Nut butters: Is there a best choice?

Nuts and seeds have healthy fat content, plus they are rich in fibre and antioxidants.

Andy De Santis, RD 4 minute read June 8, 2021
nut butters

There are so many different nut and seed butters out there. Which one is right for you? Getty

As a health professional, I hold the nutritional value of nuts and seeds in very high esteem. No matter where you turn scientifically, there is ample evidence that the inclusion of these foods in a diet improves human health in a number of ways, including helping to improve blood cholesterol, pressure and sugar levels. They are also generally very good for your heart, as well as keeping inflammation under control.

Some of the reasons that nuts and seeds do all of this good for your body is their healthy fat content (monounsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids), they are rich in fibre and antioxidants, as well as the minerals we need more of, such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Shovelling raw handfuls of nuts and seeds daily into your mouth is not for everyone, with many people choosing to enjoy the benefits of these foods in the form of nut and seed butters. But there are so many of these products on the market it can be hard to decide which is the “best” choice. Is there a “best” choice?

Choosing the right nut or seed butter for you
For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume that allergies are not a concern, and you find each all nut and seed butters equally appealing from a taste perspective. Right off the top, the vast majority of nut and seed butters are very similar in calorie, protein, fibre and fat content. The only exception being that some of the more mainstream peanut butter brands have added sugar and/or fat. You can, however, easily just choose an all-natural peanut butter in which roasted peanuts are the only ingredient.

When it comes to which nutrients each is higher in, there are some slight differences. Almond and sunflower butter, for example, tend to be higher in calcium, whereas Wowbutter (made from soy) ranks slightly higher in potassium levels, and pumpkin and sunflower seed butter have the edge in terms of magnesium content.

All nuts and seeds will vary to some degree in terms of the exact amount of specific nutrients they contain, but beyond allergy or personal preference, I can’t make a strong scientific case that one nut or seed butter is hugely better than another.

That said, do you want to know which one I think is best for you? The answer to this lies in these questions: which type of nut and/or seed butter you have eaten the most in your life? And, what type of nuts/seeds do you eat most often in its whole form?

If we accept that variety in food intake is good for us — which it is because we get exposed to slightly different nutrients across different foods — then it makes sense that the best nut or seed butter for you is probably the one you aren’t having, or the one you haven’t had that much of in your life.

So if i’ve had peanut butter most of my life, and the raw nut or seed I eat the most is almonds, then I’d technically pick a nut or seed butter that wasn’t one of those two.


Nut butters and aflatoxins 
Some of you may have heard about aflatoxins, cancer-causing substances that are produced by a certain type fungi in some types of foods, including nuts and related products, like nut butters. Aflatoxin production can occur naturally at low levels, but can sometimes occur at very high levels if foods are not grown, stored and transported in the proper conditions. This does not tend to happen in North America, thus the aflatoxin content of these products is very low.

In fact, six in 10 nut butter products contained no detectable aflatoxins and no single nut butter product contained anywhere close to Health Canada’s safe upper limit for nuts and nut products.

Andy is a registered dietitian and author who has operated a private practice in Toronto since 2015. He spends his free time eating, writing and talking about kale @AndyTheRD. He can be reached at


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our community guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.