The Scoop on Nut and Seed Butters

I used to eat Peanut Butter at breakfast, lunch and for a snack because it was full of protein and therefore must be good for you, right? Not necessarily.

Peanuts which are legumes, are not actually in the nut family.  But here’s the kicker…Through my research, I’ve found that they are usually contaminated by a toxin, aflatoxin, which is produced by the mold (fungus) Aspergillus flavus and A. parasiticus.  Aspergillus flavus releases a mycotoxin (aflatoxin b1) which has been shown to cause cancer.  Aflatoxin grows on peanuts because they are stored in a great environment for mold to flourish–in warm, humid and inviting silos! (Peanuts are not the only target of this toxin–pistachios, corn and grains are also universally contaminated.)

My kids never really ate peanut butter because we discovered a nut allergy in our family before they fell in love with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  So we were forced to find safe alternatives, which included soy nut butter and sunflower seed butter.

I’ll admit it…Soy Nut Butter is not my favorite. I tried several brands and none of them were a great peanut butter alternative in my opinion. But maybe I just haven’t found THE ONE.  Or maybe I’m just not destined to like it because it isn’t on the Phase 1 diet.  Or maybe I’ve read too many articles about how detrimental to our health soy can be…

Sunflower Seed Butter, however, is AWESOME. My kids eat a sunbutter spoon at breakfast and often have a sunbutter and jelly sandwich at lunch. Another favorite is “Ants on a Log” (celery with sunbutter and a few raisins on top).   I also substitute it in any recipe that calls for peanut butter (especially muffins for after school snacks!), but make sure you reduce the baking powder or baking soda (by 1/3 to 1/2), otherwise the sunflower seed butter will turn your recipe green! I buy the 5lb containers of Sunbutter from Peanut Free Planet and we go through one a month. The containers of most nut/seed butters that normal people buy in the store are 1lb…so these are HUGE! (My husband wrote the date that we opened the mammoth tub on the lid, chuckling that it would last a year, and when only a month went by, we were both shocked!)

Sunflower seed butter is:

  • high in Vitamin E, magnesium, B1, and manganese
  • high in protein (although not as much as other nut butters)
  • low in saturated fat
  • high in unsaturated fat
  • cholesterol-free
  • free of trans fatty acids
  • rich in phytosterols (compound in the bloodstream that can lower cholesterol, improve immune function and decrease risk of some types of cancers)
  • great when you need to be careful about what you bring into a nut-free classroom

The other common seed butter is Pumpkin Seed Butter. I haven’t actually tried pumpkin seed butter (we have way too many containers of other nut/seed butters at the moment), but I REALLY like to scoop the seeds out of a pumpkin at Halloween and roast them with a little olive oil and salt! Pumpkin seeds:

  • have been shown to help prevent and even treat prostate issues
  • are high in zinc
  • seem to help rid the body of intestinal worms
  • are high in unsaturated fat
  • are high in iron, calcium, phosphorus and B vitamins

And what about the nut butters that are actually made with NUTS?

My favorite is Almond Butter.  I recently wrote a post about almonds, so I won’t repeat myself other than saying I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t want to eat this on a regular basis….unless, of course you are allergic to it!

The next one I quite like is Cashew Butter.  I don’t have cashew butter in my frig but I do eat cashews over the sink after my son goes to bed and then do my best to power wash the evidence 🙂  Cashews are so yummy. Here are some of the benefits that I’ve found about them. They are:

  • lower in fat content than many other nuts
  • high in monounsaturated fat (heart healthy)
  • high in antioxidants
  • high in copper (optimizes iron utilization, eliminates free radicals, plays a role in the production of melanin)
  • have been shown to reduce the risk of gallstones
  • can assist in weight loss
  • can help lower blood pressure

Then there’s Macadamia Nut Butter. It has a sweet, smooth, almost buttery taste. Macadamia nuts are:

  • full of protein and fiber, low in carbohydrates
  • high in fat (more of a treat than one you would use regularly on a sandwich)
  • helpful in reducing blood pressure
  • helpful in the regulation of blood sugar
  • able to improve bowel regularity

Something to keep in mind is that all nuts (except macadamia nuts) are high in omega 6 fatty acids. It is recommended to have a healthy balance between omega 3 and omega 6, so eating a lot of nuts regularly can upset the balance.  When the ratio between omega 3 and omega 6 is out of balance, you are at risk for inflammation. Hopefully you are eating other foods that are high in omega 3 fatty acids if you are a big nut eater! (Some foods high in omega 3 are cold water fish, olive oil, flax seeds, walnuts, beans…)

Natural nut butters usually have a layer of oil on top that needs to be stirred quite vigorously.  Many are made in a no salt or low sodium variety. They can be smooth or crunchy.  Most don’t have added sugar and none have high fructose corn syrup.

How to eat nut and seed butters? Dip slices of apple in a nut butter. Bake with one. Make “Ants on a Log”. Use one in a smoothie recipe for added protein. Make a sauce for stir fry. Oh go ahead, eat it right off the spoon 🙂

I’m sure I’ve missed other “butters”…do you have any favorites that aren’t on this list?

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4 responses to “The Scoop on Nut and Seed Butters

  1. Seeing as my love for peanut butter will likely never disappear, I actually did some research on this, too. Turns out that PB made with Valencia peanuts is actually better for you because the peanuts are grown in very arid conditions and aren’t as susceptible to creating mycotoxins. They sell that kind at Trader Joe’s, of course. 🙂

    • Yes, peanuts that are grown in an environment with less moisture are going to be less susceptible to aflatoxins, but the research I’ve done shows that, even when grown in an arid climate, there is always some growing on the peanut. (You may also check to see if the research you read was funded by the peanut industry…)

      For those die hards (like you :)), I’m thinking this information may not sway your decision to change to a nut butter, but you may be more inclined to try the other ones. In my mind, whether it’s a big risk or a small one, the risk of ingesting something that can cause cancer, is 20 times more potent than DDT and can contribute to mental retardation is enough for me to steer clear. I know, it does taste good though 🙂

  2. I love sunflower seed butter–but I also see that sugar is one of the ingredients. On mine in my frig and also in the Sunbutter. So does it count as phase I? BTW I’ve been on this diet for almost 6 weeks and I don’t have any cravings for sweets or annoying spikes in my blood sugar any more!

    • Hi Melanie! So glad the diet it working for you 🙂

      In store bought containers, there is usually sugar added (I haven’t found one that has no added sugar). But ours is low in sugar and I feed it to my boys because of the nut allergy. But for those following the Phase 1 diet, it’s easy to make your own. Just put some seeds into a food processor and let it run 45 seconds to a minute (you also have the option of making it crunchy or creamy, just add a little oil).

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