How To Pick The Healthiest Nut Butter

How To Pick The Healthiest Nut Butter
Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.


The healthiest nut butter (or seed butter) sometimes hides on the shelf. There are so many different brands and varieties of nut butters these days, going way beyond peanut. You may need to do a little searching to find the healthiest option, and the place to look is the ingredient list.

I love nut and seed butters. They make for an easy snack, fit in perfectly to your healthy eating plan because they’re loaded with nutrients, and they can be used in cooking in so many ways to add a whole food source of fat instead of oil.

The words ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ are usually where I start looking, but they can also fool you because not every organic natural nut butter is the best choice.

Check The Ingredients

I re-learned that lesson the other day at the grocery store. I spend a bit of time in a new grocery store looking at ingredients to figure out which brand is the healthiest nut butter, but then I usually stick to the same brand. Unfortunately, my regular brand was out of stock this time.

They have a non-organic version of my usual, so I picked that one up instead. I mentioned at the cash that their stock of organic for that brand was out, and the cashier offered to go look in the basement to see if they had any hiding down there waiting to get onto the shelf.

Back she came with a jar that was organic, but it was a different brand. I looked at the two of them, and since I don’t really enjoy eating pesticides, I decided to try the new brand.

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But – since there were people in line behind me now that the cashier had run off to the basement, I didn’t check the ingredients…

I realized when I did a taste test of the salad dressing I was making with it that it tasted a lot sweeter than I’m used to. Sure enough, I looked at the ingredients and it listed sugar, salt and canola oil. Health-wise, I don’t know which is worse between pesticides and canola oil, but I do know that I don’t like the taste of sweetened nut/seed butters anymore.

It’s funny, I used to LOVE Kraft peanut butter, but if I try a bit now it doesn’t even taste like peanuts! It just tastes like oil and sugar. Start eating a healthy balanced diet of whole foods, and your tastebuds will most definitely change!

Alright, so the moral of my story is to always check the ingredients. The healthiest nut butter is any one that doesn’t have added salt, sugar, oil – or any other ingredient, like preservatives. I buy the nut or seed butters that list only the dry roasted nut (or seed) in the ingredients.

Salt isn’t terrible if you eat mostly healthy whole plant foods. It’s better to steer clear of added sources of sugar, and the sugar used is usually refined (which is bad on a few levels). The oil used is so often a really bad choice – a highly refined oil, like canola, and/or a hydrogenated oil (aka trans fat) to reduce the tendency for the nut butter to separate.

Which Type To Pick?

After that, there are different nutrients in each different nut or seed butter, so it’s up to you which one you pick. It would be a good idea to try different ones, to get a variety of their nutrients. Although to be honest, I usually get the same kind.

Peanut butter is probably still the most popular, even though it’s a really common allergen. Another downside to peanuts is that they’re really susceptible to a fungus/mold called aflatoxin. As the name implies, it’s toxic to humans, although the amount in peanut butter is supposedly low.

If you love peanut butter, and it doesn’t give you gas or any other bad symptoms, I think you should go for it. Pick a good one (that’s just ground peanuts), and don’t worry about it. We get toxins in so many unavoidable ways that the small amount in peanut butter isn’t worth a loss of peanut-induced happiness.

There are a lot of other really delicious options now, though. Almond butter is really gaining in popularity because it’s ridiculously yummy. And there are lots of other kinds of nut and seed butters cropping up – cashew, macadamia, coconut, sunflower, pumpkin, hemp…

My favorite right now is sunflower seed butter, because it’s a neutral flavor so it’s really versatile. I can use it as a spread on a rice cake, to thicken a pureed soup or bean dip or as a base to a salad dressing.

If you’re curious, the brand I usually buy is Nuts To You. Unfortunately for most of you, they don’t sell into the US yet. Here’s a cute interview with the founder of the company, which doesn’t even have a website 🙂

What kind nut or seed butter is your favorite? Let me know below.


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