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Better butters: Non-dairy spreads that are tasty, and healthy too

Nut butters are rich in protein and other nutrients and low in harmful fats.
Hindustan Times | By Puneeta Mahadevia & Mansi Joshi
PUBLISHED ON NOV 09, 2019 05:25 PM IST

Sandwich spreads and dairy-based butter are finding themselves abandoned on shelves as healthier kinds of butter emerge, including a wide range made from legumes or tree nuts. So how exactly do you pick between soy nut, almond, cashew, hazelnut and pistachio spreads? Take a look

First, why you should switch.

Dairy-based butter and sandwich spreads are relatively unhealthy because of the high concentration of saturated fats they contain. The advantage with nut butters is that they’re packed with protein, and the fat content is usually the good kind. The monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) in nut butters are considered the good kind of fat, which makes these tasty spreads relatively healthy.

Soy Nut Butter

Since soybean is a legume, this is a great alternative for those allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. Soy nut butter tastes similar to the more fatty peanut butter and can be used in sandwiches. “Plant-based protein sources often lack all the essential amino acids that animal protein delivers,” says Suman Agrawal, chief nutritionist and founder at Selfcare by Suman, a health clinic that specialises in lifestyle correction. “However soy bean is a rich source of amino acids, which are needed for the repair and functioning of the body, building immunity, etc.”

Almond butter goes well with fruit, on desserts and in a smoothie. (iStock)

Almond Butter

Almond butter is packed with magnesium, which boosts heart health and blood flow. The MUFA in this butter actually cuts your risk of heart disease. “Almonds release their own oil when they are crushed. And almond butter can be left grainy, which makes it really satisfying,” says Chetan Kanani, co-founder of Alpino Health Foods, a nut butters brand.

Use sparingly, though, keeping in mind that nuts, even in raw form, are only to be eaten a handful a day.

Best use: Frozen banana slices slathered with almond butter and sprinkled with coconut shavings sprinkled is a scrumptious and healthy dessert.

Also try: Chopped fruit and whipped almond butter for an almond butter smoothie.

Cashew Butter

Cashew butter is rich in calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, which is great news for your bones. “If you use butter made from raw cashew, you get all the nutritional properties of the cashew,” says Dr Jigna Sheth, a nutrition consultant. Avoid roasted cashews for your cashew butter; they typically contain additives like oil which add calories to an otherwise healthy spread.

Cashew butter can be best used in salads and cookies.

Hazelnut Butter

Chocolate-flavoured hazelnut spreads are all the rage, right? Hazelnut butter is the healthy alternative. Hazelnuts contain protein, fiber, Vitamin E, unsaturated fats (like oleic acid) and micronutrients like manganese. “Hazelnuts’ high concentration of antioxidant compounds, vitamins and minerals make them super-healthy,” says Sheth. The antioxidants prevent cell oxidation and cell damage.

Best used as a drizzle on waffles and pancakes, or in a delicious blend with oats and banana for a healthy breakfast smoothie.

Pistachio Butter

This butter is rich in Vitamin B6, which helps in the formation of haemoglobin and boosts the nervous system. Pistachio butter is also high in fiber. “The best thing about pistachio butter is that its flavour is mild, which means it can be paired with both sweet and savoury foods,” says Sheth. Pistachio butter makes a great spread for sweet or salty crepes.


“Although nut butters are very nutritious, moderation is crucial,” says Sheth.

Agrawal of Selfcare adds that one should consume nut butters as one would regular butter. It’s a healthy alternative, but is still a fatty food.

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