Spreading the news about nut butters
Your choices in nut butters are a lot more interesting these days; no longer are “creamy” and “crunchy” peanut butter your only options. In the past six months, 28 percent of consumers said they had purchased spreads made from almonds, cashews or other nuts or seeds, according to Mintel, a market research firm.
One reason for the interest is that people tend to assume that the other butters are a better source of filling protein than pedestrian peanut varieties, according to Consumer Reports. But they’re not. Two tablespoons of peanut butter have 7 grams of protein; the same size serving of cashew or almond butter is 4 grams and 7 grams, respectively.
Are there other nutritional reasons to step out of your culinary comfort zone when it comes to nut butters? Absolutely. All nuts (and peanuts, which are legumes) have similar amounts of calories and fat, but each one has a different health benefit. Cashews, for instance, have more copper -- which supports the immune system -- than other nuts. One-fourth cup of whole cashews provides about 38 percent of the mineral you should get per day.
Almonds are rich in vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that helps protect the body from the type of cell damage that may lead to cancer and heart disease. They’re also a decent source of bonestrengthening calcium. Just 2 tablespoons of almond butter provide 8 percent of your daily need.
A high calorie count – about 160 to 200 calories per ounce – is the one drawback of nuts. And in butter form, it’s all too easy to spread or spoon on more than you should. But nuts help you feel full, and if you stick with the recommended 1 ½ ounces of nuts or 2 to 3 tablespoons of nut butter per day, you’ll get the benefits without going overboard on calories.
There’s a simple, sublime pleasure in spreading nut butter on a piece of bread -try fig jam on toasted sevengrain -- but Consumer Reports suggests these other culinary uses:
• Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons into a smoothie to add protein and help thicken it.
• Whisk almond butter with warm water and fiery Sriracha sauce for a zesty dip for veggies.
• Blend unsalted, unroasted cashew butter with lemon juice, fresh garlic, water, salt and pepper to make a rich and completely plantbased Alfredo sauce.
• Whisk it into soups and stews as a thickener. Consumer Reports suggests trying traditional African peanut stew recipes or adding almond butter to your favorite chicken or pumpkin soup.
• Swirl it into cooked oatmeal to add creaminess and make your cereal an even more stick-to-your-ribs, protein-powered breakfast.
• Make a Chinese takeout favorite, sesame noodles, at home using peanut butter. Combine it with soy sauce, sesame oil, a sprinkle of sugar, a little hot water and a pinch of red-pepper flakes. Toss with whole-grain spaghetti, chopped vegetables, and chopped chicken or tofu, and then garnish with sesame seeds and chopped scallion.