Fancier Nut Butters Aren’t Necessarily Healthier Than Peanut Butter
Both peanuts and their tree nut counterparts have remarkably similar nutrition profiles.
These days, it feel like peanut butter has a bad rep. The nation’s supermarket aisles are inundated with all sorts of nut butter alternatives these days to the point that picking a companion for your jelly can be overwhelming.
Of course there are obvious allergy reasons for shying away from this spread of pulverized legumes, but it feels like some consumers consciously or subconsciously believe that a fancier nut spread must naturally be healthier than peanut butter. Well, it turns out that—in the abstract at least—that isn’t the case.
As it turns out, tree nuts and peanuts have remarkably similar caloric and nutritional profiles. Though both are high in fat and calories, Purdue University nutritionist Richard Mattes found that peanuts and tree nuts aren’t directly correlated with weight gain, and they may even play a limited role in weight loss by boosting resting energy expenditure.
Though Mattes says that turning nuts and peanuts into a butter changes how (and how many) calories we absorb from them, we also derive a greater amount of nutrients from them.
Based on USDA data cited by The Nuance, a comparison of nutritional profiles is where the similarities become peanut butter and fancier alternatives becomes even more apparent. Peanuts have a similar healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acid profile as the almond. A half cup of peanuts has more protein than the same amount of almonds and cashews, not to mention more fiber than the latter as well. Though there’s slightly more iron in a cashew and calcium in an almond, peanuts outpace the others in terms of folate content.
The differences that do exist between butters seem to have less to do with the inherent properties of the nut (or legume) itself, and more with the additives found in particular products. Obviously a mass-produced peanut butter could feature more sugar and sodium than a hyper-artisanal brand of hand-ground almond butter you’d see in a Whole Foods. But if you were able to find a peanut butter that pretentious, you’d notice little more than a marginal difference when reading the nutrition facts.
So there you have it. If you’re not allergic to peanuts, you really don’t have to force yourself to choke down cashew butter if you don’t want to. As long as you buy the fancy peanut butter, there’s really no difference. Your toast will thank you.