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What is nut butter, and is it healthy?

Nut butter
(Photos: Shutterstock)
Large grocery stores offer a wide variety of nut butter, with specialty stores developing more options all the time. How do you choose? Is one healthier than the other? What is the most sustainable option? Navigating the nascent nut butter section of the grocery store can be tricky. We’re here to help with some info on these enigmatic emulsions.اضافة اعلان

What is nut butter?
The first peanut pastes originate from the ancient Aztec and Inca civilizations, while the first almond pastes were used in Iraq over 1,000 years ago. It wasn’t until the dawn of the 20th century that peanut butter became widely available. Early industrialization of nut butter was part of an effort to design softer food for the elderly. Peanut butter was the perfect combination of being easily chewable and an incredibly dense source of calories with high protein, fat, and fiber content. Since the commercial birth of peanut butter in the early 1900s not much changed until the last few decades. New nut butters were initially slow to reach the same level of commercialization. Several decades into the new wave of nut butters we find ourselves firmly entrenched in a nut butter renaissance.

The term nut butter is a bit of a misnomer as many of the base ingredients fall under the seeds or legume categories, including the most famous of all the nut butters: peanut butter. To create the spreadable texture, high fat “nuts” are blended until powdery, at which point they begin to release their oils. Further blending is what gives us a more familiar creamy paste-like consistency. Using any of the popular nut bases you can make your own nut butter at home. All you need is a food processor and 10 minutes time to convert a raw ingredient into a tasty spread. Doing the processing at home will save you about 50 percent on price from what you would pay in the store.

Can a butter be healthy?

It can! Nut butters are high in healthy fats and fiber, and certain nuts also contain healthy micronutrients. Highlights include almond butter, which has a lot of vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, and iron; Brazil nut butter, which is rich in selenium and copper; cashew butter, which offers magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and copper; and peanut butter, rich in vitamin E and a range of B vitamins.



The more important concern for your health when buying nut butters from the store is the added ingredients. In the commercial production of nut butters hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated, and palm oils are often added to extend shelf life and provide an extra creamy texture. Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils have been linked with an increased risk of heart disease according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Conversely, the AHA also found that natural fats in nut butters lower cholesterol and other risk factors for heart disease. The primary concern with palm oil is that it is highly processed to have no taste or color. Other common additives include salt and different types of sweeteners. These ingredients are more about personal taste, but only detract from the healthy nature of the nut butter. The general rule for finding your healthiest nut butter is to avoid additives and look for the jar that only has the one base ingredient.

Sustainability concerns

Sustainability is the area where you will see the biggest distinction between different types of nut butter. There are both humanitarian and environmental concerns with nuts. Without going into too much detail, here are a few things to keep in mind when buying any nut butter.
The term nut butter is a bit of a misnomer as many of the base ingredients fall under the seeds or legume categories, including the most famous of all the nut butters: peanut butter.
Generally, buy local and avoid palm oil. The less distance any nut product has to travel, the less carbon is released in its shipping. Unfortunately, Jordan does not have a large nut farming sector, though there is robust nut production all around the Mediterranean (especially pistachio and hazelnut). The second general concern is the preservative and texture additive, palm oil. Palm oil has made headlines in recent years because of its relationship with the destruction of rainforests. The EU Palm Oil Alliance admits that palm oil production is responsible for the destruction of 5 percent of the world’s tropical forests. Current farming practices make it one of the most destructive crops in the world.

The greatest humanitarian concerns are found with cashew production. The skin of the cashew fruit contains a caustic anacardic acid that causes blisters and rashes when it comes into contact with the skin. Most of the world’s cashew production is done in India, Vietnam, and the Ivory Coast, and all have had documented issues with giving workers proper protective equipment. The consequences are debilitating. ImpACT International reports that “Workers’ skin turns black and burnt. Their eyesight also deteriorates, both as a result of the long hours and irritation from the burning.” The current supply chain is not sustainable, and ethical consumption is quite difficult. Look for a fair trade certification or reference to worker treatment on the label of any cashew product you purchase to avoid supporting the inhumane practices used in most cashew nut production.

Best nuts
The best nuts for you will be whichever ones you can regularly include in your diet and the ones that you know most about. It can be difficult to find a local nut butter brand without humanitarian or environmental concerns, but there are options scattered around Amman. WeFarm in Jabal Luweibdeh has natural healthy options as well as Seed in Abdoun, which sources their nuts locally from Shahin.

 Nutrition Facts For Nut Butters Per Tablespoon Serving
 Nut Butter Calories  Carbohydrate Fat  Protein 
 Almond butter 98 kcal 3.0g 8.9g 3.4g
 Brazil nut butter 95 kcal 2.0g 9.5g 2.0g
 Cashew butter  94 kcal  4.4g  7.9g  2.8g
 Coconut butter  110 kcal  4.0g  10.0g  1.0g
 Hazelnut butter  94 kcal  2.6g  9.1g  2.2g
 Macadamia nut butter  110 kcal  2.6g  11.0g  1.0g
 Peanut butter (smooth)  96 kcal  3.6g  8.2g  3.6g
 Peanut butter (crunchy)  95 kcal  3.5g  8.0g  4.0g
 Pecan butter  110 kcal  2.0g  11.5g  1.5g
 Pistachio butter  90 kcal  4.3g  6.5g  3.0g
 Pine nut butter  110 kcal  2.0g  11.0g  2.0g
 Walnut butter  105 kcal  2.2g  10.5g  2.5g


Heart-healthy nut butters offer more vitamins and fiber than chips or crackers. They are a more environmentally friendly source of protein than meats. When they omit oils and additives, they are a delicious superfood that can replace your most unhealthy dietary proclivities. Read the ingredients and look for your nut butters’ source and you will be able to feel confident in your next nut butter purchase.

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