Of all the kinds of nut butter available nowadays, you’re probably most familiar with peanut butter. I remember watching kids at school bringing peanut butter sandwiches in their lunch box in all its gooey glory. I also vividly remember asking my mum to buy it for us and not liking it when I was a child. But things have changed now that I have grown older and its one of my favourite guilty pleasures.
More To Nuts Than Peanut Butter
Because of its popularity, peanut butter had a monopoly on nut butter for a long time. Many people are unaware of the amazing alternatives that are available. There are even alternatives for those allergic to nuts believe it or not. However, in recent years, other nut butters have been gaining recognition by foodies and health experts alike and are more easily available.
Beware of Sugar Content, not Fat
Every nut has different health benefits, and I will discuss them one by one in this post. However, it’s important to be aware that many commercial brands can have additives that can make it unhealthy, such as salt and sugar.
Healthy, high quality and the best nut butter are made without the addition of sweeteners or preservatives and hydrogenated oils and provide similar nutrition to the nuts they’re made from. Be sure to check the label for these extra ingredients. Manufacturers add these ingredients to keep the oil from separating. However, this is very normal and only requires you to stir the nut butter before using it. To prevent the oil from separating, you can store the jars upside down in your kitchen.
Common Nut Butters and Their Health Benefits
I have often posted photos on Instagram of food containing nut butter and people always ask me – how come I have it so often when nuts are so high in calories? While it is true that they’re high in calories, don’t let the fear of fat scare you away from nuts. They are a superb source of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. All nut butter contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, lots of protein, and fibre. One of the benefits of eating nut butter is that they provide a healthy dose of vitamin E, which is an antioxidant as well as supports healthy skin and hair, and helps keep your immune system healthy.
Traditionally peanut butter was almost always used as a sandwich spread, but now we have started using them with healthy snacks such as apple slices or celery to make them more filling and nutrient dense. The protein, fibre, and fats found in nut butter will keep you feeling full, which can also help your energy levels stay constant throughout the day without getting the traditional food cravings we get if we would have an apple on its own. That’s why, despite their fat content, research has shown that regular nut consumption can lower the risk of weight gain. You can incorporate nut butter into your lifestyle every week, but do not overdo it. The key to getting all of the health benefits from seed and nut butter is to eat them in moderation. Just like any other food group of course.
Here are the most common types of nut butters and their health benefits.
Peanuts contain one of the highest amounts of protein per serving among nuts and seeds, making it the ideal post-workout refuel snack. 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contains 7 grams of protein. It contains magnesium, which fortifies your muscles and bones, reduces risk of muscle cramps, as well as potassium, which has been found to lower blood pressure.
Pure peanut butter contains 20% carbs, making it suitable for a low-carb diet especially for those who have diabetes as it prevents blood sugar spikes. Studies show that women who ate peanut butter five times per week or more were at a 21% reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Almond butter is one of the most nutrient-dense nut butter around. It contains a variety of essential minerals for maintaining a healthy skeleton and contains more calcium, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium than peanut butter. It also includes copper which helps with memory and brain health and is a good source of Vitamin E which is essential to eye and heart health. 2/3rd of almond butter’s fat is heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. It is also highest in fibre, which not only satisfies hunger but also improves digestions. Almond butter is lowest in saturated fat and may help improve cholesterol levels. And is a good alternative for anyone who is allergic to peanuts, but would like to have a nutty butter as part of their diet still.
Fun fact: Cashew nuts are the seeds of the cashew apple, which is the ‘fruit’ of the cashew tree. The ‘nut’, grows inside a hard (extremely poisonous) shell that hangs under the apple, making extraction quite tedious. That’s why cashews come at a higher price than other nuts.
Cashew butter is smoother, much more creamy, and slightly lower in fat than other nut butter. It doesn’t contain omega-3 fatty acids, however, it is still a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids, essential amino acids, and magnesium. These nutrients are beneficial for blood pressure stabilisation, cholesterol control, the immune system, bone health and speeding up of the metabolism – so it also helps in weight loss.
Cashew nuts also contain a high carb content, which is why if you are on a low carb diet or diabetic you should monitor how much of it you consume.
Hazelnuts, sometimes also called filbert nuts, a type of nut that comes from the Corylus tree. They are usually found in Turkey, Italy, Spain and the United States.
Hazelnuts have a sweet flavour and can be eaten raw, roasted or ground into a paste.
They provide lots of energy and are exceptionally rich in folate. An adequate intake of folate is mainly associated with healthy pregnancies, helping with the spine and brain development of foetuses. Hazelnut butter is not as high in protein like peanut butter, so if you want to stay fuller for a longer time, then it’s a good idea to have it alongside another protein-rich snack. Hazelnuts are also known to keep you young – as they have lots of healthy minerals and antioxidants to keep the skin looking young, fresh and glowing.
People who consume hazelnuts on a regular basis are found to have healthier arteries and lower inflammation markers in their blood. As well as lower LDL (bad cholesterol) and higher HDL (good cholesterol).
However, be warned. Hazelnut is usually coupled with chocolate when it comes to spreads (think Nutella) and, although harmless as a treat, too much chocolate spread will harm health, impact your weight and possibly also lead to bingeing. If you want that cocoa fix with your hazelnut, make your own healthier version by mixing the butter with some raw cocoa.
Sunflower seed butter
Although you might be familiar with sunflower seeds as a picnic snack, there’s a new way to use them. You can transform those plain old seeds into a yummy, healthy spread that’s packed with flavor.
Like most nuts and seeds, it’s packed with nutritional benefits and healthy fats. However, it is important to keep in mind that it’s relatively high in omega-6 fats, which can throw off your omega-3 to omega-6 fats ratio.
So make sure you keep eating omega-3 foods or keep your consumption of sunflower seed butter low. A tablespoon would be a good amount to have without causing any imbalance. It can also be a good alternative for anyone with a nut or peanut allergy.
Sunflower butter is very rich in protein – so much so that it gives peanut butter a run for its money. It is rich in Vitamin E; it is loaded with Magnesium and healthy fats as well. And above all, it tastes delicious even added to your salads.
Keep in mind that today e have plenty of choices of what we can buy and we can also find amazing, locally made healthy nut butter. My personal favourite is Munch – A – Bunch. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram for recipe ideas as well. (PS this is not a sponsored ad! I have discovered her products from local stores, and she does not even know I am mentioning her in this post.) I know there are a couple of other brands popping up locally which I have not yet had the pleasure to try.
Follow me on Instagram and Facebook to keep up to date with all health related products. Or get in touch for a free wellness evaluation where we can also discuss how to incorporate nut butters into your healthy breakfast.