Ever take time to notice the elegance of whole nuts out of their shells? There’s the smooth, curvy shape of a walnut, which looks like open wings. The teardrop-like almond with its rust-colored covering, the kidney-shaped cashew and marble-sized hazelnut. On a plate with, say, fresh berries and a pool of honey, they look like miniature sculptures.
Of course, nuts undergo a stark transformation when they’re ground up and bathing in their own oil in a jar. Instead of pieces of art, these items become tantalizing fragrance foods, all but begging us to slather them on bread and raw vegetables, or use them as the main ingredient in healthy sauces.
Nut butters are year-round staples ““ great in cold weather when you want something hearty, and also terrific on cut-up fresh fruit for a light summer snack. Because they taste so good, we sometimes forget how nutritious they are.
For those not allergic or sensitive to nuts, here’s a rundown of some nut butters to add to your pantry. If you’re DIY-inclined, you can make your own. Either way, your jar of PB will have something to keep it company on your pantry shelf — while it lasts.
1. Almond butter. In addition to being a high quality protein source, almond butter is also a rich source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects against free radical damage in the body, as well as copper and magnesium. For people who are looking for a way to add more fiber to their meals, almond butter has an even greater amount of this important nutrient than peanut butter. Great in smoothies, almond butter also makes a wonderful Asian-style sauce for veggies and grains when thinned down and combined with lemon juice and other seasonings.
2. Cashew butter. Cashew butter contains magnesium, a mineral associated with bone health and healthy nerve function, as well as muscle contraction and relaxation. It’s also a good source of copper, which assists in the formation of healthy red blood cells. Health-minded cooks who do stir-fry dishes can easily substitute cashew nuts, which are native to Brazil, with cashew butter for an equally flavorful sauce.
3. Hazelnut butter. Hazelnut butter is a good source of vitamin E and a very good source of the mineral manganese. It also contains magnesium and B vitamins. Because of its unique flavor and aromatic profile, hazelnut butter has enjoyed great popularity as Nutella and as a sweet treat on its own or as an ingredient in cookies, pralines, chocolates or coffee.
Do you have a favorite use for nut butters that your family and friends love? Share it with us in the comments below.
Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist who specializes in women’s health. She is the co-author of Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine and co-author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health: How the Secrets of Natural and Chinese Medicine Can Create a Lifetime of Wellness.