Nut Butter Bar Breakdown: Protein and Nutrition

Nut Butter Bar Breakdown: Protein and Nutrition

A popular staple of the American diet is the good old jar of peanut butter spread.

Often paired with fruit-flavored jelly and packed into school lunchboxes as a "healthy" lunch option for kids of all ages, the nut butter craze goes way back. Another common nut butter protein snack, often consumed by fitness pros and workout enthusiasts, is the peanut butter and banana combination, which packs a punch of protein and potassium—both great for recovery.

To that effect, the nut butter craze remains at the foundation of the American diet since it offers variety, flexibility, and a wealth of nutritional benefits. When paired with other tasty choices or used as an ingredient in a protein or meal bar, nut butter is just as tasty as it is nutritional.

Recently, the options for nut butter expanded. Now, more sophisticated food choices augment the health benefits and provide alternatives in taste, texture, and uses that still contain various nutritional benefits. These come in the form of nut butter spreads and are included in the ingredients in some of the healthiest protein bars on the market.

As nutritionists and food science experts learned how to create and use other nut butter options, these popular deviations from the traditional peanut butter are now found in jars, in the healthiest protein bars, and used to make nutritional supplements. 

So if you are interested in the world of nut butter, let's explore the types, benefits, and nut butter differences (which may surprise you!). 

4 Types of Nut Butter and Their Differences

Nut butter options are seemingly endless. Just about any nut available can be used to create a unique tasting nut butter that can be used on its own or as an ingredient for a meal supplement, nutrition bar, or spread for bread, crackers, and veggies. Nut butter can be purchased at specialty shops, online, or even mainstream grocery stores. And of course, if you have the interest and skill, you can make them yourself.

But before you decide which nut butter you want to choose for your next healthy meal, let's consider the options and which may be "better" than the others.

Here are four of the popular options and the nut butter differences:

1. Peanut

Peanut butter is the most basic nut butter option. From using purely peanuts to adding sugar and honey, peanut butter maintains its foothold in the nut butter category and is the most widely used and accepted form. Made from peanuts, the spread comes in various forms, including chunky and smooth textures and pure nuts, or some include additives.

Overall, peanut butter offers a unique combination of unsaturated healthy fats, iron, and potassium—all great for health-conscious individuals.  A common combination in snack bars and nutritional supplements is peanut butter and chocolate, derived from peanuts and cocoa nibs for a healthy but yummy-tasting option.

2. Almond

Almond butter is created from almonds and may be considered slightly healthier than peanut butter (but the difference is slight, depending on which nutrients the consumer is seeking). In a nutritional comparison, almond butter contains more vitamins and fiber than peanut butter. However, peanut butter may contain more protein.

In their rawest forms, both kinds of butter with the same serving size have a similar calorie count and are equal in sugar content. Almond butter, however, may have a nuttier and richer taste than peanut butter.

3. Sunflower Seed

Arguably, sunflower seed butter may be the next most popular nut butter option, following peanut and almond. However, compared to peanut and almond butter, sunflower seed butter may be the best option for vitamin E. However, this chart's side-by-side comparison shows the nutrient comparison for minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids for the three popular nut butter, making them comparable from a nutritional standpoint.

4. Cashew

Created from raw cashews (and the lesser amount of processing, the better), cashew butter is often a creamy, tasty nut butter rich in protein and low in sugar. Compared to peanut butter, the health benefits are relatively similar, and ultimately, the choice comes down to preferred taste and price (cashew butter is often more expensive). 

In general, there is no real frontrunner that outperforms the others within the nut butter category. So when choosing a nut butter, consider the following:

  • Your personal preference for taste and texture
  • The use of the nut butter (will you put it into a recipe or consume it as a spread on toast?)
  • The cost and/or availability 

However, we must mention that while not all nut butter is created equal, like any food, they all do carry the risk of allergic reactions. If you have an existing nut allergy or do not have exposure to specific types, be careful trying any new nut butter option. Be sure to watch for any allergic reactions and seek medical help if a reaction occurs.

Nutritional Benefits of Nut Butter Bars

Each nut butter offers its own taste and consistency, but all offer nutritional benefits. While you may choose one but butter over another based on taste, cost, or ability to make it on your own, know that all nut butter is healthy when consumed in moderation and beneficial for curbing your appetite, aiding muscle recovery, and a great option to pair with other nutritional food choices when aiming for a balanced diet or to build muscle mass.

In general, nut butter bars can be a great nutritional source of:

  • Protein
  • Vitamin B
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Iron

These are all excellent nutrients to consume and to add to your daily diet. 

So Which Nut Butter Bar is Best?

As mentioned, there is no single nut butter bar that offers significantly higher nutritional value. However, if increasing your protein consumption is the name of your game, maybe stick with traditional peanut butter on its own or as a main ingredient within a meal bar. 

Lastly, make sure you monitor your serving size. While nut butter can be filling, it can also be deceiving, and you may end up overindulging. While it is not the worst thing to have as an overindulgence, there is a high caloric count and if you are looking to cut calories, be mindful of your measurements.  

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