Of all the nut butter, peanut butter is the most famous. Supermarket shelves are filled with jar after jar of peanut butter, including those popular brands you probably grew up with as a child. But those typically highly-processed, commercial peanut butter aren’t what we’re talking about here. They’re loaded with all sorts of unwanted ingredients, including sugars and fillers. Even some “all-natural” brands (the term “all-natural” itself is pretty much useless), contains unnecessary additives.
Peanut butter may have won you over as a kid, but there is a long list of other nut butter, unprocessed nut butter made only from, you guessed it, NUTS! Nut butters that are organic, with no added oils or sugars are high in protein and healthy fats, providing your body and mind with the nutrition it needs without the junk.
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, nut butter is a great vegetarian protein source too. In fact, peanut butter got its start when the creator of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, physician Harvey Kellogg wanted his patients to have a protein substitute for meat, so he created his own version of peanut butter in the late 19th-century. Less than a decade later at the St. Louis World’s Fair, it was commercially introduced, and ultimately played a key role in Armed Forces rations in both the First and Second World Wars.
There are many benefits to consuming unprocessed nut butter, just a few include:
Lowering the Risk of Coronary Artery Disease and Cardiovascular Disease
According to a 2014 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming peanuts (and peanut butter) can help prevent both coronary artery disease and cardiovascular disease.
Over recent decades, multiple studies have demonstrated that people who regularly include nuts or nut butter in their diets are less likely to develop heart disease than those who rarely eat nuts. While saturated fat was once believed to be deadly, that’s not the reality. The body’s response to saturated fats in foods is to increase the amounts of both the “bad”l LDL cholesterol and the “good” protective HDL in the bloodstream.
When consumed In moderation, some saturated fat can be healthy. It’s eating an excessive amount, or eating unhealthy fats like trans-fats that actually promotes serious problems like artery-clogging atherosclerosis, the process underlies the majority of heart disease. Unsaturated fats, which make up the majority of the fat content in nut butter like peanut butter, help reduce LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Sunflower seed butter is a great option if you’re allergic to nuts. It provides 9 grams of protein per two tablespoons and is richer in magnesium, zinc, iron and vitamin E than peanut butter. No matter which type of nut or seed butter you buy, be sure to look for products that aren’t processed, they should contain just one or two ingredients at the most, and no added sugars, oils or preservatives.
Nut butter can surprisingly be great for weight loss when consumed in moderation of course. While they’re high in fat, nuts satisfy hunger longer, which leads to fewer hunger pangs and snacking between meals as compared to other foods. Health experts say this is due to the presence of rich nutrients and fiber.
The author of The Small Change Diet, Keri Gans, RDN, says that almond butter is the type that provides the most bang for the buck. She notes, “Per serving it has one of the least amounts of calories, it’s a good source of protein and the most fiber of all of the nut butter.” Gans also says that it can play a “key role” in weight loss, for example, eating a breakfast that contains some almond butter helps to stabilize blood sugar levels throughout the rest of the day. When blood sugar levels are steady, you won’t become ravenous, lowering the risk of cravings, and you’ll have more energy too.
Protein and Other Important Nutrients
Nut butter is loaded with protein and other important nutrients in addition to healthy fats and fiber, like vitamin E and phytochemicals. Sunflower seed butter is ideal for those who have a nut allergy and it has a wonderfully rich flavor. It provides 9 grams of protein per two tablespoons and contains more magnesium, zinc, iron and vitamin E than peanut butter. Sunflower seed butter, in particular, makes an ideal base for a creamy sauce as well as for slathering onto celery sticks.
In the September 2013 issue of Today’s Dietitian food coach, author and nutrition counselor Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD, says, “Each variety offers something a little different, and all are beneficial in their own way. None of the nuts in them can be labeled bad for your health, and something positive can be said about every single one of them. I think they’re actually one of the best diet foods around because you can put it on bread or crackers, and they’re really satiating. It stays with you so you’re not looking around for cookies or some other empty-calorie junk food.”
How to Make Your Own Nut Butter
As we mentioned, all you really need, and want, in a nut butter is ONE ingredient: nuts. Using only one ingredient also results in the creamiest nut butter possible. If you’re allergic to nuts, you can use seeds like sunflower or pumpkin seeds. If you have to add flavor, toss in a pinch of sea salt.
To make two cups of nut butter, you need four cups or any type of nuts or seeds (you can mix them if you’d like, for example, using one cup of almonds and one cup of cashews). Roast the nuts in a 300-degree Fahrenheit oven for about 12 minutes and then transfer the roasted nuts or seeds to a food processor. Run it on high speed for 10 to 20 minutes – the actual time will be depending on how powerful your food processor is. Occasionally stop it and scrape the sides down a few times. Initially, it will have a fine powdery texture, but when it’s ready, it’ll be nice and creamy. If you want to add a little sea salt, you can do that too – and, if you prefer crunchy nut butter, add some chopped nuts. That’s all there is to it.
Your nut butter can be stored in a clean, lidded glass jar. It will last for a few weeks when stored in the refrigerator.
Yummy and healthy!