For Nut Butters That Are Better, Beware Added Oil, Sugar


Aaah, peanut butter, that favorite of children and adults alike. You can’t beat it for satisfying a hungry stomach on a tight budget. But what if you?re allergic to peanuts? Or just plain tired of peanut butter? Good news. There are other nut (or seed) butters. Though, like peanut butter, they are high in fat, it’s mostly monounsaturated fat that’s heart-healthy.

Moreover, nuts are a great source of protein, magnesium, copper, potassium, zinc, selenium, folic acid and other B vitamins, making nut butters a super healthful spread. They also contain important phytochemicals like flavonoids, indoles and phenols, which may help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases. Almonds and hazelnuts are particularly rich in natural vitamin E, an antioxidant that may play a role in preventing heart disease and some kinds of cancer.

Choosing a nut butter can be tricky. Some brands are nothing but nuts, though many add salt; other butters contain sugar and added fat. Nutella‘s first ingredient is sugar. Major name brand butters like Jif, Peter Pan and Skippy are guilty of extra oil and sugar. Neither is necessary and only detract from a natural, nutty taste. Check ingredient labels to avoid nut butters with hydrogenated oil, which has artery-clogging trans fatty acids.

What about aflatoxins, the cancer-causing fungal contaminant inherent to most nuts? Consumer Reports found that big-name brands of peanut butter have the lowest levels of aflatoxins, well below government limits. Grind-your-own butters (an option in some health food stores) were the worst culprits. For the best of both worlds?nutrition and safety?we suggest buying a well-known natural brand like Smucker’s, for the fewest additives and lowest likelihood of aflatoxins.

Natural butters may not spread easily, especially if you refrigerate them, as is recommended. But if you buy a size that won’t sit open for months, you can get away with keeping it in the cupboard. Reduced-fat butters don’t spread well either. Plus they don’t save that much fat and have added sugar.

Nutty Notes

  • Read ingredient labels to select brands that do not contain hydrogenated oils or added sugar.
  • If you like freshly ground nut butter, buy it in small amounts, because it has a short shelf life.
  • Substitute nut butters for butter or cream cheese to spread on your toast or bagel in the morning.
  • Add nut butters to salad dressings and sauces to boost nutrition.

Nutrition Comparison of Nut and Seed Butters

(Nut butters are ranked according to total fat content, from least to most. Serving size is two tablespoons.)
J = EN‘s Picks. Picks contain no more than 16 grams of total fat, 3 grams of saturated fat, 200 calories, 180 milligrams of sodium and no hydrogenated oil or added sweetener.
 BrandTotal Fat
(grams)
Saturated Fat
(grams)
CaloriesSodium
(milligrams)
Additional Information
 Better ?n Peanut Butter2.40100220Contains defatted peanut flour plus natural peanut butter, added sugar.
 Peanut Wonder, Low Sodium2.5010095Contains peanuts as defatted peanut flour plus peanut butter, added sugar.
 Nutella9116030Contains hazelnuts, hydrogenated oil and added sugar.
 I.M.Healthy Soy Nut Butter, Crunchy111.5170150Sweetened with honey.
 I.M. Healthy Soy Nut,  Unsweetened Creamy Butter121.5180160Sweetened with honey.
 Smuckers Reduced Fat Natural Peanut Butter, Creamy122200120Added sugar. 
 Reduced Fat Skippy, Creamy122.5190190Contains hydrogenated oil, added sugar.
 Reduced Fat Jif, Crunchy Peanut Butter122.5190220Contains hydrogenated oil, added sugar.
JHealth Trip Co. Honey Sweet Soy Nut Butter1321700Contains organic soybeans and canola oil.
JArrowhead Mills Certified Organic Peanut Butter, Crunchy1532000100% peanuts. 
JAll Natural Creamy HempNut Nut Butter, Hempseed and Peanuts152.5185120Made from hemp seeds. 
JMaple Grove Farms of Vermont All Natural Creamy Peanut Butter151.519015100% peanuts.
 Reese’s Creamy Peanut Butter152200140Contains hydrogenated oil and added sugar
JSimply Nuts Tahini15218010Made from sesame seeds.
JTree of Life Natural Creamy Cashew Butter152.51800100% cashews.
JYum Nature Peanut Butter, Crunchy15 21900100% peanuts.
 Jif Creamy Peanut Butter163190150Contains hydrogenated oil and added sugar.
JMaranatha Natural Foods Organic Roasted Sunflower Butter161.51900100% sunflower seeds.
 Peter Pan Creamy Peanut Butter163.5190150Contains partially hydrogenated oil and added sugar.
 Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter163190150Contains partially hydrogenated oils and added sugar.
JSmucker’s Natural Peanut Butter, Creamy, No Salt Added1622005100% peanuts.
JWoodstock Old Fashioned Almond Butter, Smooth, Unsalted161.51800100% almonds.
 Once Again Organic Tahini1721800Made from sesame seeds.
 Maranatha Natural Foods1812200100% almonds.
 Maranatha Natural Foods All-Natural Smooth Cashew Macadamia Butter, Unsalted203.52104.5Contains cashews and macadamia nuts.

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