Peanut butter may be a household staple, but spreads made from other nuts and seeds can add nutrients and variety to your diet.|
Peanut butter has that ideal balance between sweet and salty, making it the perfect companion for everything from whole grain toast to celery sticks. And it's an inexpensive source of protein and good-for-you monounsaturated fats. Generations of kids have gotten through the school day fueled by peanut-butter sandwiches and a carton of milk—you were probably one of them!
But did you know that there's more to nut butters than just plain peanut butter? How about spreads made from almonds, cashews, and even seeds like sunflower? As an alternative to the old standby, consider these other products most easily found in gourmet, natural and/or organic grocery stores.
As a kid, I was fanatically devoted to one—and only one—national peanut butter brand. As an adult, I’ve come to love the pure, unadulterated taste of natural nut butter. If taste alone isn’t enough to make you go au naturel, then consider the ingredients list: One major brand contains peanuts and sugar, plus small amounts of molasses, hydrogenated vegetable oils (i.e. trans fats), preservatives and salt. On the natural PB jar label? Peanuts and salt. Better yet, the fresh-ground version I buy at our local deli contains just dry-roasted peanuts. Buyer beware: Even jars labeled "natural" may contain added sugar and oil since the labeling term isn't regulated, so always read labels to see what you're really getting.
The flipside, ironically, is that truly natural butters are more expensive than most mainstream brands that contain additional ingredients (sweeteners, oils, etc). If you can find fresh-ground or grind-your-own nut butters (natural foods grocers carry them), you’ll find that the price per pound is somewhere in between major brands and natural, minimal-ingredient butters.
If you really want to cut the cost of buying nut or seed butter by the jar, consider making your own at home!
Homemade Nut Butter Recipe:
Nutrition and Serving Sizes
Thanks to their healthy fats, all nut and seed butters are high in fat and calories. Regardless of nut variety (peanut, hazelnut, almond) and type (natural or regular), one 2-tablespoon serving has about 200 calories, 15% of your RDA for protein, and about a quarter of your daily allowance for fat. Watch your portions to keep your calories in check!
Be sure to read labels to find the nutrition profile that fits your needs, especially if you eat a low-sugar or low-sodium diet.
New Ways to Enjoy Nut Butters
That ping-pong-ball-sized serving can be a healthful addition to sensible foods like whole grain bread, crackers or pita; fruits (apples, bananas) or vegetables (celery or even carrot sticks). You can’t beat the old PB & J sandwich, but there are plenty of other uses for peanut and other nut butters.
Futters Nut Butters
Justin's Nut Butter
Koeze Cream-Nut Peanut Butter
Krema Nut Co.
Once Again Nut Butter
FDA nutrition info on almonds, from USDA.gov
Homemade Nut Butters, from CookingLight.com
Nut and seed butter nutrition info and uses, from FuttersNutButters.com