Aside from enjoying a handful of raw almonds in a salad, in your morning yogurt, or just on the go, there are many other ways you can savor these treats that are still packed with nutrients.
Let's start with the basics.
What Exactly Is Nut Butter?
Nut butter is the blending of certain nuts with water until a paste-like consistency is formed. This allows you to spread the substance on a piece of toast, crackers, or veggies. For some of us, it means enjoying our favorite nuts with a spoon.
The definition above is a traditional interpretation of the term "nut butter"—not to mention a great recipe to try at home. However, if you're purchasing your favorite nut butter in a store, remember to check out its nutrition label for added ingredients.
This might include added sugar or salt, which can diminish the nutrient density of this snack (or condiment) option. Peanut butter, for instance, is one nut butter available in different varieties. Before grabbing a jar off the shelf, check the nutrition label to make sure you're getting more of the actual peanut vs. additional ingredients used to enhance its flavor.
A good rule of thumb is choosing natural peanut butter over alternative options. When you read the label, it should say one ingredient: peanuts. That means no hydrogenated oils, added sugars, or added salt.
Types of Nut Butters
Below we've compiled a list of the types of nut butters you may see advertised at your local grocery store:
- Peanut butter
- Almond butter
- Cashew butter
- Walnut butter
- Pecan butter
- Soy nut butter
- Sunflower-seed butter
We could keep going, but as there are over 50 different types of nuts in the world, we might run out of space. Basically, if a type of nut exists, it's probably been made into a spread at some point—or it will be eventually.
Peanut Butter vs. Almond Butter
Although there are many different types of nut butter in stores, two of the most popular options are peanut butter and almond butter.
If you were to compare the two nut butters together to figure out which option is considered more nutrient dense, you might be surprised to learn that both options are similar in calorie count. However, almond butter has the upper hand when it comes to nutrient density, even if you compare it to natural peanut butter.
The reason? Almond butter contains a higher concentration of fiber. Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be broken down into glucose. Instead, it passes through the body undigested. "Fiber helps regulate the body’s use of sugars, helping to keep hunger and blood sugar in check," (The Nutrition Source).
Next, almond butter contains more vitamins and minerals than peanut butter, including magnesium, potassium, and calcium.
It also contains unsaturated fats: "Unsaturated fats…are considered beneficial fats because they can improve blood cholesterol levels, ease inflammation, stabilize heart rhythms, and play a number of other beneficial roles," (The Nutrition Source).
Before you think we're picking on peanut butter, it should be stated that like almond butter, peanut butter also is low in sugar content (depending on the brand you get), high in protein, and is a good source of Vitamin E (an antioxidant). But if you're looking to add a nutrient-dense option to your snack-time routine, almond butter might be the right choice.
Looking for Other Low-Sugar Nut Butter Options?
As we've discussed in previous articles, nutrition facts are your friend! Check each label for ingredients first, as finding any traces of added sugars, salt, or hydrogenated oils is an immediate "no."
Also, where does your preferred nut appear on the ingredient's list? First? It better, because whoever is first in line has the highest concentration.
To quicken your search, look for organic brands, as these are typically made with the most basic ingredients: nuts.
For more tips on reading nutrition labels, read our helpful article on how to find nutrient-dense foods at your local market.