Have you ever wondered why we switch from peanut butter to almond butter when we’re trying to be healthy? It’s often one of the first changes people make, but a lot of them don’t even know why they do it, and it’s not often explained.
Before I continue, just note that peanut butter is not BAD for you, but heres why nut butters are the go-to of the wellness industry instead. By the way, peanuts are legumes, not nuts. Confusing, I know!
Aside from being a heavily pesticide-sprayed crop (a big aside, as the pesticides used on peanuts contain possible carcinogens and hormone disruptors) peanuts are susceptible to mold as they are grown underground. That mold can produce aflatoxins, which are carcinogenic compounds.
The amount we’re exposed to in peanut butter is low level, but if you’re using it a lot of the time, switching to a nut-based butter may be a better option to avoid chronic exposure (important for the immunocompromised). You can search for brands whose peanuts are manufactured in drier environments (thus less likely to grow mold), but that’s not exactly realistic when you’re trying to get in and out of the grocery store.
Peanuts are also high in omega 6, a fatty acid that our bodies do need, but we already get PLENTY in the Standard American Diet and when it’s not in balance with omega 3 intake, it creates inflammation in the body.
So there you have it – a brief explainer. Next time you fork over $8 for some alternative butter, you know why!
There are lots of options to choose from if you’re moving away from peanut butter, however. Here are a few benefits of some of the nut and seed butters I’ve tried:
As mentioned, this is the most popular alternative to peanut butter. It’s not cheap, but it’s often the least expensive of the alternatives. I like to get mine either fresh-ground at Whole Foods or my local health-food store (Harvest Co-Op), or go for Trader Joe’s. It’s less naturally sweet than peanut butter, but still works just as well in its place in baking, smoothies, and snacking.
Almonds are an excellent fat and protein source and contain antioxidants known to reduce the risk of certain cancers. They also contain potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, zinc, and Vitamin E. Unblanched almonds have been found to reduce LDL cholesterol as well as the risk of heart disease.
This is a little harder to find, but I’ve purchased it at Target under their Simply Balanced brand. as well as at Whole Foods. It has more of the sweetness we often seek in peanut butter so I find that it’s a better substitute if the sweetness is what you’re craving. As with above, it can be used in baking, smoothies, and snacking just as you would with the peanut version.
Cashews are also a great source of fat, but not as high in protein as almonds (though they still are a good source of protein). They contain all the same nutrients as above, as well as biotin, a vitamin that’s beneficial to your skin, hair, and nails.
Mixed Nut Butter
A friend of mine found this at Trader Joe’s recently. It’s a delicious mix of dry-roasted almonds, cashews, walnuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and pecans. Since there’s a big mix here, I won’t go into all the benefits as I don’t know how much of each ingredient is used, and most of them are already mentioned, but I really enjoyed trying this one. The Brazil nuts really stand out and it’s a very interesting alternative if you’re just used to the admittedly bland quality of regular almond butter.
This is a powder made from pressed peanuts (to remove the oil) that I was into when I was a slave to MyFitnessPal and was counting every last gram of fat I ate. I would add it to my smoothies to get the peanut butter taste without it being too heavy (since its fats fill you up more). It’s also decent as a protein powder, with 5g per tablespoon.
If you want to use it as a “butter” however, you have to add water to it, and it doesn’t really work the same way and it definitely wouldn’t substitute well in baking. This is not a good alternative for me, unless it’s only the flavor I’m seeking.
If you’re allergic to nuts, sunflower seed butter has become more popular recently. It’s not my favorite substitute, but if you’d literally die eating almond butter then it’s pretty great. It has a bland, tahini-ish taste to me, but sprinkle some cinnamon on it or put it in a smoothie and you won’t even notice.
Sunflower seeds contain protein, Vitamin E, magnesium selenium, B vitamins, iron, fiber, and so much more – they are a nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory alternative to peanuts.
Did you know all the reasons why almond butter is the go-to? What’s your favorite alternative to peanut butter?