For the past years, a lot of new nut products have appeared in supermarkets. You can now easily find products made with almond, peanut, hazelnut, or pistachio from different brands…
But is nut butter healthy and is it a ‘must-have” in vegan and vegetarian diets?
What is a Nut Butter?
Nut butter is a spreadable product made from nuts. Different methods exist to produce them. You can find roasted nut butter, smooth or crunchy ones. Basically, they are all made from nuts, but the process slightly changes to produce them.
The good news is, that you can find a very large variety of products from classic peanut butter or almond butter, to hazelnut butter, pistachio butter, delicious walnut butter, or macadamia butter. Even better, it is very easy to make them, and we will explain to you how to make them at home.
Are peanut butter, almond butter, and other nuts butter suitable for a vegan diet?
Of course, they are. As explained, they are just made from oleaginous products so they are definitely vegan and suitable for your diet.
Moreover, they are very tasty and they bring some health benefits with them.
What are the health benefits of nut butter?
As explained nut butter is produced from oleaginous foods which are rich in fatty acids. Even though there is not enough evidence to associate nut consumption with a reduced risk of cancers, nuts are still rich in vitamins, minerals, phytostérol, fiber, and fatty acids which make them healthy food. It is also particularly suitable for vegans or vegetarians because of the nutritional components of nuts.
As nut butter is made from nuts, you can find most of these benefits in butter. However, because of the process to create them and the ingredients eventually added, the health benefits of nut butter can be reduced.
Nuts are indeed rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega 6 and sometimes omega 3.
All nuts have a different composition and therefore different benefits.
For example, almonds are interesting because they contain 51,3g of lipids per 100g versus 67,3g of lipids per 100g for Walnuts.
But, Walnuts are also very interesting because they have a good balance between omega 6 and omega 3. Omega 6 and 3 are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, lower LDL cholesterol, and increased HDL cholesterol.
They also contain important minerals and vitamins. Almonds are indeed a good source of calcium, potassium, but also non-heme iron, vitamin E (strong antioxidant), and Vitamin B9 (very important for the production of genetic material, cell growth, and fetus development).
Nuts are also rich in soluble and insoluble fibers with 6,7g of fiber per 100g for Walnut and 11,6g of fiber per 100g for hazelnut. Fibers are important for digestive transit, reducing lipid absorption, and are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, and colon cancer.
They also contain phytosterols which are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Finally, it is also a source of protein as you can find 22,6g of protein per 100g in almonds, 17g in hazelnuts, and 15,7g in walnuts.
So, as for all foods, a well-balanced and diverse consumption of nuts and nut butter can be a good health choice, especially for people following a vegan or vegetarian diet.
How can I use my nut butter?
The good news is, that most nut butters work with every meal. Nut butters are great because they have multiple purposes from baking, to cooking.
Baking: You can use them for baking as they could replace traditional butter in similar quantities.
Recipe idea for snack or dessert: Banana Bread (Vegan recipe)
Cooking: But you can also use them for cooking to make a delicious sauce to add an unusual flavour to your meals.
Recipe Idea for lunch or dinner: Tofu with Peanut Butter Sauce and brown rice
Topping: And, of course, you can use spread them on top of your toasts or add them to your morning porridge. Nut butter is also great on desserts with yoghurt, berries, oat, and some seeds (chia, linseeds).
How to choose and compare nut butters?
The most important step to compare nut butters is to have a look at the ingredient list. Indeed, you can now easily find nut butter made with 100% nuts but also products with added sugar, oil, salt, and/or preservatives. They are then less interesting.
If you are only looking for good nut butter, I recommend you to only buy a product made with 100% of nuts. For example, let’s take these two nut butters below.
As you can see, the same products can be completely different with added sugar, salt, and/or oils.
A second step to choose your nut butter is to have a look at the proposed texture or flavors. If you are looking for something fancier, you can now find nut butter with coffee, dates, or even chocolate!
In that case, you will automatically find added ingredients but also added flavors. Just compare the amount of sugar and salt between products to make the healthiest selection. One of my favorites is Peanut and CHocolate butter from Meridian. I love using it for cooking, especially chocolate cake as it adds both flavors to the cake. However, as it contains agave syrup and oil, try to reduce the quantity of butter you are adding in your recipe but also the sugar.
Finally, to choose your product, you can compare the sustainability. Have a look at the country of production and try to find the most “local” product. For example, it is always more sustainable to buy almond butter from Italy than from California. You can also select products from cooperatives that are fairly retributing employees for their work.
Are Nut Butters expensive?
Unfortunately, yes, they are a bit expensive. The cheapest ones are peanut butter, then almond butter. If you want to save some money, have a look at the supermarket's own-brand products. For example, Lidl is proposing a nice almond butter from Maribel (Lidl brand). There are also discounts during the year so have a look at your local supermarket.
A good alternative can also be to make your own nut butter. It is very easy as you only need almond, peanut, or any other nuts and a powerful mixer.
Have a look at this nice recipe to make pistachio butter.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, most nuts and nut butter are bringing a lot of health benefits which make them perfectly suitable for a vegan or vegetarian diet. Thus, they can be included in your foods as part of a well-balanced and diversified consumption.
However, some people may be allergic to nuts so, in that case, nuts should be avoided.
If you are looking for personalized advice on nutrition, don’t hesitate to book an initial session with Lena.
Nieuwenhuis L, van den Brandt PA. Nut and Peanut Butter Consumption and the Risk of Total Cancer: A Prospective Cohort Study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2020 Oct;29(10):2100-2104. DOI: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-20-0456. Epub 2020 Jul 29. PMID: 32727726.