What's the Healthiest Type of Nut Butter?
From almonds to walnuts to cashews, the small-but-mighty nut packs a slew of impressive health benefits. Full of heart-healthy unsaturated fats, satiating fiber and energizing protein, nuts may help with weight loss and lower levels of bad LDL cholesterol in the body. And nuts are also a key component of established eating habits such as the Mediterranean Diet.
Nuts are nutritious and boast a magical ability—after a quick blitz in the blender, they can morph into nut butter, our favorite creamy, spreadable pantry staple. Any nut, from peanuts to pistachios, is fair game for nut butter. And there are a myriad of uses far beyond toast—spin peanut butter into a sauce for grilled chicken or fish, drizzle almond butter over pancakes, or spoon pecan butter into cookie batter.
While we can muse about our love for nut butter all day, we can’t help but wonder if all nut butters are created equal. Is there one type of nut butter you should be eating over others? Or, is there one to avoid entirely?
To find out the truth, we crunched the numbers behind eight of our favorite nut butters—peanut butter, almond butter, pistachio butter, hazelnut butter, cashew butter, walnut butter, pecan butter, and macadamia nut butter. Because the added salt, sugar, and oils found in some store-bought nut butters may alter the nutrition, we kept our analysis simple by focusing on each individual nut (specifically dry-roasted, unsalted nuts).
Besides, nut butter only really needs one ingredient—nuts. (And if you’ve never made nut butter from scratch before, this basic peanut butter recipe is the perfect place to start.)
Below, find the nutritional breakdown of each nut. We looked at the calories, saturated fat, unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated), protein, and fiber of a typical one-ounce serving size of nuts, which translates to about 2 tablespoons of nut butter. You can also think of this as roughly a handful.
Source: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
While fiber remained relatively similar across all nuts, calories, fat, and protein varied slightly. Here's a breakdown of each category:
Yes, nuts are generally calorie-dense, but their abundant health benefits far outweigh this. To keep calories in check, be mindful of the typical serving size—about a handful—when snacking on them. If you’re looking to limit calories, however, your best bets are peanuts, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and cashews. All come in around 180 calories or less per serving.
Nuts are high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats—which includes both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Macadamia nuts appear high in saturated fat, but there’s a bit more to the picture here. The majority of the fat in macadamia nuts is monounsaturated fat—and in fact, a 2008 study in the Journal of Nutrition linked these nuts to lowering amounts of bad LDL cholesterol in the body. Walnuts, on the other hand, are high in polyunsaturated fat and have been shown to help regulate insulin levels in individuals with type 2 diabetes.
Eating nuts is an easy way to work more protein into your diet without eating meat. Peanuts, with 7g of protein per serving, contain the most, but almonds and pistachios aren’t far behind. For an extra protein boost, sprinkle nuts over your Greek yogurt or oatmeal, or toss them into a salad with edamame or cannellini beans.
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Along with whole grains, legumes, and seeds, nuts are a key component of a high-fiber diet. Eating more fiber can help you maintain a healthy weight by keeping you full and reducing the chance of overeating. All of the nut varieties we accessed are good sources of fiber, with the sole exception being cashews. For the most fiber, choose almonds, pistachios, or pecans.
So—What’s the Healthiest Nut Butter to Eat?
All of them! Any type of nut can be part of a healthy, balanced diet, and so can any nut butter. And while peanut butter, almond butter, pistachio butter, or cashew butter deliver some of the best bang-for-your-buck nutrition—all are lower in calories and fat, and higher in protein and fiber—don’t limit yourself to just these four. Aim to work a variety of nut butters into your diet, as each one boasts its own unique color, texture, and flavor that can easily bring a dish to life.