Nut butters have exploded in popularity in recent years. Take a peak down the condiment aisle at most grocery stores and you're bound to find a wide assortment of spreads, from classic peanut butter to newbies like cashew, hazelnut, and pistachio butters. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, nut butters deserve a place in a well-rounded diet because they contain several essential nutrients such as healthy fats, protein, fiber, B vitamins, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamin E.
While nut butters can be a healthy and delicious addition to a sandwich or your morning oatmeal, the type of nut butter you choose matters. Look beyond marketing tactics and buy a product that's actually good for you. That means being a conscious consumer and reading the ingredient list to check that the one you select is low in added sugar, sodium, saturated fat, carbs, and harmful additives. Opt for nut butters that contain natural ingredients and are minimally processed.
While there are many good options out there, these four nut butters should stay out of your shopping cart, as recommended by registered dietitians.
Great Value Creamy Peanut Butter
PER 2 TBSP: 210 calories, 17 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 125 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (2 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 7 g protein
Walmart's store-label peanut butter may provide "great value" for your bank account, but not so much for your nutrition. A single serving provides 210 calories, 17 grams of fat, and 3 grams of added sugars—which wreaks havoc on your health. Added sugars are associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cognitive decline, and even some cancers, according to a 2016 study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients.
"This peanut butter is a calorie-dense nut butter. The combination of fats and added sugars will lead to weight gain if consumed regularly," says Trista Best, a registered dietitian with Balance One Supplements.
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Jif Creamy Almond Butter
PER 2 TBSP: 190 calories, 16 g fat (2 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 110 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (3 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 7 g protein
Almond butter is often touted as a healthier nut butter because of its higher vitamin, mineral, and fiber content. However, this almond butter from Jif sacrifices healthy ingredients for flavor and texture by adding extra fats and sugars that provide nothing but empty calories, leading to weight gain and undesirable health outcomes if consumed regularly. Two tablespoons of Jif Creamy Almond Butter contain 190 calories, 16 grams of fat, and 3 grams of added sugars.
"Although this ingredient list is pretty simple, this brand may not be the best option for those with food sensitivities or allergies," explains Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of 2-Day Diabetes Diet. "With a blend of hydrogenated vegetable oils added that includes a mix of soybean, cottonseed, rapeseed, and sunflower oil, anyone with a soy or sunflower oil allergy would need to avoid this brand."
Wild Friends Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter
PER 2 TBSP: 190 calories, 16 g fat (6 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 45 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (2 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 6 g protein
This peanut butter may be undeniably delicious and free from added oils, but it contains 4 grams of added sugars and 5 grams of saturated fat per serving, which can harm your health when consumed in excess and deliver an excess of empty calories.
"While this peanut butter is free of dairy and contains no palm oil or preservatives, this is the extent of the health qualities. This brand also contains other potential allergens not common to peanut butters including wheat, soy, and sesame," states Best.
PER 2 TBSP: 220 calories, 19 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 45 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 8 g protein
Tahini may not immediately come to mind when thinking of nut butters. However, this nutty, savory condiment made from sesame seeds has a consistency similar to peanut butter and is a staple in many recipes for salad dressings, hummus, and baba ghanoush. Tahini's ingredients should be pretty simple—roasted sesame seeds, olive oil, and a bit of salt—but if you opt for Prince Tahini you may be getting more saturated fats and calories than expected. Each serving of this tahini contains 220 calories and 19 grams of fat with 4 grams of saturated fat.
"Keep in mind that any nut or seed in excessive amounts can increase your overall daily calorie intake, so use balance when it comes to portion size," advises Palinski-Wade.