Which is Healthier? Peanut Butter vs. Almond Butter
Open most pantries in the United States and you’ll likely find a jar of peanut butter. But in the last few years, the different types of nut butter available for consumers have grown exponentially.
Today, we aren’t limited to simple peanut butter. There are countless nut butters and blends — almond, pecan, walnut, cashew, roasted, raw, salted, unsalted, stir, no-stir... the list goes on. The type of nut used as the base of your nut butter can greatly impact the health benefits.
Here, we compare the two most commonly purchased types of nut butter — peanut butter vs. almond butter — and weigh in on which is healthier.
Comparing peanut butter and almond butter
It’s no surprise that peanut butter and almond butter are made primarily from peanuts and almonds. While both are considered nuts, peanuts are technically legumes and almonds are tree nuts. Outside of this key difference, there are many similarities between the two.
Both peanuts and almonds have been a part of the human diet for centuries. Both provide plant-based sources of protein. Both offer a good source of monounsaturated fats that are essential to cell development and maintenance and have been found to lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol and reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. And studies indicate that the consumption of nuts — including peanuts and almonds — reduces the risk of mortality.
Ingredients to avoid in peanut butter and almond butter
Another commonality between almond butter and peanut butter is that the way peanuts and almonds are processed into a nut butter can greatly impact their nutritional value. When purchasing any nut butter, it’s important to read the ingredient label and nutrition chart to look for two red flag ingredients: hydrogenated oils and added sugar.
In the simplest terms, hydrogenated oils are created when manufacturers take an oil that would usually be liquid and they add hydrogen to turn it into a solid. This is done to make foods more shelf-stable and to act as a binding agent.
Hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils may be included in nut butters to eliminate or reduce separation — think no-stir nut butter vs “natural” nut butter, where the oil separates from the nut base.
These types of oils are problematic, as they cause an increase in bad cholesterol (LDL) and a reduction in good cholesterol (HDL), and have been linked to an increased risk for heart disease.
Added sugar is a major health concern and has been linked to a number of negative health outcomes. The WHO, CDC, and American Heart Association all recommend cutting added sugar intake to less than 10% of our total calories each day.
This means that in a 2,000 calorie diet, you need to consume less than 200 calories or 13 teaspoons of added sugar each day. Currently, the average American is consuming more than that, with adults consuming an average of 17 teaspoons or 270 calories of added sugar each day.
When it comes to nut butters, there simply is no need to include sugar. However manufacturers often include added sugar in their peanut butter and almond butter products.
Be a sugar sleuth and read the labels. Sugar can be called by many different names, so don’t be fooled. Thanks to changes in nutrition labeling, you can also look at the nutrition chart to clearly see if there are any grams of “added sugars” included in any product you purchase.
The health benefits of peanut butter
Peanut butter is a low cost, widely-available source of plant-based protein and healthy fats.
According to the USDA, two tablespoons of peanut butter contain 190 calories, 8 grams of protein, 16 grams of fat, and 3.1 grams of fiber. Peanut butter is also an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, including B vitamins, vitamin E, manganese, copper, magnesium, and folate.
While monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids found in peanut butter are healthy fats, they are omega-6 fatty acids. Typically, Americans get more omega-6 than they do omega-3, so it is important to consider the ratio and strive to get more omega-3 fatty acids into our daily diet.
The health benefits of almond butter
Almond butter is also a healthy source of plant-based protein and fats, and for those with peanut allergies, almond butter provides an excellent substitute.
According to the USDA, two tablespoons of almond butter contain 196 calories, 6 grams of protein, 17.7 grams of fat, and 3.3 grams of fiber. It is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, including potassium, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, folate, choline, and vitamin E.
Which is healthier? Peanut butter vs. almond butter
When making a choice between any two products, the best rule of thumb is to choose the one that provides the greatest overall health benefits. In this case, almond butter edges out peanut butter due to its superiority in omega-3 fatty acids and minerals.
The Bottom Line
While almond butter may be healthier than peanut butter, both can be included as part of a balanced diet. Pairing nut butters, like peanut butter or almond butter, with oatmeal, apples, celery, or carrots creates a power snack with the right combination of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber.
As with most things, too much of a good thing is too much. Portion control is important with peanut butter and almond butter due to their calorie-dense nature. And don’t forget to choose wisely when purchasing: look for unwanted ingredients like hydrogenated oils and added sugar.