• Wed, Mar 7 2012

Ashley Koff Explains: Is Almond Butter Healthier Than Peanut Butter?

almond butter vs peanut butterLots of us have likely heard that almond butter is a healthier alternative to peanut butter, but some of us are still confused about whether it’s really worth the extra money. The nutrition facts are nearly the same, and while some suffer from severe peanut allergies, some of us aren’t sure whether peanuts contain allergens and toxins…or if that’s just a myth we learned on the last “cleanse” we tried. To find out why there’s so much confusion, we spoke with Ashley Koff, R.D., an expert dietician and author, who answered our questions about which makes a healthier snack.

But first, let’s take a look at the nutrition facts to get a clearer idea of how different they are. We compared MaraNatha Foods brand peanut and almond butter to get an idea of how all-natural varieties stack up. Here’s what we found:

MaraNatha Organic, Raw, Creamy Almond Butter (no salt) — 2 Tablespoons contains: 190 calories; 17g fat (1.5g saturated; 4g polyunsaturated; 11g monounsaturated); 0mg cholesterol; 0mg sodium; 6g carbohydrates (4g dietary fiber, 2g sugar); 7g protein.

MaraNatha Organic Creamy & Roasted Peanut Butter (no salt) 2 Tablespoons contains: 190 calories; 16g fat (2g saturated, 0g trans fats); 0g cholesterol; 0g sodium; 7g carbohydrates (3g dietary fiber, 1g sugar); 8g protein.

On paper, almond butter and peanut butter aren’t so different. So what gives? Check out what Ashley Koff had to say:

Peanut butter and almond butter have pretty similar nutrition facts. So why do so many of us think that almond butter is better?
The biggest issues with peanuts are:
a) allergens
b) there can be mold (a toxin) in the shell of peanuts so many people avoid for that reason
c) peanuts are actually a legume so some people find harder to digest than almonds

Americans have been eating peanuts and peanut butter for a long time, but suddenly it seems like everyone’s got a peanut allergy. Why?
I think the “why food allergies now?” question is a bigger issue than just peanuts. I believe it has to do with environmental toxins, as well as things like man-made chemicals in food, pesticides used in food production and genetically modified organisms being so prevelant in the diet. (The two biggest sources of GMOs are corn and soy, which also top the list of food allergies and are so prevelant in packaged foods.)

Some people just say to flat-out avoid peanut butter because it’s so unhealthy. Is that true?
No. If there are personal health reasons for avoiding it, then do; otherwise get the best quality, organic variety you can. I love getting jungle peanuts, too, which are raw and very nutritious.

Is almond butter also a “bad” food because it has so many calories and fat?
No. We need to be calorie and fat conscious, but I think of it like budgeting…And if you want to use your budget on almond butter, it’s a very healthy way to get good fats, protein and other nutrients

Almond butter tends to be more expensive; is peanut butter ok for people on a budget, or is it just so bad that we should have almond butter or nothing?
Either is an option, but get the best quality. Often the actual nuts are cheaper, so that’s also an option (and you can make your own nut butter if you want a spreadable option). But either way, keep in mind that nuts go bad when they’re exposed to high heat, light and air. Avoid bin foods and large containers that may sit on your shelf for years, but also avoid if either the nuts or buttress use excess salt, sugar, or artificial versions to preserve for a super long time.

Ashley Koff is an internationally-renowned registered dietician who is on a mission to help people get healthy by bringing quality eating into every home. With television appearances, print and online contributions and a new book, Mom Energy (Hay House) Koff’s goal is to educate the public on “Qualitarianism.”

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  • Hannah

    I feel like the question wasn’t answered. Is that a, “No, they’re the same” ?

    • Briana Rognlin

      Yeah, I think Ashley’s answer is basically that there are certain dietary concerns like allergens and digestion associated with peanuts, but peanut butter isn’t flat out bad for you, necessarily. It seems like the most important thing is choosing products well: She’s saying to stick with organic and get as fresh as possible, and to avoid added preservatives and sugars.

      Unfortunately, like a lot of nutrition issues, I don’t think there’s an answer that works for everyone :(

  • Confused Truffle

    I believe the point is that the label may say they are interchangeable, but there are scientific fears related to peanuts. Because of our quick-information culture, we only “hear” that almond butter is better because peanuts contain small amounts of a toxin that may harm us.
    In reality, if you feel OK after eating peanuts and your stomach doesn’t feel like a brick (cough, cough) after eating it then go ahead and eat it!
    Do some research for yourself if you want vitamin and mineral content.

    Nuts are nuts. Peanuts are a legume. You decide.

  • Marie

    Just so everyone knows – a WAAYY better solution to peanut butter is PB2 – its a powdered peanut butter – oil is extracted – all you have to do is add water and a huge serving is 100 calories compared to regular peanut butter – another plus is it includes ingredients we can say – peanuts, sugar, salt – only 2g of sugar per serving and its also made in chocolate peanut butter

  • Jason

    The one point neglected is that almonds are really high in omega-6 fatty acids which promote systemic inflammation, and essentially ruin the omega-3′s we get from fish.

    • RD

      I’m curious, Jason. Where did you get the info about the Omega-6 cancelling out the O-3? I eat a lot of almonds and almond butter as I don’t eat red meat nor a lot of animal protein and it’s a staple for me.

  • Xuran333

    I prefer almond butter not because I am allergic to peanut or I find it is hard to digest. I simply find almond butter tests better than peanut butter. For instance, when I eat mixed nuts, I will always pick out the almonds. I think peanuts have a weird flavor to it. Regardless the nutritional facts are about the same, I think almond is healthier because it has some good fats. In general, almond butter is a good alternative of bread spread because it is so tasty.

  • Mark Demma

    RD – Chris Kresser has a pretty good run down on Omega 6 – Omega 3 balance. http://chriskresser.com/how-too-much-omega-6-and-not-enough-omega-3-is-making-us-sick just remember Omega 6 is pro-inflamatory and Omega 3 is anti-inflamitory. We need both, but if we get too much 6 we stay in an inflamed state inside, which is probably the real cause of heart disease. PS – if you get grass fed beef the 3-6 ratio is about perfect so no need to ditch this great source of protein if you want to stay healthy!

  • Mike P.

    Valencia peanuts. Or peanut butter with palm oil. Natural types of course.

    Trader Joe’s used to have organic peanut butter with just Valenica peanuts. Now the organic peanut butter is just organic peanuts – there is a noticable difference – and the Valencia peanut butter is only in non-organic.

  • http://www.abiolatv.com Abiola Abrams

    Thanks for the info!