Nut Butter Know How
As you probably already know, nut butter is one of my favorite foods and I am very particular about what goes into the process of making it!
For the past few months (years really), I have been trying different brands and tasting the differences and have definitely found my favorites!
On top if this, I want you to know what to look for when buying your own nut butter. There are SO many brands, labels and ingredients that it can be quite confusing to determine what is best and what is not so good for you! As far as what kind you like best - that is a personal preference. My favorites are almond and cashew!
So, for starters, lets talk about what to AVOID :
- Palm Oil : There’s a great deal of controversy about whether this oil is bad or good for us but I personally avoid it at all costs. Regardless as to which type of palm oil your nut or seed butter has, the problem lies in the fact that the oil comes from the the palm tree. Palm oil is one of the most detrimental oils in terms of sustainability in foreign lands, destroying the lives of wild animals every single day. Unless we actually see the lands that the palm oil comes from in our nut and seed butters, we really have no reason to deem them safe, no matter what the labels may tell us. Even food companies that make organic and natural products still use palm oil, many of which may be your favorite brands. Read the label to see if your nut butter contains palm oil — you may be surprised at what you find. In terms of health, we should really just be aware of added oils in our nut butter. These tend to be empty calories and just unnecessary forms of non whole food fats. Palm oil is not toxic and it not necessarily bad for you to eat, it s just not the best. We’re much better off relying on raw nuts and seeds for fats instead of buying nut and seed butters that have refined sources of added oils!
Hydrogenated or Partially Hydrogenated Oil : These two types of oil refer to any kind of oil that has been chemically altered for the processing purpose of the oil. This is typically what makes nut butters like Jif and Peter Pan so thick, creamy, and able to sit on a shelf for months and even a year before it goes bad. These oils are heated and whether fully hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, they contain excessive amounts of saturated fats with no health benefits which can lead to weight gain and heart problems. Partially hydrogenated oil also contains trans fats, even if the label says it’s trans-fat free since the FDA allows up to 0.5 grams of trans fats in trans-fat free products. Imagine that! You should also avoid soybean oils, which are almost always hydrogenated, and avoid refined vegetable oils. Even if these aren’t hydrogenated, they’re highly heated and can pose similar health problems for your weight in condensed amounts. Remember, no matter how healthy the product may look, if you see these two types of oils (in any form), put it back and try to find something else!
Added sugars : Added sugars found in nut butters include: sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, coconut sugar, coconut syrup, evaporated cane juice, evaporated cane syrup, cane juice, cane syrup, dextrose, maple syrup, agave, brown rice syrup, and tapioca syrup. Even though some of these may pose less damage than others, keep in mind that they are all added calories that provide little nutrition. It’s also important to remember that when you eat sugary and fatty foods at the same time, it can alter your body’s ability to use insulin efficiently. This can lead to blood sugar problems and possible weight gain - something I have to be extra careful with since I have PCOS. Though a little added sugar once in awhile is likely to do little harm, using it regularly from a food that you probably eat pretty normally on a day to day basis, such as nut butter, is not a great idea. It also trains your taste buds to crave sugar from non-whole food sources instead of from fruit. Plus, when you actually try plain raw almond butter or any other plain raw nut and seed butter, you actually get to taste the true flavor of the nut and seed instead of it being masked by sugar!
No-stir is no good : Companies put “no stir” on the front of the label like it’s a benefit, but all that means is that some sort of palm oil or hydrogenated oil has been added to the nut butter to make it shelf-stable. Nuts are primarily fat. When you grind them up and store them, the fat should separate from the ground up nuts. Stirring is a good thing. So is refrigeration - we keep all our nut butters in our refrigerator.
Reduced-fat is BAD : Reduced fat peanut or almond butters basically have the exact same calories as full-fat nut butter, but instead, to lower the fat content, a ton of sugar and other processed ingredients (corn syrup solids anyone?) are added to give the nut butter the “feel” of a full-fat version. Nuts have healthy fats that are good for you! Reduced-fat is bad. Full fat is good.
On a better note, here is what to look for :
- Sprouted almonds are GREAT. This increases the bio-availability of your almond's nutrients and really does make it naturally sweeter!
- Whether you choose raw or roasted nut butters, try to go for those that contain organic nuts and seeds. This will ensure your products are free of pesticides, chemicals, and fertilizers many nuts are exposed to. If you grind your own or buy raw nut butters, do keep them in the fridge and away from heat and light to prevent mold development, rancidity, and to preserve their fresh flavor.
- Organic is great, but the ingredients matter more. If your nut butter has the USDA organic seal on it, great! But if that same nut butter has “sugar, palm oil, etc.” on the ingredients list, you’re better off getting a non-organic nut butter that just has “almonds, salt” on the ingredients list.
There are so many companies that value the health of their consumers and have kept their ingredients low and clean!
The best part about raw nut and seed butters is they actually really do taste better than those with added ingredients; they’re much lighter, easier to digest, and contain more natural enzymes that benefit your health. Since they’re not highly heated, their vitamins and minerals are also better retained.
- Nutista Nut Job Nut Butter (Will's Favorite is the Monkey Business)
- Georgia Grinder's Almond Butter
- Artisana Raw Almond and Cashew Butter
- Wild Friends Classic Almond Butter - Will LOVES their peanut butter varieties!
- Whole Foods 365 Organic Unsweetened Almond Butter (make sure it only has two ingredients: peanuts, salt)
- Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter and Smucker’s Organic Natural Peanut Butter - Will loves these as well!
- NutZo Seven Nut and Seed Butter
- Skippy (Includes all of their varieties including Skippy Natural Peanut Butter)
- Jif (Includes all of their varieties including Jif Natural Peanut Butter and Simply Jif Peanut Butter)
- Peter Pan (Includes all of their varieties including their Whipped Peanut Butter)
- Justin’s (Includes all of their varieties)
- Any “no-stir” or flavored peanut butter varieties (Note: some of the brands above have no-stir versions of their peanut butters and honey roasted/etc. versions as well that should be avoided!)
Justin’s Classic is deceptive: the packaging looks like it should be healthy, but the ingredients list has Palm Oil. And their “Honey” version has these ingredients: Dry Roasted Peanuts, Organic Honey Powder (Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar, Organic Honey), Palm Oil, Sea Salt.
Skippy Natural/Jif Natural are also deceptive: the packaging looks like it should be healthy, but the ingredients list has Sugar, and Palm Oil in it. Definitely avoid. All of Skippy/Jif and Peter Pan’s regular varieties have Sugar, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (Cottonseed & Rapeseed), Honey, Molasses, and Partially Hydrogenated Oils between them.
Overview : Look for minimal ingredients - no added oils or sugar - you WANT your nut butter runny (just imagine everything it can be drizzled on) - store it in your refrigerator, ENJOY!!!