Choosing the Better (Nut) Butter

By: KELLY SHERIDAN

Peanut butter is a staple in the lives of healthy Americans. We put it on sandwiches, use it as celery dip, blend it into smoothies or nibble on spoonfuls straight out of the jar. Peanut butter can play an equally healthy role in breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert, so long as it is consumed in moderation. But as good as peanut butter is for you, it may not be the best nut butter in the grocery store. Are you really eating the healthiest nut butter? Read on and find out!

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Nut butters are becoming increasingly popular, as they deliver the fat and protein that are so crucial in a daily diet. Almond, walnut, peanut, sunflower, cashew and hazelnut butters are all examples of nutty spreads that could be taking up space in your cupboard. When judging the nutrition label on any nut butter, the healthiest choice will always be a natural brand containing the fewest ingredients possible. Even so, there are some choices within the wide variety of nut butters that are healthier than others, when considering fat, protein, sugars and micronutrients.

Take a look at the following list of nut butters to become butter informed (sorry, couldn’t resist) on which types are best and worst for a healthy diet*:

Almond: The first butter on this list is also the healthiest. Almond butter contains the same creamy texture as peanut butter, but delivers 3g more heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. It is typically lower in sugar and generally does not contain hydrogenated oil, which decreases the saturated fats found in many nut butters. Nutrition: Calories 190-200, Fat 18-19g, Protein 5-7g, Carbohydrates 6-7g

Cashew: There are healthier options on the supermarket shelf than cashew butter, which contains less fat or protein and more sugar than peanut or almond butter. Nutrition: Calories 160-190, Fat 14-16g, Protein 4-6g, Carbohydrates 8-10g

Hazelnut: Sorry, Nutella lovers, but hazelnut butter fails to deliver adequate nutrition to a healthy diet. Containing significantly more sugar than other nut butters, hazelnut spread is better included in dessert than in breakfast, lunch or dinner. While Nutella is great for an occasional treat, its 200 calories and 21 grams of sugar per serving hardly make it a healthy option. Even before hazelnuts, sugar and palm oil are the two main ingredients. Nutrition: Calories 180, Fat 17g, Protein 4g, Carbohydrates 5g

Peanut: Undoubtedly the most popular nut butter, peanut butter comes in a variety of choices. Traditional peanut butter is higher in sugar than other nut butters, and also contains heart-damaging hydrogenated oil which gives it its smooth, creamy texture. The reduced-fat version, which contains about 4g less fat per serving, generally contains more sugar but is still a good option for those who want to eliminate some fat from their diets. Keep in mind, though, that the fat in peanut butter is largely healthy. A better way to cut unhealthy fat and sugar would be to choose a natural peanut butter and cut back on unhealthy fats, such as fatty meats and full-fat dairy, throughout the day. Natural peanut butter, a third option, is free of hydrogenated oil and preservatives. Nutrition (no sugar peanut butter): Calories 190-210, Fat 16-17g, Protein 7-8g, Carbohydrates 6-7g. Nutrition (sugared peanut butter): Calories 190, Fat 16-17g, Protein 7g, Carbohydrates 6-7g

Sunflower: This butter is a great alternative to nut butter for those who are allergic to tree nuts. Some brands of sunflower seed butter also contain more fiber, magnesium, niacin and antioxidant vitamin E than nut butters. Nutrition: Calories 180-220, Fat 12-20g, Protein 6-9g, Carbohydrates 5-9g

Walnut: Another decently healthy spread option, walnut butter is slightly higher in fat and lower in protein than other nut butters. Vegetarians should note that walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids that are crucial for overall health. Nutrition: Calories 200, Fat 20g, Protein 5g, Carbohydrates 4g

On your next trip to the grocery store, perhaps you may want to re-think your typical sandwich spread. Choosing an all-natural nut butter spread can provide the protein and healthy fats that are crucial to a healthy lifestyle.

*These nutrition facts may vary depending on brand of nut butter

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One Comment on “Choosing the Better (Nut) Butter”

  1. December 12, 2012 at 1:05 am #

    Great post! I was just about to write one on nuts as well! Keep it up! ❤ & Sweat!

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