Do You Know Nutrition: Which nut butter is the best?

By Phylis Canion
April 17, 2012 at midnight
Updated April 16, 2012 at 11:17 p.m.

Phylis Canion

Phylis Canion

Can you please explain why some nut butters have oil on the top and others do not? I have noticed it seems to be the cheaper product that the oil does not separate. Do you recommend one over the other?

Nut butters are nuts that have been ground into a thick paste. The most popular nut butter, at least in North America, is peanut butter.

Other popular nut butters include cashew butter, walnut butter, almond butter and sunflower butter, although any nut or seed can be made into butter.

The oil in all natural or organic nut butters tends to separate and float to the top. This is caused by gravity as oil is lighter than the solid, which tends to stay at the bottom.

However, if a nut butter has been over processed, it will contain sugar, salt, stabilizers, such as mono and diglycerides and hydrogenated (hardened) vegetable oil, which are added to prevent the oil from separating.

Hydrogenation is a process whereby hydrogen gas is added to liquid vegetable oil, which causes a change in its chemical structure. That is, it causes the unsaturated oil to harden and become a saturated fat. I always recommend the nut butter that requires a quick, simple stir, to put the oil back into the butter.

Is rapeseed oil the same as canola oil, and is it considered safe?

An increasingly popular vegetable oil in the United States made from the rape plant is rapeseed oil. And yes, rapeseed oil is now more commonly referred to as canola oil because of its successful production in Canada.

The drawback of rapeseed oil is the presence of two anti-nutritional factors. One is a fatty acid called erucic acid and the other is glucosinolate. Erucic acid oxidizes at a slower rate than other fatty acids, which can cause undesirable accumulations of triglycerides.

Glucosinolate has been known to suppress the function of the thyroid resulting in goiters. Another problem with rapeseed oil is that it has to be partially hydrogenated or refined before it can be used commercially and consequently is a source of trans fatty acids.

Rapeseed oil is used as a lubricant, fuel, soap, synthetic rubber base and as an illuminate for color pages in magazines. While most oils have been used at one time or another as industrial products (soap and cosmetics), one of the most edible oils is coconut oil.

Thought for the week: You can do anything you want, if you want it badly enough.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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