Nut butters make a tasty and decadent spread or dip, and can be healthy selections for your snack or meal. Choices include butters from tree nuts or from peanuts, which are legumes. The smooth and chunky varieties of nut butters have the same nutrition information and are equally healthy, so choose the kind that you like best.
Almond butter, cashew butter and peanut butter are examples of common nut butters. They are high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, which may reduce your risk for heart disease when you choose them over saturated fats. These nut butters provide vitamin E, fiber and protein, too, and are cholesterol-free. As healthy as nut butters may be in moderation, remember to limit your portion size so you do not gain weight.
Fats to Look For
The healthiest choice for nut butter may be one fortified with omega-3 fatty acids, such as peanut butter with alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. Omega-3 fatty acids may lower your risk for sudden cardiac death, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Walnuts are natural sources of ALA, so walnut butter is also a good choice. To avoid cholesterol-raising trans fats, choose an all-natural nut butter, free from partially hydrogenated oils. The oils in all-natural nut butters tend to separate and rise to the top of the jar, so stir the butter before using it.
Many nut butters have added sugars for flavoring, but the healthiest nut butter is low-sugar or free of added sugars, which provide no additional nutrients. Be careful about choosing reduced-fat nut butters, such as low-fat peanut butter. These typically provide nearly as many calories as regular nut butter, but are lower in heart-healthy monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats. To make up for their lower fat content, reduced-fat nut butters may have more added sugar.
Nuts and peanuts are naturally low in sodium, and the healthiest nut butter is also low in sodium. Most regular nut butters have salt added to them for flavoring. Look for a nut butter that has no added salt or is low-sodium. A high-sodium diet increases your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, and healthy adults should not have more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.