Once upon a time, the biggest debate in the nut butter section at the grocery store was if you should go for a jar of Skippy or the “healthier” looking one that comes in a glass jar and requires tons of stirring. Now, it’s a lot more complicated. Besides peanut butter, you’ll see almond, cashew, even seed butters like sunflower seed and pumpkin are becoming more common. A healthy eater could spend a heck of a lot of time comparing nutritional labels and trying to decide between all the options.
Fortunately, you don’t have to. Registered dietitian Sameera Khan, RD, did the investigating and comparing for you, and is revealing all her expert intel here. Curious as to how the most popular peanut butter alternatives compare nutritionally? Keep reading for a full run-down.
Best overall: Almond butter
The TL;DR nutrition breakdown: 7 grams protein, 6 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 18 grams fat, 1 gram sugar per two-tablespoon serving
What the expert says: Almond butter is the gateway to peanut butter alternatives due to its mild flavor profile and growing accessibility. And nutritionally, it’s worth the slightly higher cost than peanut butter—per Khan, it’s one of the most nutrient-dense nut butters out there. “Almond butter is higher in fiber [two tablespoons of almond butter has double the fiber of peanut butter], but lower in saturated fats,” Khan says. She adds that almond butter is a great source of potassium, iron, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium—all nutrients peanut butter has too, but in lesser amounts. “Almond butter has three times more vitamin E, two times more iron, and seven times more calcium than peanut butter,” she says. Seems pretty convincing to me.
Try it: RX Vanilla Almond Nut Butter ($15 for 10 squeeze packs)
Despite all the alternatives, here’s why one RD says peanut butter is the best nut butter:
Best low-sugar option: Cashew butter
The TL;DR nutrition breakdown: 6 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 0.6 grams fiber, 16 grams fat, 0 grams sugar per two-tablespoon serving
What the RD says: Cashew butter is growing in popularity, and Khan says it has its own benefits to brag about. “Cashew butter provide more vitamin K and zinc than peanut butter,” she says. It also tends to have less added sugar. “It’s sweeter than other nut butters without added sugar since it is a sweet tasting nut,” Khan explains.
But cashew butter doesn’t come out ahead on every front. “It has less protein and is also higher in carbs,” Khan points out. So, depending on your health goals, peanut butter might be a bigger nutritional win. It can also be a bit more expensive than almond or peanut butter, so think of this guy as more of a luxury option than an everyday staple.
Try it: Justin’s Classic Cashew Butter ($12)
Best for nut allergies: Sunflower seed butter
The TL;DR nutrition breakdown: 6 grams protein, 7 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 18 grams fat, 3 grams sugar per two-tablespoon serving
What the expert says: For people sensitive to nuts—and parents who want to bring an allergy-friendly snack into their child’s school—sunflower seed butter presents a major pro off the bat: it doesn’t contain nuts. Just a tablespoon of sunflower seed butter has 40 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin E, Khan says, as well as double the fiber of peanut butter. Protein counts are pretty comparable.
Try it: Sunbutter Organic Sunflower Seed Butter ($12)
Best high-fiber option: Pumpkin seed butter
The TL;DR nutrition breakdown: 5 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 8 grams fat, 6 grams sugar per two-tablespoon serving
What the expert says: Pumpkin seed butter isn’t all that common yet, but it’s definitely an up-and-comer—and it’s one Khan is into. “It’s a great source of magnesium, selenium, manganese, copper, and zinc,” she says. When it comes to protein, PB has a bit more, though pumpkin seed butter has more than three times the amount of fiber as peanut butter. This is one comparison that it truly comes down to your health goals (and taste preferences!) to figure out which one is the best bet for you.
Try it: 88 Acres Organic Pumpkin Seed Butter ($27 for two-pack)
Whether you stick with peanut butter or go for one of the alternative nut butters, you’re going to end up with spread full of beneficial protein and healthy fats. Keep an eye out for added sugar and other preservatives, and you’ll end up with a win all around.
Speaking of yummy nut butters, you’ve heard about this healthier version of Nutella, right? Plus, expert tips on how to get enough protein if you don’t eat meat. (Alas, woman can’t live on nut butter alone.)
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