Peanut butter is not the only spread in town. In fact, people with serious sandwich game left peanut butter in the dust ages ago. The truth is, the other nut butters can be more nutritious.
"I usually suggest that they purchase a different nut butter each time they buy a jar, reason being that each nut and seed offers different nutrients. My favorites are almond and cashew butters," says Lauren Minchen, MPH, RDN, CDN.
What will you put on your sandwich next? Check out the various nut butters below and the nutritional qualities that come with each one.
Unlike other nut butters, cashew butter does not contain omega-3s. “Most of the fat in cashew butter comes from oleic acid – the same unsaturated fat found in olive oil. There is also slightly less protein (6 grams) in cashew butter than in peanut butter (8 grams),” nutritionist Despina Hyde says.
Sesame Seed Butter
Sesame seed butter is often confused with tahini. Sesame seed butter, however, is made by crushing sesame seeds that have first been slow roasted. Sesame seed butter contains around 200 calories and eight grams of protein for a two-tablespoon serving. Sesame seed butter is rich in calcium, copper, iron, and zinc. It also contains plant sterols which have been shown to help lower cholesterol.
Pumpkin Seed Butter
Pumpkin seed butter is similar to peanut butter in protein and calorie content, Hyde notes.
“A two tablespoon serving has around 160 calories and six grams of protein, compared to peanut butter’s 190 calories and eight grams of protein. Pumpkin seed butter is also rich in magnesium, copper, iron, vitamin E, vitamin K, and zinc. It is another good alternative for those who are allergic to nut butters.”
Walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. According to Hyde, walnut butter is slightly higher in fat than other nut butters, but the omega-3s make it a healthy choice. “Walnut butter is not as readily found in stores, but you can easily make a batch on your own by blending walnuts in the food processor. Add some cinnamon for a sweet twist,” she says.
Almond butter is having a moment. “Almond butter has more iron, magnesium, and vitamin E than peanut butter. Almond butter contains calcium and copper. It has about the same number of calories as peanut butter, but less saturated fat and more healthy unsaturated fats than peanut butter. Put it on sandwiches or mix it in smoothies,” Hyde says.
When choosing an almond butter, try to avoid additives and go for a natural product. Look for ”pure nuts with no added cane sugar, which most brands list as their second ingredient,” Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN, says. Justin’s, a repeated fave, contains pure nuts and palm oil — “just the way a nut butter is supposed to be.”
Sunflower Seed Butter
Sunflower seed butter is made by grinding sunflower seeds into a paste. One tablespoon has about 100 calories. Since it’s really a seed, it is a good alternative for anyone who is allergic to nuts. “Sunflower seed butter has more unsaturated fat (healthy fat!) than peanut butter. It is also rich in iron, Vitamin E (an important antioxidant), and magnesium,” Hyde says.
Tahini is another byproduct of sesame seeds: a paste made from ground sesame seeds, which can be hulled or unhulled. “Tahini made with unhulled seeds leaves more nutrients intact,” Hyde says. Tahini is a good source of Calcium and B vitamins. One tablespoon has about 90 calories and three grams of protein. It’s also a good source of zinc, copper, iron, and selenium, which may help our immune systems.
Ok, you absolutely have to have peanut butter? Nutritionist Dara Godfrey favors Whole Food’s Organic 365, which is unsweetened and contains no added salt. “Once spread thoroughly, it’s velvety and creamy,” she says. “It’s just perfect on apple slices or mixed into yogurt or oatmeal.”
Peanut butter is the most popular nut butter and it provides a good source of both protein and healthy fats. “A two tablespoon serving contains about eight grams of protein and a high percentage of unsaturated fat, making it heart healthy,” Hyde says. “It also contains fiber, potassium, and antioxidants like vitamin E. Look for a product that is natural and features peanuts as the main ingredient. Try to avoid peanut butters with added sugars or other artificial ingredients.”