How to Choose Your Nut Butter

Article posted in: Diet & Nutrition

Four pounds of peanut butter a year. That’s how much Americans eat on average, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). And it’s no wonder peanut butter is so popular. It’s inexpensive, filling, versatile and, perhaps most important, yummy. Better still, it’s categorized for those on a Nutrisystem weight loss plan as a PowerFuel, because it is a high-quality protein with healthy fats that is digested slowly, so you feel satisfied for a long time after eating it. But peanut butter isn’t your only option for a delicious and nutritious spread made from ground nuts or seeds these days. There are plenty of other choices that can fit into your healthy diet, too.

Before we delve into the different types of nut butters, one choice that you can make with any of them is whether or not the nuts are heated before grinding. Roasted nut butters tend to have a richer flavor, so they’re the best choice for spreads on bread or crackers. Raw butters have a purer, nuttier taste, which is ideal for use in smoothies, sauces and dips. Be aware that roasted nut butters are more prone to spoiling, so you’ll want to store them in the refrigerator.

Peanut butter
High in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, peanut butter is also a healthy source of antioxidants, vitamin E and folate. Peanut butter contains a valuable supply of selenium, a nutrient essential to your body’s production of digestive enzymes. When buying peanut butter, be sure to check the label: Many brands contain extra sugar and other undesirable additives.

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Almond butter
Minerals such as calcium and magnesium are vital to the health of your bones, and both are exceptionally abundant in almond butter. Further, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition reported that people who added almond butter to their diet for four weeks had lower bad (LDL) cholesterol and higher good (HDL) cholesterol levels.

Cashew butter
Though slightly lower in fat than other types, cashew butter has the highest concentration of healthy monounsaturated fats. A serving also provides about 87 percent of the Recommend Dietary Allowance (RDA) of copper, a mineral that your body needs to absorb the iron in your diet. Be aware that some brands of cashew butter may contain added vegetable oils, which you want to avoid.

Hazelnut butter
Nutella is a well-known brand of hazelnut butter blended with chocolate that is a tasty treat. But even without the chocolate, hazelnuts have a rich flavor that makes them a common ingredient in many desserts. Compared to peanut and almond butter, hazelnut butter has fewer calories and less saturated fat.

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Sunflower seed butter
If you or a family member are allergic to nuts, you can still enjoy the pleasures and conveniences of these types of spreads. Sunflower seeds have less fat and protein than nuts and more magnesium, zinc, iron and vitamin E. Sunflower seed butter has a mild flavor that kids will like, but sugar is often added to jars of sunflower seed butter, so read the ingredient labels carefully before you buy to avoid the excess sweetener and calories.

Pumpkin seed butter
Zinc plays an important role in your immune system’s functioning and metabolism and, because your body cannot store the mineral, you need to eat zinc every day. In just two tablespoons of pumpkin seed butter, you get a third of the RDA of zinc for women and more than a fourth of the RDA for men.

Soynut butter
Made with roasted beans, soynut butter has more protein and calcium than other types but is lower in key vitamins such as vitamin E, niacin, iron and riboflavin. Soynut butter does tend to have a grainy texture so it’s better used with other ingredients than simply as a spread on its own.

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Coconut butter
A purée of coconut flesh that’s smooth, creamy and beige to white in color, coconut butter works as a spread with a light flavor reminiscent of coconut or as an ingredient in baked goods. It has a high concentration of lauric acid, a type of saturated fat known as a medium-chain triglyceride (MCT). Unlike other fats, MCTs are used by your body immediately for energy rather than being stored.

Powdered peanut butter
This sounds like astronaut food, which it could be. But when peanuts have been pressed to remove much of the oil and then dried, you’re left with a product that has up to 85 percent fewer calories than regular peanut butter. You may not want to eat powdered peanut butter alone—even after reconstituting it with water, it’s still a bit grainy. But when you want peanut butter flavor in a smoothie, sauce or dip, the powdered type can be a healthy and satisfying choice.