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Which nut butter is better?

By Phylis Canion
Jan. 10, 2017 at midnight
Updated Jan. 11, 2017 at 6 a.m.

Phylis Canion

Phylis Canion

How healthy are nut butters and which ones are considered the healthiest? 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? What if you have peanut allergies? Any substitute recommendations?

Nut butters are nuts that have been ground into a thick paste and can be spread like real butter, hence the "butter" name.

The most common nut butter, at least in North America, is peanut butter, according to Healthy Eating. Other popular nut butters include pecan butter, cashew butter, walnut butter, almond butter and sunflower butter, although any nut or seed can be made into butter.

Sunflower butter has surged in popularity because approximately three million children and adults have developed a peanut allergy, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

In addition, sunflower seeds provide more fiber, magnesium and vitamin E than traditional nut butters, according to Stephanie Middleberg of Middleberg Nutrition.

Peanut butters are most often processed and healthier choices are harder to find, according to Eat This, Not That, because of the hydrogenated oils and sugar added to the product. In addition, over processed peanut butter will contain salt and stabilizers, such as mono and diglycerides, which are added to prevent the oil from separating.

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. 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 a nut butter that requires a quick, simple stir to put blend the oil into the butter and contains no hydrogenated oils or trans fats.

The healthier choices, based on fat content per serving, are sunflower, almond and cashew butter.

I am always a bit leery of any soy product, including soy nut butter, due to the GMO factor. According to the USDA, 94 percent of the soybean acreage in the United States is GMO.

As I always suggest, read the product label. Organic and Non-GMO Project certified listed on the label are always better choices.

Thought for the week: You cannot reach for anything new if your hands are still full of yesterday's junk.

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


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