With all the varieties of nut & seed butters we have today, choosing can become difficult. Here is our Fig & Bloom guide to find the one that suits you best.
What first comes to mind when you think of nut butter? Usually it is ‘peanut, followed by ‘calories’ and ‘fat’. But nut butters have come a long way since our childhood peanut butter memories – we now have butters made from every kind of nut and seed too. Knowing what to buy and why can be a bit confusing, so we hoep this article will help you in your choice.
Why buy nut and seed butters?
All nut and seed butters are high in fat, because all nuts and seeds have a high fat content. But the fats are not ‘bad’ – they are mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, which are known to have many health benefits, especially to the heart, brain and nervous systems, and are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Their protein, fat and fibre content make them a great source of long-lasting energy and help to steady blood sugar levels, keeping you full and energised across the day. Research has shown that eating nuts on a regular basis helps some people to manage their weight more effectively.
Nut and seed butters are packed with important vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients and studies suggest eating certain nuts on a regular basis may reduce the risk of chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and heart disease.
Which ones to buy?
There are many nut and seed butters out there. They are all worth a try as they differ in flavour, texture, consistency and health benefits. Here are some of our favourites:
Almond butter – Almond butter is rich and full of flavour. It is a great choice for those concerned about heart and bone health. Not only is it low in saturated fat, rich in monounsaturated fats and fibre and a great dietary source of vitamin E, which is known to lower the risk of coronary heart disease – it is also packed with bone-building and strengthening magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. Store in the fridge and use to spread on apple slices, add to baking or stir through porridge.
Cashew butter – this creamy, protein-packed butter is a good match for vegetarians needing a protein-boost or those wanting to keep their skin and hair beautiful. It is packed with collagen-boosting copper and skin-healing zinc and contains a good level of iron, needed to keep those hair locks luscious. The high folate content also makes it a good choice for any woman thinking of having a baby – folate is the natural form of folic acid, needed early on in pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects. Perfect for smoothies and homemade ice cream.
Pumpkin seed butter may be the perfect late-night snack for those in need of their sleep. It is a good source of the protein building block tryptophan, which the body converts to serotonin and then to melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone. Eating some pumpkin seed butter with a little carbohydrate, such as banana, before bed may help you to dose off more easily.
Walnut butter boasts the highest levels of omega 3 out of all the nut butters. Omega 3 is an essential fat, meaning it must come from the diet. It is needed for controlling inflammation, supporting cardiovascular health and managing weight, amongst others. The type of omega 3 in walnuts is alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – it is not as potent as the omega 3 you find in oily fish (DHA and EPA) but it is still worth including in your diet, especially if you don’t eat oily fish. Omega 3 is a very delicate fat so store it in the fridge.
Things to bear in mind when buying your nut and seed butters
Nut and seed butters should be eaten in moderation due to their high calorie content, but their rich nutritional value makes them a healthy store-cupboard essential.
You get what you pay for – a nut or seed butter that has added sugar, hydrogenated oils and salt does not compare to a purer version, so check the labels. Adding unhealthy oils helps to bind the nut butter, so without these it may separate and need stirring before each use, but this is a small trade-off and storing it upside down helps.
Choosing a raw butter made from unroasted nuts and seeds will give you a healthier fat profile than those made from roasted nuts and seeds. Although many people prefer the roasted taste – buy both and alternate if you can’t decide!
Check the salt content as some brands add more than others.