Nuts are full of nutrition. Today, nuts can be found in many different forms such as butters, trail mix and even sauces and soups. With the ever-expanding variety of nut butter options, the choices lining grocery store shelves may seem overwhelming. Just like nuts, nut butters contain healthy fats, protein, fiber and the antioxidant vitamin E. All nuts are full of nutrients, but some may be more appealing due to flavor or nutrient profile. Let’s dive into the ins and outs of nut butters and which one may be best for you.
Nut butters primarily consist of fats but not all fats are created equal. Types of fat typically found in nuts and plant-based oils are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. These types of fat are healthier for you than saturated and trans fat and can help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. Saturated and trans fat are known to raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL “good” cholesterol. The USDA recommends 20% of total daily calories come from unsaturated fat and 10% or less come from saturated fat.
The most variable nutrient in nut butters is protein. Nut butters higher in protein can serve as a moderate source of protein in meals. For example, if you eat a slice of peanut butter toast at breakfast, you can pair it with Greek yogurt for a meal close to 20 grams of protein.
Some companies are now marketing their nut butters as “high-protein” or “with added protein.” These products have added whey protein, and many times sugar, in them. Whey protein is not a complete food and does not provide the same level of nutrients as the protein already found in nut butters. Typically, a product labeled as a “high protein” nut butter has about 9 grams of protein—only 1 gram more than traditional peanut butter and 1 gram less than soy nut butter! There is also little difference in calories of these nut butters versus traditional versions.
All nut butters contain some fiber, though certain types will have more than others. Fiber aids in digestive health and regularity. It also helps keep you fuller for longer and can decrease LDL cholesterol.
Beware of additives
Added ingredients can explain some of the nutrient variation between different brands of the same nut butter. Many have added sugar and hydrogenated oil, which can contain trans fat and are less healthy for you than saturated fat. These ingredients make nut butters less nutrient dense, so it is best to avoid those containing them.
Nut butter powders
Peanut butter and almond butter powders are low-calorie and low-fat alternatives to their traditional forms. Because of this, they may be a good option for individuals on restricted calorie diets. However, nut butter powders are more processed, which results in a less nutrient dense product. You may find that powders fit better into your diet, just keep in mind, if you want to receive all of the benefits of nuts, a butter will be the recommended choice.
Nutrition for a two-tablespoon serving
Each nut butter has a unique flavor and varies in protein, fat and fiber content. Let’s look at the types of nut butters and their nutrition breakdown.
Below is a table of common nut butters found in most grocery stores. The nutrient numbers are averages and calorie content can vary from brand to brand, but typically a two-tablespoon serving ranges from 180 to 220 calories. According to averages of each type, pistachio butter is the lowest with 180 calories and pecan butter is the highest with 220 calories per serving. Most nut butters fall around the 200 calorie range per 2 tablespoons. For the exact nutritional content of the products you use, read the nutrition label.
|Nut Butter||Calories||Total Fat||Saturated|
|Almond||200||18 g||2 g||16 g||7 g||3 g|
|Cashew||190||16 g||3 g||13 g||6 g||2 g|
|Peanut||190||16 g||2 g||14 g||8 g||3 g|
|Pecan||220||20 g||1.5 g||16.5 g||4 g||2 g|
|Pistachio||180||14 g||1.5 g||12.5 g||7 g||3 g|
|Soy nut||200||14 g||2 g||12 g||10 g||2 g|
|Sunflower||200||18 g||2 g||16 g||6 g||2 g|
|190||16 g||2 g||14 g||5 g||3 g|
|Walnut||210||19 g||2 g||19 g||5 g||2 g|
|60||1.5 g||0 g||1.5 g||1 g||6 g|
|50||1.5 g||0 g||1.5 g||5 g||1 g|
Ways to enjoy it
Nut butters are great for spreading on whole wheat toast, crackers and fruit, but their versatility goes far beyond that. Here are a few ways you can incorporate nut butters into your meals and snacks throughout the day.
- Add a spoonful to oatmeal for extra creaminess
- Drizzle over a yogurt parfait
- Add 1 or 2 tablespoons to a smoothie
- Mix with Greek yogurt for a high protein fruit dip
- Stir into soups or curries
- Make energy balls for a quick and easy snack on-the-go
- Use in a savory dipping sauce for veggies or spring rolls
- Make hummus with tahini for a veggie dip
Swap traditional peanut butter for a nut butter you enjoy more. Just be mindful that it will change the nutritional analysis.
No matter which nut butter you choose, you’ll do your body good providing it with a great source of nutrients. Keep serving size in mind because nut butters are very energy dense—containing a high calorie content per amount of food. Explore the nut butter options at your grocery store and challenge yourself to try something new!
To schedule a one-on-one consultation or learn more about Cooper Clinic Nutrition, visit cooperclinicnutrition.com or call 972.560.2655.
Blog provided by Abby Gruenbaum, University of Oklahoma Dietetic Intern, and Cooper Clinic Nutrition.