Nut Butters: Safe or Scary?

Filed under: Nutrition: Health, Opinions

Some nut butters are better than others. Credit: noellium, Flickr

If your kid is like most, chances are she eats a lot of peanut butter. And that's generally a good thing: PB is rich in monounsaturated fats, which helps keep cholesterol down, and studies have shown that people who regularly eat peanut butter or nuts are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes or heart disease. And, while somewhat counterintuitive since they're pretty calorie-dense, eating nuts can help with weight control.

But are all peanut butters created equal? And what about almond butter, or those chocolate hazelnut spreads -- are they a good choice for your family?


Big-Brand Peanut Butter: The most familiar peanut butter brands, Skippy and Jif, both contain almost a teaspoon of sugar per serving. And Skippy uses partially hydrogenated oil (trans-fats) as well, an ingredient damaging to our heart health. These types of peanut butter are not the best choice.
Natural Peanut Butter: The various natural peanut butters on the market tend to contain either nothing but peanuts, or peanuts and salt. If you start your young kids on this type of peanut butter, they'll love it, and find the taste of Skippy odd if they eat it at a friend's house. If your kids are used to the sugary PB, gradually mix in the natural stuff, and explain to them how much better it is for their bodies.

Almond Butter: One study has shown that a diet rich in almonds helps lower cholesterol just as effectively as statin drugs. Another indicated that almonds can help keep blood sugar under control. With benefits like these, what's not to like? If anyone in your family is allergic to peanuts, or if you just want to mix things up a bit, almond butter is a great alternative.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread: Some brands of chocolate hazelnut spread, including Nutella, contain five teaspoons of sugar per two-tablespoon serving. And while most brands no longer contain trans-fats, they now tend to use either palm oil (better than trans fat, but full of saturated fat) or "modified" palm oil, the safety of which is still unclear. It's best to enjoy these spreads as an occasional treat only.

Jennifer Schonborn is a certified holistic nutrition counselor. Sign up for her newsletter and free consultation at

Related: The Benefits of a Handful of Nuts


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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.