A Better Nut Butter?
Ok, we’ll stipulate that the “P” in PB&J may never be supplanted by an “A.” But almond butter—a paste made from grinding the ubiquitous, good-for-you almond—is coming on strong in many households, even though it’s a tad costlier. And in any nut-on-nut nutritional matchup, almond butter beats PB handily, smooth or chunky.
Almonds and their spawn—the oil, the milk, the flavored, the slivered, the chopped—may seem to be a current food fad. But this nut has been in the game for a long, long time. According to Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health, the almond— scientific name Prunus dulcis—is a tree nut native to the Mediterranean region that was first cultivated as early as 3000 B.C.E. The Bible mentions almonds in several places—once, nuttily enough, as “among the best of fruits.”
The almond is a nutritional powerhouse, a quality that doesn’t vanish when it’s made into a tasty spread. And the cognoscenti have caught on. When 48-year-old actress and mother of three Jennifer Garner shared on Instagram the breakfast she favored as she prepared for days filming the 2018 action thriller “Peppermint,” it wasn’t peppermints. It was a recipe she got from holistic nutritionist Kelly LeVeque, and its key ingredients were collagen protein powder, flaxseed, chia seeds—and almond butter.
Nut butters are known to contain a healthy amount of good fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and almond leads the nut-butter pack. According to an article in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, almond butter has significantly more fiber, calcium and potassium than peanut butter. What does this mean for you? For one thing, its high levels of fiber will help you feel full faster, which can help you maintain a healthy weight.
Peanut butter and almond butter pack similar punches when it comes to calories, both coming in at about 100 per tablespoon. They’re calorie-dense, so munch them strategically, not mindlessly. But the magnesium in almonds can help lower blood-pressure levels, decreasing your risk of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. And studies have found levels of high- density lipoprotein, the “good” cholesterol that reduces the risk of heart disease, slightly increased with almond butter even when compared with those of raw or roasted almonds.
In vitamins, score more victories for almond butter. It contains nearly three times as much skin-benefiting vitamin E as peanut butter, twice as much iron and seven times more calcium. Almond butter is also great for a pre-workout snack, providing 6.7 grams of protein, which is more than one large egg.
When it comes to buying nut butters in general, it is best to avoid unnecessary added ingredients. The best and healthiest spread option is to aim for one that contains just two ingredients: the nuts and salt. Hidden in many commercial almond-butter spreads are high levels of sugar, disguising itself as corn syrup or molasses.
Palm oil and other oils containing high levels of saturated fat are also often included in nut butters, so be sure to read labels to find the most natural option.
Like peanut butter, almond butter has a long shelf life and does not need to be placed in the refrigerator until opened. Once opened, almond butter typically lasts a few months before going bad, leaving you lots of time to enjoy its rich flavor. Expiration dates may vary, however, depending on the quantities of salt and preservatives used in the mixture.
One of the beauties of almond butter is its versatility. From adding a spoonful into a morning smoothie to baking sweet treats such as almond-butter brownies, this spread is easy to integrate into your diet. Clearly it’s causing a stir—and not just because, if contents have separated, you may need to stir it.
Last Updated: May 26, 2021