With the help of a registered dietitian, we take a hard nutritional look at these two popular nut butters.
It seems like peanut butter has been around forever. It’s one of our favorite midrun and postrun snacks thanks to its convenience, protein, and flavor. But over the years, peanut butter’s seemingly fancier cousin, almond butter, has started to encroach on its territory, making the tried-and-true favorite seem almost plebeian.
But is almond butter really the bougie snack we’ve been led to believe it is? New York City-based registered dietitian Kelly Hogan, M.S., R.D., helps us set the record straight.
Not only is almond butter more expensive than PB—around $10 per jar versus $4 for peanut butter—it’s also on the “eat-this” lists for many restrictive, trendy diets, including Paleo and Whole30, says Hogan. That’s due to the fact that almonds are nuts, and—despite the name—peanuts are actually legumes—a source of carbohydrates that’s been banished from many diets.
And for these reasons, says Hogan, almond butter is often touted as the “healthier” option.
But there’s no question that the calories in both butters come mostly from fat, which, because of our society’s general fear—and misunderstanding—of fat, makes people question if either almond or peanut butter are actually that healthy.
Before you relegate your trusty peanut butter to the dog’s treat toy, let’s take a look at the actual nutrition breakdown of each butter.
- Serving size: 2 tablespoons
- Calories: 196
- Fat: 18 grams
- Unsaturated fat: 14 grams
- Serving size: 2 tablespoons
- Calories: 188
- Fat: 16 grams
- Unsaturated fat: 12.5 grams
Pretty comparable, right? “People assume almond butter is way healthier than peanut butter,” says Hogan. “But it’s just as caloric.”
There are slight differences in the two butters: Almond butter is slightly higher in the antioxidant vitamin E, iron, and fiber. “But none of these reasons are enough to say almond butter is healthier,” she says.
And the two are also comparable in their protein content—about 7 or 8 grams. Typically, you want a postworkout snack to have about 15 grams of protein, so a sandwich with almond or peanut butter is a good component to your recovery fuel, says Hogan.
When it comes to the F word, almond butter and peanut butter are high in unsaturated fat (the good kind), and both have a little saturated fat. That unsaturated fat has plenty of health benefits, including improving heart and brain health, making you feel full, and even fighting muscle inflammation, says Hogan.
Plus, research has shown that despite nuts (and peanuts) being high in calories, consuming them regularly (in moderation) does not lead to weight gain. And a 2009 study of more than 6,000 women with type 2 diabetes found that having five or more servings of nuts or peanut butter per week significantly reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease. So when consumed in moderation and as part of a healthy diet, the fat in both almond butter and peanut butter is nothing to worry about. “We have to stop being afraid of fat,” Hogan says.
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4 Nut Butters We Love
Smucker’s Natural Creamy Peanut Butter, 26 oz. Smucker’samazon.com$12.45SHOP NOW
365 Everyday Value, Organic Creamy Peanut Butter, 16 oz.amazon.com$3.99SHOP NOW
Happy Belly Creamy Almond Butter, 27 oz.amazon.com$11.20SHOP NOW
365 Everyday Value, Organic Almond Butter Creamy, 16 oz.amazon.com$10.99SHOP NOW
Unless you’re allergic to peanuts, almond butter isn’t the better-for-you snack it’s been hyped up to be. Both options are a healthy accompaniment to a snack or meal designed to fuel your run or recovery, says Hogan.
That said, you have to be a little more cautious with the brand of peanut butter you buy. It’s more common to see peanut butter, which has been commercially available longer than almond butter, loaded with added sugar, oils, and emulsifiers, says Hogan.
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Those extras are just not necessary. In some cases, peanut butter is made with a little added salt, which can help replenish your electrolyte stores. But beyond that, look for just peanuts or almonds on the label.
“The oil should be floating at the top,” says Hogan, which means there is no emulsifying agent, like palm oil, whose production may have a negative impact on the environment. And you just don’t need it: Stir the oil through once, store in the fridge, and enjoy.
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