cause damage. I often make oatmeal and add a half cup PB and a tablespoon of honey. That's cutting it close. Read almost any website and it will tell you that hydrogenated oils can cause headaches and skin problems and digestive issues. There are only 3 ingredients I avoid and I have eliminated migraines and acne, which I suffered with for 20 years, as well as a eliminating flare ups digestive condition which prompted me to change my diet...MSG(monosodium glutamate), high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils. My question is if the natural is the same price and you know trans fat is bad, why wouldn't you get the natural. It tastes better as well (This is the only creamy PB I have found that has that hearty taste of crunchy). The bigger jars are harder to find, but Target carries them and they go on sale periodically. They will even email you when a particular item is on sale.

@Mark -- I would recommend going with a PB that has nothing but peanuts. Trader Joe's carries their own brand, and I'm sure there are others at the big-name grocery stores as well. The flavor is really no different than the brands that add a little sugar. Also, any amount of trans fat should be avoided. You are not eating only the "2% or less" ... you are eating an accumulation of that minute amount, and it adds up to no good. The only drawback to eating all natural PB is that you need to refrigerate it.

@Tammy--eighth of a teaspoon of what is enough to cause damage?

@JulieR--trans fats is not on the Jif Creamy label.

to Mark:1/8 tsp Hydrogenated oil is enough to cause damage (partially or fully). To Julie who said trans fat isn't on the label, as per my earlier post, the FDA says trans fat does not have to be listed if it is less than half gram. So if you ate one measured serving once a day, maybe no issues. but if you eat several things in a day that have hydrogenated oils or eat a double portion of something, you will have consumed it. I wasn't trying to sound preachy. It's just lots of posts were slamming Natural Jif, when I was horrified to learned the regular Jif had trans fat when I was doing report for school on FDA and read all labels I had in pantry. I like the natural, don't need to stir or refrigerate like real "natural PB" with just peanuts, yet no hydrogenated oil, and as I said before, I prefer the taste. However, if people don't support it and continue to buy products with trans fats, aka hydrogenated oils, corporations won't change what they are putting out there.

@Tammy: I think you are wrong. I found two links that both said partially hydrogenated oils are trans fats. Fully hydrogenated oils, which Jif Creamy contains, are not trans fats and are therefore not subject to the 0.5g criterion. Show me a link that suggests otherwise.

yes and no...from cardiology researcher article on Dr Oz website also same info on FDA site, search trans fat on both:

Inspect the nutrition label and ingredients list of all foods that are packaged for extended shelf life

When the words “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” appear next to an oil on the label, avoid this food completely

When the words “fully hydrogenated” appear on the label, consider limiting consumption of this food product Brandt EJ. Deception of trans fats on Food and Drug Administration food labels: a proposed revision to the presentation of trans fats on food labels. Am J Health Promot. 2011;25(3):157-8.

@Tammy: your link is consistent with my findings. Fully hydrogenated is saturated fat and not subject to the 0.5g criterion. How much saturated fat is unhealthy or to what extent saturated fat is correlated with heart disease are both completely different discussions.

I am going to spell this out to emphasize the point. Tammy is confused, at best, in her comment above where she writes "Hydrogenated oils are trans fat. Fully is WORSE than partially." Fully hydrogenated oils are not trans fat. From : "It sounds counterintuitive, but 'fully' or 'completely' hydrogenated oil doesn't contain trans fat. Unlike partially hydrogenated oil, the process used to make fully or completely hydrogenated oil doesn't result in trans-fatty acids." From : "Note: Fully hydrogenated oils do not contain trans fat." One may find numerous links across the internet that all state fully hydrogenated oils are not trans fat. If an oil is only listed as "hydrogenated" but not specified as "partially" or "fully," then I recommend you assume it to be trans fat and act accordingly.

I apologize for generalizing for the simplicity of those who were confused. Everyone was slamming natural products because some companies produce natural that were no better than the original. Fully hydrogenated oils are an avoid and most people don't get it. My post as a reply to someone who wrote that the fully hydrogenated oils are not bad for you at all. Fully hydrogenated oil is PURE saturated fat, and I don't know why regular Jif would add soybean and rapeseed oil, instead of I don't know, healthier peanut oil??? The majority of people in my area consume many, many times the maximum ,daily amount of saturated fat recommended and have no clue about the trans fat(very overweight and consuming a package of Oreos at a sitting.) When people ask me for ways to improve their diet I usually give them a list of ten ingredients to avoid for simplicity sake. If people are really wanting to have a healthy diet they could very simply just never eat anything that comes with a label and then they wouldn't have to worry about it.

Make your own. Some natural foods stores have grinders to make your own in the store. You can use almonds, peanuts, any nut and mix them if you want. It is a lot more fun too. Personally, we have no whole foods store in my teeny tiny town so I have to make many things I normally buy at the natural foods stores. When we do make the journey to a larger town I have to stock up or I order online. Many great foods are available online and some ship free.

Smucker's owns both Jif (Peanut-sugar blend) and Adams (just about totally peanuts). They've got al their bases covered. And you can buy Adams in any major store for about $3.29, normal-sized jar.

Costco's Kirkland brand peanut butter is surprisingly healthy: the only ingredients are peanuts and sea salt. And the jar I bought was relatively cheap, too.

The reason why they took the hydrogenated oil out is because they are a source of trans fats which are very harmful to the human body. They cause an injury to the arterial walls which can lead too heart attacks and strokes. Saturated fats are bad for you also, but trans fats are worse.

So is Smucker's Organic Peanut Butter okay? The jar states that it only contains "organic roasted peanuts" and "1% or less of salt". Could it maybe contain some other hidden evil ingredients? :(

jif's creamy and natural both act differently at lower temperatures. an example would be mixing them with ice cream. the natural version of jif solidifies at a much lower temperature, so you would get those nice chunks of cold peanut butter mixed into your ice cream. the creamy version instead just stays smooth and ends up blending into and sort of dissolving into the ice cream.

i was trying to recreate coldstone's peanut butter cup perfection when i discovered this. for peanut butter swirls/chunks... use the natural jif.

You forgot to mention that where there are hydrogenated oils,trans fats are present.No matter what the label says.The USDA allows the "0%" label if there are under a certain amount of trans fats.

Does this product contain soy? I have had a reaction every time I eat it! My only allergies are soy and dairy! I'm confused and concerned! Thank you!

I only buy Krema, for just that reason. the ONLY ingredient is Peanuts. no salt, no sugar, no oil.

I love peanut butter with Persian cucumber so good crispy and delicious. I bought in Costco when on sale let's get rid of aspertain..and floride..both ingredients made to dumb you down...

We decided to try the Natural as we ran out in between designated grocery days. I liked that it's now says " Not made with GMO ingredients". But then it continues to say " Trace amounts of GMO material may be present" HUH?

I'm no rocket scientist so can anyone explain?

@Amanda - I bet that some of the peanuts or oil may be GMO but it is mostly made from non-GMO. It is crazy isn't it?

It has a lot less sodium.

If I'm not mistaken and I don't believe iam (Adams) peanut butter is made with GMO Peanuts. Not a good thing especially for children. SMUCKERS IS INTO GMOs.They make ADAMS PEANUT BUTTER.

PALM OIL is responsible for 85% deforestation in Sumatra and the death of thousands of animals. Not only is it HORRIBLE for you, its TERRIBLE for the environment.

They should have done a taste comparison for the Jifs instead of a label comparison. I don't know how or why, but the natural Jif tastes like I just crunched up a bunch of peanuts in my mouth while the original tastes noticeably oily/slippery.

Jif natural taste great regular jif taste salty

"Natural" is not a well-defined concept, nor is there any legal definition of it, nor is everything that's natural necessarily healthy. Ignore what it says on the front of the label. Read the ingredients.

Fully Hydrogenated oil is the worst possible oil you can eat! It’s manmade!! READ ABOUT IT! Online, buy a book on food additives!! It’s linked to heart disease, inflammation, reduction of immune system, etc! And mono- and diglycerides are linked to cancer! It’s not just about the numbers, it’s about the quality of the ingredients! Many scientists and doctors are trying to get hydrogenated oils banned from the food supply! Palm oil vs fully hydrogenated is not marketing! Natural Jiff is still not good for you because they add sugar and oil. Buy TRULY natural peanut butter with 1-2 ingredients!! Peanuts and salt!!

Some labels read Made from peanuts, while others say Roasted peanuts. My stomach doesn’t like any roasted nuts. There is a difference.

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