Peanut Butter Alternatives: Tree Nut and Nut-Free Options to Consider
| 3 min read
It’s a bit tricky to pin down the nutritional value of peanut butter, a protein-packed paste that many of us have savored since grade school.
Despite its high fat and caloric content, many dietitians deem peanut butter OK to consume in moderation because of the nutrients and “good fats” it contains. Its polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids can help reduce a person’s low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.
But all those potential health benefits are moot if you are allergic to peanuts.
Peanut allergies are considered one of the most common food allergens in both adults and children in the United States. They are also the most common cause of food-induced anaphylaxis, a medical emergency that requires treatment with an epinephrine (adrenaline) autoinjector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others). Food-induced anaphylaxis usually requires a trip to the emergency room, as well.
If you or a member of your family is severely or moderately allergic to peanuts – but still craves the texture and taste of peanut butter – it’s time to start thinking of alternatives.
Tree nut butter substitutes
Peanuts are technically legumes, not nuts. Still, it is a general rule of thumb for people with peanut allergies to avoid tree nuts because of the cross-contamination and cross-contact risk between peanuts and tree nuts inside food processing facilities.
If allergies are not an issue, and you’re looking to try something new or cut a certain ingredient out, consider the following options, each comparing favorably to peanut butter’s texture.
Possibly the most accessible option on the list, almond butter’s nutritional value mostly mirrors peanut butter in the calorie, total fat, carbohydrate, and sugar departments, albeit with less protein per serving.
However, almond butter is generally considered slightly healthier because of its considerable advantage in vitamin E, iron and dietary fiber.
Cashew butter boasts even more monounsaturated fatty acids than its pea-nutty counterpart and is an excellent source of magnesium and amino acids.
Some of these nutrients are negated in cashew butter containing roasted or baked cashews, so you may want to opt for cashew butter made with raw cashews.
You won’t find a nut butter higher in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid content than walnut butter. Just know that it contains less protein than most other nut butters and is generally higher in total fat content than even peanut butter.
Healthy nut-free substitutes
Pumpkin seed butter
Made from either raw or roasted pumpkin seeds, most brands of pumpkin seed butter have a rich, earthy flavor. It provides 30% of a person’s recommended daily intake of magnesium, and offers a significant amount of iron and zinc, too.
Sunflower seed butter
Generally considered to have a toasty, slightly sweet taste, sunflower seed butter has more unsaturated fat, vitamin E and magnesium than peanut butter.
Sunflower seed butter is also a little easier to find than pumpkin seed butter.
Tahini is made from toasted and ground sesame seeds, and though it may be the most unconventional of the nut-free options.
Rich in healthy fats, vitamins, and antioxidants, tahini is also chockful of manganese and phosphorus, both of which contribute to good bone health. Tahini is known for its relatively bitter taste.
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