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picture of nut butter spread with berries

Do you remember when peanut butter was the only nut butter available on the grocery store shelves? Options included creamy and chunky, and eventually low sodium and natural, too.

Today, the nut butter market has grown exponentially, for a variety of reasons! People with peanut allergies want alternatives to peanut butter, and some schools have gone nut free as a precaution for students with nut allergies. Additionally, consumers like to look for new and exciting flavors to jazz up traditional snacks like PB&J sandwiches.

Most nut butters are made from either tree nuts like almonds, cashews or hazelnuts, or from seeds (e.g. sunflower seed butter), since peanuts are actually a legume. However, chickpea butter now exists as an alternate legume-based spread, and its creators claim it has a similar texture and nutritional profile to peanut butter.

When looking for a nut butter to try, variables to consider include taste, texture, spreadability and nutrition content. To see how nut butters stack up nutritionally, keep in mind that a 2 Tablespoon serving of peanut butter has 7 grams of protein and 2 grams of sugar. Many peanut butter alternatives have more sugar and less protein than peanut butter, so your best bet is to look for options that are comparable to peanut butter in nutrition content. A good rule of thumb is to avoid flavored or sweetened nut butters, like chocolate hazelnut spreads and cookie butters, as these tend to be the highest in sugar.

One nutritional benefit of mixing up your nut butter selection is that while most nuts are similar in fat and calorie content, they contain different vitamins and minerals. Cashews are rich in copper, for example, and almonds are a good source of Vitamin E. So, consuming a variety of nuts – as long as you don’t have a nut allergy – can help provide you with the different vitamins and minerals that your body needs to thrive.

Don’t forget about portion control when consuming nuts and nut butters, though. A serving of nut butter is only 2 tablespoons, and a serving of raw nuts is ¼ cup- about the size of the palm of your hand. It can be easy to overspread and overeat nuts and nut butters, and the fat and calories contained in these foods can add up quickly. Read your food labels and use measuring utensils to practice portion control, and you’ll get the nutritional benefits of nuts and nut butters without overindulging.

Sources:

Ettman, L. (2017). Here’s what you need to know about sugar in nut butters. Nutrition Action. https://www.nutritionaction.com/daily/sugar-in-food/sugar-in-peanut-butter/

Nurture Life (2016). Top 7 Kid Approved Peanut Butter Alternatives. https://nurturelife.com/blog/top-7-kid-approved-peanut-butter-alternatives/

USDA (2012). Household Foods Fact Sheet: Peanut Butter, Smooth. https://whatscooking.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/factsheets/HHFS_PEANUTBUTTER_100395Oct%202012.pdf

Warren, R.M. (2016). Best nut butters to eat right now. Consumer Reports. https://www.consumerreports.org/nut-butters/best-nut-butters-to-eat-right-now/

Watson, E. (2018). Nut butter… minus the nuts? The amazing chickpea offers a pulse-based alternative. https://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Article/2018/04/05/Nut-butter-minus-the-nuts-The-Amazing-Chickpea-offers-a-pulse-based-alternative

Written by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Shannon Carter, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

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