One staple food found in nearly every pantry in North America is peanut butter. I can still remember the peanut butter sandwiches my mom would make me for lunch as a child. I loved peanut butter so much that I begged to have it for dinner as well (my mom said no!)
Of course there are a number of people who have very serious peanut allergies, but for the most part, peanut butter has been, and will likely remain, one of the most popular food items in the country.
Along with its delicious taste, peanut butter is nutritious. It’s a great source of vitamin E, niacin, and healthy fat that can help lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. It’s also got protein, fiber and magnesium to help you reach your daily micro and macronutrient requirements. Of course many of the big name peanut butter manufacturers include some unhealthy additives to their recipes, which can limit the overall health of peanut butter in its natural state. For example, they may add sugar, salt, icing sugar and oils to add flavor, texture, or to keep oils from separating.
But natural peanut butter is a real health food. The oil separation you might notice from natural brands of peanut butter is not unusual; some simple mixing is all it takes to spread them evenly. Furthermore, if you have a bulk food store nearby it’s likely they have a peanut press you can use to press your own natural peanut butter. Doing so eliminates the potential mess that can result from mixing natural jarred peanut butter. Lastly, if you have a powerful food processor, you can make your own natural peanut butter from the comfort of your own home in about one minute!
Let’s take a closer look at the nutritional value of peanut butter.
Peanut Butter by the Numbers
Even though it’s very healthy, peanut butter is not a low-calorie food by any stretch of the imagination—neither is any other nut butter. A standard two-tablespoon serving of peanut butter contains just under 200 calories, while other nut butters like almond, cashew, walnut and pumpkin seed all sit in the 160-220 calorie range.
The majority of calories in nut butters are made up of healthy fats, and although some of them—largely peanut butter—pack a decent serving of protein, these spreads should be thought of first as a fat source. Aside from the healthy fats, they feature quality calories from protein and a small amount of carbohydrates that occur naturally.
A two-tablespoon serving of peanut butter offers:
- 16 grams of fat, made up of monounsaturated (healthy) fat
- 1.6 grams of fiber
- 4.2 milligrams of niacin
- Seven grams of protein
- Three milligrams of vitamin E
All of this comes in at about 190 calories, so it’s definitely recommended you scoop with a measuring spoon!
5 Peanut Butter Alternatives
Keep in mind that peanut butter isn’t the only option when it comes to nut butters. There are healthy nut butter options available that you can buy prepared of make yourself. Here are some of the most popular:
1. Almond butter
Although it is very expensive, almond butter tastes great and is very nutritious. A two-tablespoon serving is virtually identical to peanut butter, but packs in an extra six calories. It’s rich in vitamin E and monounsaturated fat to help lower LDL cholesterol and promote heart health. Its vitamin E content works as an antioxidant to help protect your cells from damage, too.
Almond butter is a great source of calcium and other minerals. With two tablespoons you get 18 grams of fat, seven grams of protein, 7.7 milligrams of vitamin E, 3.2 grams of fiber, and 112 milligrams of calcium.
2. Cashew butter
This form of nut butter is growing in popularity and for good reason: it’s very healthy. If you like the taste of cashews I’d definitely give this a try. It can easily be added to toast, oatmeal and even smoothies. Cashew butter is not as calorically-dense as peanut or almond butter, and a two-tablespoon serving contains 180 calories, 15 grams of fat and five grams of protein. It’s rich in B-vitamins, while a standard serving provides 83 milligrams of magnesium.
3.Pumpkin seed butter
This is the time of year to give pumpkin seeds a try! Pumpkin seed butter tastes great on pancakes, waffles and toast and can definitely add some new flavor and texture to the season. What makes pumpkin seed butter particularly attractive is its high protein content. A two-tablespoon serving offers 10 grams of protein, which is great for any time of the day, but particularly the morning. Getting at least 10 grams of protein at breakfast can help you feel fuller for longer and regulate your appetite for the rest of the day.
For those of you who are counting calories, pumpkin seed butter is a little lower in calories than the prior options; one serving contains 160 calories. Along with 10 grams of protein, you’ll get 13 grams of healthy fat, two grams of fiber, 156 grams of magnesium, 2.2 grams of zinc and 1.3 milligrams of manganese.
4. Walnut butter
Walnut butter has the most calories of the nut butters we’re looking at today, but its unique blend of fat makes it a very nutritious option. A two-tablespoon serving checks in at 220 calories with 21 grams of fat and five grams of protein. The unique thing about walnut butter is that it contains an essential omega-3 fatty acid known as alpha linolenic acid (ALA). ALA has anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular episodes. Each serving of walnut butter has 2.6 grams of ALA.
5. Sesame seed butter (tahini)
Tahini is a great source of selenium and phytochemicals that act as antioxidants to encourage cellular integrity, thyroid function and promote immunity. A two-tablespoon serving contains 180 calories, 16 grams of fat, five grams of protein, three grams of fiber and 10.3 micrograms of selenium. As an added bonus, sesame seed butter makes a great addition to salad dressings!
Ways to Include Nut Butters in Your Diet
Nut butters serve as a great alternative to less nutritional and less healthy snacks. They are very filling, versatile and an easy way to get nutrition when you’re on the go.
If you enjoy a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast, consider swapping your cream cheese for one or two tablespoons of your favorite nut butter. Yes, it’s more calorically dense but you’re getting much more nutrition. Furthermore, the protein and fat content of nut butters can make you feel fuller for longer and help control your appetite throughout the day. Nut butters can also easily be added to smoothies or certain fruits, like bananas and apples. Adding them to oatmeal is also highly recommended. If you like your nut butter to have a little sweetness then add a dash of an artificial sweetener to it, like Splenda or Stevia.
If you have a high performance blender and are interested in making your own nut butters—you’ll save all kinds of money doing so—there are a few essential details you should keep in mind:
- Make sure you buy roasted, raw or blanched nuts that are free from added sugars. Once the sugar is added you’re really counteracting the health benefits.
- Soak and dehydrate your nuts before grinding so you can make the butter. If they are wet, you won’t get butter out of them.
- If you don’t have a blender that has at least 120 volts (V) of motor power, don’t try to grind the nuts into butter; you’ll break your machine and potentially burn yourself.
Because nut butters are high in calories, don’t go too heavy on them. Make room for them in your diet by cutting out less nutritious foods like candy and refined grains.
Source for Today’s Article:
Beck, L., “What type of nut butter should I eat if I’m trying to lose weight?” The Globe and Mail web site, last updated October 26, 2015; http://www.theglobeandmail.com//life/health-and-fitness/health/what-type-of-nut-butter-should-i-be-eating-if-im-trying-to-lose-weight/article26988464/, last accessed October 28, 2015.