nut butter health benefits

Your Nut Butter Habit May Not Be As Healthy As You Think

I’m a healthy eating nut with a low tolerance for BS, so it’s unsurprising that I regularly get on my high horse about health halos – foods marketed to appear more healthy than they really are.

My latest peeve? Nut butters.

And with every Fitstagrammer and clean eating advocate drizzling masses of the stuff on every #cleaneats meal captured on social media, there’s now some major confusion going now. Yes it seems a lot of folks think that nut butters are so healthy they can be eaten with a free pass because ‘they’re good fats’.

It’s true that peanut, cashew, almond butter etc are a good source of polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats – the good types of fat – as well as some minerals and protein, but their level of goodness has been blown waaaay out of proportion.

Turn around a jar of your favourite nut butter and you’ll find:

1. It’s 50% fat.

Good fats or not, too much fat of ANY kind leads to weight gain, which increases the risk of lots of conditions that are best avoided like heart disease, stroke and diabetes. And although there’s a lot of confusion over the impact of saturated fats (the ‘bad’ type) on heart health at the moment, it’s worth bearing in mind that 5% of every spoon of nut butter is pure saturated fat, which means your nut butter habit may well be raising your risk of heart disease… whether you realise it or not.

2. It’s not the amazing source of protein it’s often made out to be.

Around a quarter of peanut butter is protein, which sounds great. But if you consider that a serving size is 2 tablespoons (16g), that’s just 4g of protein. To put that into proportion, the same amount of cooked egg white (a legitimately good source of protein) contains 16g of protein – that’s 4 times as much protein as peanut butter!

However, I digress, because, believe it or not, this is not a nut butter bashing post.

What I’m shining a light on is the decision by certain brands to bring us the delicious combination of coconut and almond butter – yes please! – but then sneak sugar and sweeteners into what is assumed by most people to be a clean, sugar-free food.

When I reach for brands like Pip and Nut or Meridian, I naturally expect their products to be 100% nut because that’s what they’re known for – pure wholefoods. However, I’ve been checking out the new coconut, almond butter blends and guess what? All seem to have honey, agave and other natural sugars/sweeteners mixed in…  but their makers have strangely forgotten to make this clear on the main label. You have to read the ingredients list or product description above the ingredients to discover it’s not 100% nut.

But natural sugars and sweeteners are more wholesome than refined sugar, so who cares.. right?

True, but as it’s important to keep your overall sugar intake to less than 90g each day to prevent weight gain from excess sugar consumption, I for one want to know when I’m accidentally eating sugar. And sneaking the stuff into foods marketed as ‘clean and wholesome’ kind of undermines my own attempts to stay healthy. I’m not saying there are lots of added sugar in these butters (it’s often just 4% added sugar), but the fact that there are added sugars in something that doesn’t need it kind of goes against the whole clean eating movement… no?

Nut butter fans, hit me with your thoughts. Do you care if the ‘pure’ nut butter you’ve carefully selected is secretly laced with added sugar?

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