It’s January, which means you may be trying to switch your body from a mode of sleeping in and holiday parties to a mode of healthy habits. While this might mean urgently reactivating your gym membership, don’t forget that a healthy diet is key to whole body wellness. When looking for a snack that satisfies your hunger and nourishes your body, nut butters are wholesome choices to add to your go-to healthy snacks. Whether on a slice of bread, atop an apple or blended into a post-workout protein shake, they are a convenient way to add the benefits of nuts to your diet. Although we are all familiar with peanut butter and its ability to fuel us through a busy day, it may be time to step out of your nut comfort zone and try a few of the other options on the nut butter spectrum. Since you likely don’t have the time or taste buds to try out every kind on the shelf, look to this guide to find a one that meets your needs in nutrition and taste.
Shopping Tip: When reading the jars, look for a butter made only from nuts (a touch of added salt for sweeter nut butters is okay) and one that is not reduced in fat, which means it has been unnecessarily processed.
Soy Nut Butter
Best source of: Protein, Vitamin K and Phosphorus
Soy nut butter has 10 grams of protein, beating out the other nut butters, which contain between 5 and 8 grams. Soy nut butter is also a complete protein, meaning it contains every amino acid your body needs to create protein, unlike other nut butters that need to be paired with something else to meet these requirements. Vitamin K boosts proper transport of calcium in the body and bone formation, and phosphorus interacts with calcium to promote healthy bone function. Coming from dried soy nuts, the taste and texture is pretty similar to peanut butter, but with less total fat. This butter is also a good source of fiber, calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Brand to try: Wowbutter
Snack: Spread soy nut butter on a slice of toast and top with bananas, a drizzle of honey and some sliced apple for a great post-workout bite. The protein helps repair and build muscle after strenuous exercise. Pair with a glass of milk to take advantage of the butter’s calcium-friendly nutrients.
Best source of: Fiber, Calcium and Manganese
Almond butter contains 4 grams of fiber, making it the best source of this heart and digestive health-friendly nutrient. It also has the highest daily value of manganese (about 35%) and the most calcium of other nut butters. Almond butter has a more subtle, nuttier and less salty flavor than peanut butter, but is equally delicious. Look for an almond butter with a smooth consistency and in raw form, since roasting almonds can decrease the amount of some nutrients (though the roasting does create a more robust flavor). Almond butter also has the least amount of saturated fat, with only 1.5 grams per serving. Like soy nut butter, it is a good source of potassium and magnesium.
Brand to try: Maisie Jane’s Smooth Almond Butter or MaraNatha Roasted Almond Butter
Snack: Make a creamy breakfast smoothie by blending together a spoonful of almond butter, unsweetened almond milk, berries, Greek yogurt and flax seeds. This healthy smoothie will load you up on fiber early in the morning to power start your day and keep you full.
Best source of: Niacin (vitamin B3) and Potassium
Peanut butter is loaded with about 235 milligrams of potassium, a nutrient that keeps the cardiovascular system pumping and wards off muscle cramps and hypertension. It also contains almost a quarter of the daily required amount of niacin, or vitamin B3, which helps monitor cholesterol levels, circulation and regulation of various hormones in the body.
Brand to try: Whole Foods 365 Everyday Creamy Peanut Butter
Snack: Add a serving of peanut butter to a bowl of oatmeal or granola, then mix and match some dried cranberries, coconut flakes, dark chocolate chips, bananas, nuts, flax seeds or any other healthy additions that you have on hand. Click here for 10 more creative ways to eat peanut butter.
Best source of: Copper and Iron
Though it doesn’t contain as much filling fiber and protein as other nut butters, cashew butter is abundant in iron and copper, two nutrients that work together to promote strong bones and cardiovascular health. A serving of cashew butter boasts 35% of your daily value of copper and 10% of your daily value of iron. Cashew butter is also high in potassium and magnesium. If you’re watching your sugar intake, cashew butter may not be the choice for you since it’s higher in natural sugars than other nut butters.
Brand to try: Artisana 100% Organic Raw Cashew Butter
Snack: For a fresh take on traditional stir-fry, mix cashew butter, water, tamari and spices like ginger, turmeric and garlic to create a nutty sauce that compliments marinated chicken or vegetables.
Sunflower Seed Butter
Best source of: Selenium and Folate
Sunflower seed butter is rich in vitamins B and E, fiber, protein, potassium and magnesium. Moreover, it’s a great source of selenium and folate, nutrients hard to find not only in nut butters but in many foods. Selenium shields against cell damage and supports the healthy function of the thyroid gland, whereas folate keeps the cardiovascular system functioning properly. Sunflower seed butter is not as sweet as peanut butter and has a relatively short shelf life, so storage in the refrigerator is best to keep it fresh.
Brand to try: Sunbutter Creamy Sunflower Seed Spread
Snack: Use sunflower seed butter as a dip for raw veggies like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and celery. The milder, less sugary taste of the nut butter pairs well with vegetables and other savory foods.
Best source of: Natural sugar for sweet recipes
Coconut butter is not packed with nutrients like the other nut butters. It has a high amount of saturated fat and sugar, so be wary of portions. However, coconut butter can still be a healthier alternative to butters and oils and is an ideal choice for vegan recipes.
Brand to try: Artisana 100% Organic Coconut Butter
Snack: Spread some coconut butter on a pretzel and dip in melted chocolate or top a spoonful of mint chocolate chip ice cream with a dollop for a perfectly-sized way to satisfy a coconut-chocolate craving.