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Is Peanut Butter Healthy? Picking Your Ideal Nut Butter

April 18, 2014

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Whether on toast, atop a banana, or straight out of the jar, nut butters are delicious. But which nut butter is the healthiest? Are some, in fact, bad for us? Does it all depend on who you are or who you ask? Without someone to lay it out for you, things can get a bit, well…nutty! (Sorry, couldn’t help it!)

To simplify things, here’s a primer on the most common nut butters to help you choose the healthiest nut butter for you!

Peanut Butter

Rich in vitamins E and B3 and manganese, peanut butter also contains some powerful antioxidants that may help fight stomach cancer. Plus, it’s high in fiber, helping to keep you feeling full for hours! While peanut butter is rich in protein, it lacks the amino acid lysine, which means you’ll need to eat an additional lysine-rich protein food source to get the most from this nut butter. On the negative side, peanuts are technically legumes (aka a no-no for those on a Paelo diet), and are fast becoming known as “the allergy nut” because of the high incidence of peanut allergies. Keep this in mind if you’re reintroducing peanut butter into your diet.

May I Suggest: A lysine-rich banana goes great with peanut butter, for both taste and nutrition!

Almond Butter

Almond butter is good for your heart, helps lower blood pressure, and works to control blood sugar. Almonds are the most nutritionally dense of all tree nuts, so each scoop packs a nutritious punch. With four times the amount of vitamin E per tablespoon as peanut butter, almond butter is also higher in iron and magnesium. Plus, it contains lysine. But unlike peanut butter, almond butter lacks selenium, an antioxidant important for the health of the thyroid and immune system.

May I Suggest: Almond butter and no-sugar-added blueberry jam make a delectable variation on the old PB&J sandwich!

Cashew Butter

Paleo dieters rejoice! Cashews are a tree nut and can be enjoyed just as nature intended. However, they’re highly caloric and have no omega-3 fatty acids, so cashew butter might be best viewed as a treat rather than a healthy snack. Still, it has its redeeming nutritional values: though the sweet taste of cashew butter makes it a great indulgence, its high protein value (higher than walnut but lower than peanut and almond butters) keeps it relatively healthy.

May I Suggest: Try cashew butter as a dip with strawberries!

Walnut Butter

Walnuts are among the best vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids essential for holistic wellness. However, walnut butter is slightly lower in protein and higher in fat than almond and peanut butters. On the plus side, walnuts are another type of tree nut, so those who adhere to the Paleo diet can enjoy this hearty nut butter.

May I Suggest: Add walnut butter to a banana-chocolate smoothie for a decadent but healthy snack.

Sunflower Seed Butter

Smooth and creamy, this nut butter is a great choice for those with tree nut allergies. Like both almond and peanut butters, sunflower seed butter is high in vitamin E, fiber, and protein. It’s also an excellent source of magnesium! Perhaps its biggest drawback is that sunflower seed butter is higher in sugar than peanut, almond, and walnut butters.

May I Suggest: Sunflower butter goes great with whole wheat toast!

The Bottom Line: Which Nut Butter is Best?

When it comes to nutrition, almond butter might be your best bet, with peanut and walnut butters coming in a close second and third. Ultimately, though, each of these nut butters offers distinctive tastes and nutritional benefits, and the right nut butter for you will depend on your unique body composition, allergies, lifestyle, and taste.  

Which nut butter is best for you? Tell us in the comments below!