It doesn’t have to be PB with that J

The Buffalo News - - NFL - WASH­ING­TON POST

A s chil­dren, my brother and I would heav­ily de­bate the mer­its of creamy vs. crunchy peanut but­ter; I was par­tial to ex­tra crunchy, while he pre­ferred his smooth as Skippy. Chil­dren th­ese days have much more to de­bate than just the crunch. Many other nut and seed but­ters have en­tered the mar­ket, made from nuts such as wal­nuts and cashews and seeds such as sun­flower, pump­kin or even wa­ter­melon. Some va­ri­eties are fla­vored with honey, vanilla or sea salt; oth­ers in­clude choco­late, mak­ing them rem­i­nis­cent of a pop­u­lar peanut but­ter cup or hazel­nut spread.

How do th­ese new prod­ucts, which are of­ten more costly, stack up against tra­di­tional peanut but­ter?

In a nut­shell, all nut and seed but­ters, in­clud­ing those made from peanuts, can be good sources of healthy fats, pro­tein and fiber, along with vi­ta­mins A and E for skin, zinc for im­mu­nity, mag­ne­sium for stress man­age­ment, iron for en­ergy, and potas­sium for mus­cles. A large study done by Har­vard Med­i­cal School, among other re­searchers, showed that peo­ple who eat a daily serv­ing of nuts were 20 per­cent less likely to die of any health cause, 29 per­cent less likely to die of heart dis­ease and 11 per­cent less likely to die from cancer over a 30-year fol­low-up pe­riod.

Al­though all nut and seed but­ters have most of the nu­tri­ents and health ben­e­fits men­tioned above, each va­ri­ety has its own dis­tinct nu­tri­tion pro­file.

How to buy

When shop­ping, avoid any prod­uct with par­tially hy­dro­genated oils (also known as trans fats), added sugar (who needs that?) or too much added salt. Small amounts of hy­dro­genated oils are added to some prod­ucts to en­sure the oil from the nuts doesn’t sep­a­rate and rise to the top of the jar. You can stir a sep­a­rated nut but­ter, so skip th­ese un­healthy oils. Nut but­ters made with raw nuts are the health­i­est, be­cause th­ese nuts have gone through the least amount of pro­cess­ing. An or­ganic la­bel en­sures no chem­i­cal pes­ti­cides were sprayed on the nuts. Check nu­tri­tion fact pan­els for prod­ucts with choco­late so you know ex­actly what you are eat­ing: a health­ful snack or deca­dent dessert.

Com­par­ing va­ri­eties

Peanut but­ter: High­est in pro­tein and gen­er­ally high in all of the nu­tri­ents. It tends to be less ex­pen­sive and more widely avail­able than many of the al­ter­na­tive prod­ucts. Peanuts, which are tech­ni­cally a legume, not a nut, are a known and com­mon al­ler­gen. This could be called peanut but­ter on steroids be­cause it has all of the same nu­tri­ents, most in higher quan­ti­ties. Its pro­tein count is close to that of peanut but­ter, and it is higher in heart-healthy fats, cal­cium (seven times as much), fiber, vi­ta­min E (three times as much), iron (two times as much) and mag­ne­sium, and it is also the low­est in nat­u­ral sug­ars. It is more ex­pen­sive. Sun­flower seed but­ter: A safe choice for those al­ler­gic to peanuts and tree nuts (in­clud­ing al­monds, cashews, wal­nuts, pecans, macadamias and hazel­nuts). It has the most mag­ne­sium, mak­ing it ben­e­fi­cial for stress man­age­ment, flex­i­bil­ity, mus­cle strength and the heart. Sun­flower but­ter usu­ally has a few more calo­ries per serv­ing than other va­ri­eties, a slightly lower amount of pro­tein and no cal­cium. Many brands add sugar.

Cashew but­ter: The sweet­est of the bunch, even with­out any added sugar, so it is no sur­prise that it is the high­est in car­bo­hy­drates. It pro­vides less pro­tein and fiber per serv­ing than the ones above.

Wal­nut but­ter pro­vides the most omega-3 fatty acids, which are ben­e­fi­cial for brain health but does not pro­vide any vi­ta­min A; pump­kin seed but­ter pro­vides the most zinc; sesame seed but­ter/tahini de­liv­ers more cal­cium than al­mond but­ter, and also plenty of cop­per and se­le­nium to pre­vent cancer; macadamia nut but­ter is de­li­ciously creamy and the high­est in fat; hazel­nut but­ter has a rich, fairly dis­tinct fla­vor, is low in nat­u­ral sug­ars but is also low in cal­cium; and wa­ter­melon seed but­ter is harder to find but gain­ing a fol­low­ing. It is lower in fiber and vi­ta­mins but high in pro­tein and iron.

Al­mond but­ter.

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