Which nut butters are the healthiest and tastiest out there? Here are some we’re nuts for.
Peanut butter has long been a delicious, anytime-of-the-day staple—perhaps even since childhood and fond memories of mom’s specially made PB&J sandwich—for many of us here in the States. Today, we still can’t get enough of this protein-packed, deliciously chunky spread on apples, celery, mixed into protein shakes, and even (let’s be honest) licked directly off the spoon.
However, as athletes increasingly look toward healthier fuel options, especially with food sensitivities and allergies on the rise, peanuts are no longer center stage. Instead, substitute healthy nut butters have risen in popularity, and now you can find nut butters made from almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pecans when you go to most any health food store; the possibilities and flavor combinations are seemingly endless. And then there are the more adventurous and indulgent varieties, like cookie-dough-flavored almond butter, or cinnamon bun cashew butter. Um, is this a sweet shop or the nut butter aisle? (Feel you may have food sensitivities? It may be worth it to see if A Gluten-Free Diet Is Right For You.)
With all these options at our (soon-to-be sticky) fingertips, which to choose? Which have the most real health benefits to suit your personal fitness and wellness regimen? Well, I bravely took one for the Fit Nation team and tried several delicious varieties; a few local, a few with national distribution. Here’s the delicious scoop on healthy nut butters:
A local nut and seed butter maker, Betsy’s Best comes in three varieties: peanut butter, almond butter, and sunflower seed butter. Each of these butters includes chia seeds, making for a grainy, almost “chunky” mouth feel. They are also sweetened with demerara sugar (unrefined cane sugar characterized by large, golden brown crystals, that is less sweet and more creamy than refined white sugar), along with stevia leaf extract and cinnamon, resulting in a butter that isn’t overly sweet. It comes in 16-ounce jars or individual two-tablespoon packets, with 15 grams of fat, 8 grams carbohydrates, and 7 grams protein per two-tablespoon serving*. *Nutritional information for Gourmet Almond Butter; for information on other butters, see the seller’s website.
Self-proclaimed “paleo-friendly” Cracked nut butter boasts five heavenly flavors, including cinnamon roll, white chocolate raspberry, cookie dough, chocolate chip cookie dough, and brownie batter. Uh, yes please! Cracked nut butters are lightly sweetened with honey and are made with non-GMO, organic, sustainably sourced ingredients like whey protein from grass-fed cows, ghee, unsweetened coconut flakes, vanilla, and cinnamon, along with digestive enzymes for better absorption. Gluten-, soy-, lactose-, and peanut-free, these flavors are indeed incredibly delicious, although the cinnamon roll flavor does have a lingering aftertaste. If you’re looking for a post-workout refuel, choose the 3.2-ounce grab-n-go pouch; each two-tablespoon serving has 17 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrates, and 8 grams protein*. You can also purchase online or at local GNC stores ($14.99 for each 12-ounce glass jar). *Nutritional information for Cinnamon Roll flavor; for information on other butters, see the seller’s website.
At the recent Fit Nation-sponsored Thunderdome event, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting the G Butter crew. G Butter is a different level of nut butter altogether, tailored to the specific needs of the athlete. The product is made with cashews and walnuts, and the makers of G Butter stress the importance of micronutrients paired with perfectly proportioned macros—only 6–10 grams of fat per serving along with 2–5 grams of carbohydrates and 7–10 grams of protein per two-tablespoon serving. Their non-GMO, gluten-free, natural ingredients include ultra-filtered whey protein, safflower oil, erythritol, stevia leaf extract, and vanilla or cocoa powder. All their flavors were ultra-sweet, and carried a bit of a stevia aftertaste. These 12.6-ounce jars sell for $12 each, and are available online or at Naples’ Total Nutrition store.
One completely organic, non-GMO, all-nut and -seed option I found particularly intriguing was Nuttzo. Made in San Diego, this was a more expensive option at $19.99 for each 16-ounce jar filled with organic peanuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, hazelnuts, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and sea salt. The original version has 17 grams fat, 8 grams carbohydrates, and 7 grams protein per serving.
For those with more traditional palates, there are plenty of unflavored, unsweetened options as well. Brad’s Naturals Organic almond butter is available at Costco in 18-ounce glass jars for $13.67. Imported from Italy, Brad’s products are not subject to the pasteurization laws of the US; therefore, the enzymes and nutrition of the almonds have not been destroyed due to heat from steaming. This also contributes to the slightly bitter—rather than sweet—flavor.
For those with nut allergies, Sunbutter brand sunflower spread is the one for you. It’s made in a peanut and tree nut-free facility and is gluten-, soy-, dairy-, egg-, sesame-, and (of course) nut-free. The creamy variety tastes pretty similar to traditional peanut butter and is amazingly yummy by the spoonful.
I must admit, even after trying many different and unique nut butters, I realized that I’m a fan of the more traditional brands for the spoonful/dipping approach. However, the flavored butters are fun for occasional use, and for the recipes posted on their respective websites. Take, for example, the protein pancakes with cinnamon bun-flavored G Butter—ahhh-mazing! And rolling Cracked Cookie Dough nut butter into little balls and refrigerating them makes for some truly delectable (yet healthy) kid-friendly summer snacks. (Want other great snacks to make with your kids? Try these 5 Healthy Recipes to Cook With Your Kids.)
One final note: since most of the brands listed here have fairly similar macronutrient profiles, and, at the end of the day, it really comes down to your personal preference, availability, and price point, I say go nuts (couldn’t resist) with your healthy nut butter selection!
Now, what to do with all these leftovers … where’s my spoon?