If I had to guess, I’d name one important factor that contributes to why there’s such a gap between knowing what to do and actually being able to do it, when it comes to healthy eating.
The real issue I believe is that we are time-poor. We reach for convenience foods because they are quick and easy, i.e. convenient.
Now, if I could also choose a food that’s super convenient, has fibre, essential fats, protein and moderate carbohydrates that’s all rolled into one, what would it be?
Of course it’s going to be nuts (and seeds).
But today I’m going to talk about the best thing that ever happened to nuts: Nut Butter.
Nut butter is the original convenience food, made better.
Roasted or raw, it has transformed the way we enjoy nuts. All the health benefits of the nuts you love, in butter-form.
What’s not to love?
What SHOULD be in your nut butter
- Just the nuts, or seeds
- Maybe a touch of salt.
- Definitely no added sugar
- No added vegetable or hydrogenated oils
Here, I’ve curated a list of my favourite nut butters. A mixed mag of old and new favourites with a surprising contender included as well. They’re all incredibly healthy and might inspire some creativity in your snacking.
My 7 Healthy Nut Butters are…
- Almond Butter
- Brazil Nut Butter
- Cashew Butter
- Peanut Butter
- Pecan Butter
- Pistachio Butter
- Sunflower Seed Butter
These days almond butter is widely available and I for one love it. Wherever I use peanut butter, I think almond butter works well. It’s generally thicker and denser than other butters because of the ground skin of almonds in the final product. Roasted almond butter is a true joy! It has a sweet and delicious nutty flavour. It has a macronutrient profile similar to peanut butter and as a result is a healthy option in anyone’s diet.
A tablespoon of almond butter has:
- 3 grams of carbs
- 3.4 grams of protein
- 8.9 grams of fat
According to the doctrine of signatures, as mentioned in the walnut article, nature can guide us on how to use its bounty as medicine. The size and shape of plants, leaves, flowers, vegetables and fruit often gives clues as to what body part they claim to help. Almonds are often associated with health, fertility and abundance, as it resembles the shape of an ovary. It’s possible that the Italian tradition of gifting sugar-coated almonds as bombonieres to wedding guests is said to celebrate these qualities of life and the newly married couple.
Offering robust amounts of vitamin E, a tablespoon gives around a quarter of the daily recommended intake. Almond butter is also high in B vitamins and omega 3 and 6. Supporting skin health, brain health and heart health, almond butter can be a wonderful addition to breakfast and baking.
How To Use Almond Butter
Wonderful in smoothies, spread onto apple or pear slices, or atop your favourite granola parfait. I love making honey-almond bars when I have a surplus of almond butter, which is rare.
Brazil Nut Butter
Low in carbs, high in fat and low in protein make brazil nut butter an easy choice if you’re following a low carb or ketogenic diet. Other than the above macros, brazil nuts are without question one of the most nutrient dense nuts there is. Rich in selenium and essential fats, brazil nut butter is worth including in your diet.
A tablespoon of brazil nut butter has:
- 2 grams of carbs
- 2 grams of protein
- 9.5 grams of fat
Selenium is a well known immune and antioxidant enhancing mineral. Brazil nuts are well established in the literature in supporting thyroid health and brain health. Having a dose of brazil nut butter will boost your selenium intake, which directly affects thyroid function. Your thyroid influences tissue growth, reproduction, heart rate, temperate and the nervous system.
How To Use Brazil Nut Butter
Brazil nut butter has a stronger flavour with not much sweetness, so you really don’t need much in a serve. Yet I think the creaminess lends itself well to caramel sauces or dishes using dates. A tablespoon can be easily blended with your favourite smoothie for a big nutrient hit.
Cashew butter is delicious and is naturally sweeter than most other nut butters. This is due to the higher carbohydrate content in cashews (in fact it ranks the highest!). Cashew butter may not be very high in protein, but it’s still healthy and can be enjoyed in your diet just the same.
Science backs up cashews, the same as any other nut butter. Mohan et al. (2018) conducted a randomised trial to assess cashew nut consumption on patients with type 2 diabetes. In this study, 30g of cashews per day were administered to participants for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the diabetic participants had a greater reduction in systolic blood pressure compared to baseline and compared to the control group. They also demonstrated an increase in HDL (protective) cholesterol compared to controls. This means cashew butter can be a healthful inclusion to support heart health and metabolic function.
A tablespoon of cashew butter has:
- 4.4 grams of carbs
- 2.8 grams of protein
- 7.9 grams of fat
How to Use Cashew Butter
If you want to get the nutritional benefit of nuts, but aren’t a fan of the usual ‘nutty’ flavour they have, then cashew butter is the way to go. It’s mild, creamy and sweet. This also means cashew butter makes an amazing base for dips or in dairy-free cheesecakes. Yesssss.
Crunchy or smooth? Choose your own adventure because both options are very healthy indeed.
For me, smooth peanut butter was a staple on toast every single morning as a kid. As an adult I’ve never owned a fridge that doesn’t house a jar of both crunchy AND smooth peanut butter. I love this delicious spread that much.
A tablespoon of peanut butter has:
- 3.5 grams of carbs
- 4 grams of protein
- 8 grams of fat
As peanut butter claims the highest protein content of all, it’s a total favourite among fitness experts and gym junkies alike. The sulfur-based amino acids such as cysteine and methionine in peanut butter give it that ‘umami’ note we all know and love. This gives them a funky-delicious flavour that can’t be matched by any other nut butter.
Peanut butter also has choline and tryptophan, which are amino acids that help brain and nervous system function. Choline is required for neurogenesis, and recent research is now endorsing choline as potentially equally important as folate in pregnancy, to ensure proper foetal development. Tryptophan is the precursor amino acid for vitamin B3 and also for the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin.
I could go on about the health benefits of peanut butter, so I will.
Research shows there is a broad inverse association with all tree nut and peanut consumption and cancer risk. These include decreases in pancreatic, colon and breast cancer according to the data.
A pilot study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition looked at whether peanut butter slows down the glycemic response of high carbohydrate breakfasts. The results showed 2 tablespoons of peanut butter added to a meal of white bread and apple juice saw a significant reduction in blood glucose. This response was sustained up to an hour after consumption.
A 2017 study demonstrated that peanut butter increases the bioavailability of beta-carotene from kale. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, which is used in the body to support eye health, lung mucosa and intestinal health. Peanut butter also enhanced the conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A.
How To Use Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is the most affordable of all the nut butters. It's been around for years and is a favourite for good reason. My favourite ways to enjoy peanut butter are in a satay curry sauce, in a raspberry and oat milk smoothie, homemade peanut butter cups, on a spoon…
Where not to use peanut butter, is the real question.
Pecans and pecan butter have a unique nutrient profile and are often forgotten as a healthful nut choice. Everyone thinks macadamias are the nut boasting the highest fat content. While they are indeed within the top 3 highest-fat nuts, pecans actually pip them at the post as the nut with the highest fat content. They have a very high fat to carbohydrate ratio, which is why they are a favourite among ketogenic and low-carb diet followers.
A tablespoon of pecan butter has:
- 2 grams of carbs
- 1.5 grams of protein
- 11.5 grams of fat
There is plenty of research for the effectiveness of nuts and weight loss, and pecans are of course no different. In one study, insulin resistance and pancreatic function were improved in a group of overweight adults, following just 2 tablespoons of pecans. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of pecan polyphenols also play a role in protecting insulin-secreting cells. This mechanism makes pecans and pecan butter effective in reducing the development of type 2 diabetes and excess weight.
How To Use Pecan Butter
Pecan butter is smooth, delicious and runny due to it’s high fat content. A bit sweet yet not too intense. Blend it with dark melted chocolate or mix it into porridge with fresh sliced strawberries.
Pistachio butter is mild and sweet, with a light greenish-brown colour. Not one you come across often, but definitely worth tracking down, or making yourself. Pistachio butter is naturally high in fibre and is rich in magnesium, lutein and arginine.
A tablespoon of pistachio butter has:
- 4.3 grams of carbs
- 3 grams of protein
- 6.5 grams of fat
The research on pistachios is abundant! Notably pistachios help with satiety, which supports healthy weight management. Pistachios also help support microbiome diversity, and are a natural prebiotic food which helps feed beneficial gut bacteria. Pistachio butter is perfect if you’re looking to support your digestion, immune health and aid in weight loss.
How To Use Pistachio Butter
Enjoy pistachio butter wherever you like peanut butter. It’s lovely with crisp pear slices and even with your favourite soft cheese and artisan crackers. Fancy!
Sunflower Seed Butter
I’ve got a wild card here, as it’s not technically nut butter. But hear me out. This one is for those looking for a nut-free alternative that ticks many of the same nutritional boxes, as it’s nutty brothers. Sunflower seeds are a great source of protein as far as seeds go. So while you may not sit down to spoonfuls of sunflower seeds, you’ll easily enjoy lashings of it on toast or as a dip for sliced apples. This means you’re likely to consume more in one go, getting a wonderful protein boost while you’re at it. If you feel inclined to do this at home, making your own sunflower seed butter works out to be a whole lot cheaper than most nut butters too.
Research suggests sunflower seeds are useful in modulating weight and body composition. A 2019 study published in the journal Nutrients outlined the effectiveness of 500mg/day of sunflower seed extract for 12 weeks. The chlorogenic acid in sunflower seeds has a natural effect on modifying body weight, cholesterol profile and reducing fat mass. Sunflower seed butter could be a naturally healthy addition to help prevent metabolic conditions, such as obesity and heart disease, in equal measure as nuts.
A tablespoon of sunflower seed butter has:
- 4.4 grams of carbs
- 3 grams of protein
- 7.6 grams of fat
How To Use Sunflower Seed Butter
With decent amounts of vitamin A, magnesium and vitamin E, sunflower seed butter is great for supporting skin and hormone health.
Want a double vitamin E hit? Try sunflower seed butter with avocado on toast. Yum!
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