Peanut Butter vs. Almond Butter | What’s Healthier for You?
Spoiler alert: peanut butter and almond butter are both really delicious. Let’s just get that out of the way. When it comes down to taste, it’s hard to choose sides. If you love both peanut butter and almond butter, but you’re trying to make some healthier swaps, which one has to go on the days where you’re behaving yourself?
Technically, nothing has to go. That’s no way to live your life. If a food makes you happy and you want to enjoy it, you should be able to do so as long as it isn’t harming you. Moderation is the key to any successful balanced diet. If you killed it at the gym, have that slice of pizza. When you slay that long hike, get some guac on that burrito. When you’re loading up for your morning run, fuel yourself with nut butter.
The differences between peanut butter and almond butter aren’t as stark as you may believe. They’re more like sisters than they appear, and they both (thankfully) have a place in your life.
How Peanut Butter and Almond Butter Are Made
Peanut butter and almond butter are both made by roasting the nuts, grinding them, combining them with sugar and salt, and blending them with an oil to keep them spreadable. Powdered nuts butters are made the same way, minus the oil. You reconstitute them at home by mixing them with your own water or oil, or by blending the powders directly into yogurts or protein shakes.
While it is possible to find peanut butter and almond butter without added sugar, it doesn’t often change the nutrition facts that much. The amount of added sugar per serving of peanut butter is minimal. You probably won’t see a substantial difference in the calorie count, and the rest of the nutrition facts remain the same.
Do Organic Ingredients Make a Difference?
Some nut butters are labeled as organic or natural. These both refer to different things. Organic means that the nut butter was produced according to organic farming practices. Natural means that the nut butter wasn’t hydrogenated.
Hydrogenating is the process of adding hydrogen to the nut butter to keep the nuts and oils blended together. Natural nut butters will separate at the top, creating a thick layer of oil that needs to be mixed back into the butter before you can use it. Natural nut butters can be organic, but they don’t have to be.
Organic nut butters will have the same nutrition facts as commercially produced nut butters. The biggest difference between organic and conventional nut butters is the kinds of pesticides used on the farms responsible for producing the ingredients.
Organic pesticides are typically derived from natural ingredients like chrysanthemum flowers. They’re the same pesticides used in things like lice and flea shampoos. They work against insects and other critters while minimizing the risk of harm to the people who may eventually come into contact with them.
Whether or not you choose to use organic nut butters has more to do with your personal preference. If you’re not comfortable with traditional farming practices, opt for the alternative. There’s never a bad reason to avoid potentially harmful pesticides. If you can afford to spring for the organic, go ahead and do it.
Let’s Look at the Nutrition
Calories, sugar, and fat content in peanut butter and almond butter are also almost exactly the same. Expect to pack in close to 100 calories per tablespoon (or 200 calories per serving) of either with a couple of grams of added sugar and a fair amount of fat (usually upwards of 14 grams per serving). Expect about 3.5 grams of protein per tablespoon, or 7 grams per serving.
As far as all the major stuff goes, you aren’t going to find anything remarkably different between peanut butter and almond butter.
If you’re looking to cut calories or add protein, neither option is better for you. The biggest difference between the nutrition of almond butter and peanut butter can be found in the section of the nutrition label reserved for vitamins and minerals.
Almond butter usually contains about 6% of your recommended daily value of calcium, 6% iron, and 4% potassium. The best selling brand of peanut butter will give you 2% of your calcium, 4% iron, 4% potassium, 10% vitamin E, and 30% niacin.
If you want more calcium and more iron in your diet, almond butter has your back. Peanut butter will give you a little calcium and a little iron and the same amount of potassium. The addition of vitamin E and niacin are what make peanut butter shine. Niacin and vitamin E both support vital systems in your body, and they’re also great for your skin.
Is There Any Real Difference Between Peanut Butter and Almond Butter?
So, what’s the difference then? Why do we even have both? The vitamins are a little different, but everything else seems virtually the same. The difference mostly comes down to flavor and preference, but there’s one more important thing to consider.
People with peanut allergies obviously cannot have peanut butter. Good news for them -- peanuts aren’t nuts. An allergy to nuts and an allergy to peanuts are very different things. Peanuts are a legume and almonds are a tree nut. Many people with peanut-specific allergies can still have tree nuts. That’s part of the reason why alternative nut butters are necessary.
The biggest difference is that peanut butter tastes like peanuts and almond butter tastes like almonds. If you don’t have any allergies, you can use both. If you like one and dislike the other, use the one you prefer. It’s really that simple. Mix them both together and toss in some chocolate chips. Treat yourself once in a while.
Making All Nut Butter Healthy
Now it boils down to the bigger argument: if the nutrition facts of peanut butter and almond butter are virtually the same, are they even healthy to begin with?
Nut butters often catch a lot of heat for being high in fat and calories. Nut butters often contain monounsaturated fat, the kind of fat that’s good for your heart and helps to keep your blood sugar stable. That’s not necessarily the issue.
The problem comes with how many calories there are in a serving of nut butter. At first, 200 calories a serving doesn’t seem like a lot. Until you realize it’s 100 calories per spoonful. How often do you eat just one or two spoonfuls of nut butter? Realistically, how many tablespoons do you use to dip an apple or make a PB&J? Did you even know before today that you were supposed to be measuring it that way, or have you been slathering it onto your bread until it looks just about right?
Hey, no shame, but you’re probably using a lot more than you’re supposed to be using. That’s why nut butters have developed a reputation for being unhealthy. They’re actually very good for you in small amounts, provided you’re utilizing the proper serving size.
Full disclosure: using a tablespoon to measure nut butter and then cleaning up that mess is about as fun as tying your shoes with both hands tied behind your back.
It’s kind of hard to restrain yourself when something is particularly delicious. It’s nut butter! Of course you want to eat all of it! It isn’t exactly a chore. As long as you’re conscious of what a serving size is and you’re using it appropriately, don’t worry about whether or not it’s healthy. Keep it in your metrics, and you’re good to go.
If you absolutely need an extra nut butter fix, get some of the powdered stuff. You can mix it into your oatmeal, yogurt, protein shakes, or anything else that can do with a little bit of buttering up. If you put a little bit in your morning coffee, we’re not judging you. We never saw it. You do you.
When In Doubt, Get Your Nut Butter “Grab and Go”
If you just wanna eat and go about your life, don’t mess with tablespoons. You can grab pre-portioned nut butters in single serving cups or pouches. Look for recyclable packaging to avoid generating waste. Then, there’s still the chore of cutting up the apple or making the sandwich. If you’re in a rush, you probably want a better way.
Alternatively, you can grab something premade that already incorporates a healthy amount of peanut butter.
We worried about the portion sizes so you don’t have to. All you have to do is grab it and eat it -- a deal so good, it’s absolutely nutty.