What’s the best nut butter?

nutritionally great, whatever the nut

We’re lucky to be living in a time of abundant variety in nut butters.  Just 30 or so years ago, your choices were peanut butter,.. or peanut butter.  Variety meant chunky or creamy styles.  Now we have all kinds of options, limited only by your taste buds.  Rest assured , if you’re happy with peanut butter and that’s all you’ve ever eaten, you can still get all the taste and nutrition benefits.  Even though peanuts are technically not nuts – they’re legumes, related to beans – they are remarkably similar to nuts in nutrition.

Grinding nuts into nut butter doesn’t change the nutrition.  What does change it is stuff added to nut butters to sweeten or stabilize it.  Nuts have high oil content, and when nut butter sits for awhile, the oil starts to separate and rise to the top.  This is very healthy fat, so NEVER pour off the oil from a jar of nut butter.  You’ll be left with a dry, unspreadable and less flavorful mass of goo.  Just stir it back in with a fork or knife, and refrigerate the jar to keep the nut butter homogenized.  Refrigeration also helps prevent that healthy fat from going rancid, if you don’t use it up quickly.

Since all nuts are so similar nutritionally, no nut butter is significantly better than another from a nutrition point of view.  They all have about 100 calories per tablespoon, about 2-3 grams of protein, some fiber, healthy fats and a variety of vitamins and minerals, particularly potassium, magnesium and vitamin E.  Walnut butter contains plant omega-3, the 18-carbon Alpha Linolenic Acid.

Many grocery stores now stock almond, cashew and sesame butter (tahini) along with peanut butter.  Speciality grocers and natural food stores are more likely to have walnut, sunflower, hazel nut and other less common nut butters.  If you’re feeling adventuresome, try out some different flavors besides peanut butter.  Small jars make great additions to gift baskets.

So, which nut butter is the best?  Here’s the answer: the one you like, and the ingredients list should say: Ingredients: [nuts].  Maybe also salt.  That’s it.  No sugar or corn syrup or maple syrup or palm oil* or hydrogenated anything.  The best nut butter is the one that’s all nuts.

*I don’t care if the palm oil is “organic”.  Palm oil plantations are monocultures that are hostile to the diversity of tropical plants and animals.

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