Almond butter has emerged as the healthier alternative to use in your diet. Almond butter, which is equally delicious, is more nutritious than most other types of sandwich spreads.
Almond butter is a food paste made from almonds. Almond butter may be crunchy or smooth, and is generally “stir” (susceptible to oil separation) or “no-stir” (emulsified). Almond butter may be either raw or roasted, describing the almonds themselves prior to grinding. It is recommended that almond butter be refrigerated once opened to prevent spoilage and oil separation.
Almond butter is high in monounsaturated fats, calcium, potassium, iron and manganese. It’s considered a good source of riboflavin, phosphorus, and copper, and an excellent source of vitamin E, magnesium, and fiber. Almond butter also provides dietary protein.
Almond butter is an alternative to peanut butter for those with peanut allergies. It contains significantly more fiber, calcium, potassium, iron and manganese than peanut butter,and about half the saturated fat, although a slightly higher total fat content. Almond butter is not a legume as is peanut butter, and thus can be consumed by those looking to avoid legumes.
Health benefits of almond butter.
1. Good for the Heart
The number one health benefit of almond butter is that it is good for the heart. It is rich in monounsaturated fats, which are the type of fats that reduce levels of cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart ailments. Dipping your biscuit in almond butter or spreading it on top of your bread certainly gives your heart a healthy boost.
2. Lower Blood Pressure
Almond butter is also known for lowering blood pressure because it can decrease cholesterol levels. When cholesterol accumulates in the blood vessels of the body, it makes it difficult for blood to flow more freely to different organs. When this happens, the heart will pump more strongly and this can result in high blood pressure. Lowering the cholesterol will also lower blood pressure. Apart from that, almond butter also contains minerals that are effective in reducing blood pressure. These minerals are calcium, potassium, and magnesium, which work hand in hand to decrease the pressure and resistance in the blood vessels to maintain the proper level of blood pressure.
3. Control Blood Sugar
Almond butter is a sweet and tasty dessert that will not do any damage to your blood sugar levels. In fact, it can even help control levels of blood sugar in your body by reducing the sudden increase in blood sugar and insulin which usually happens after you eat a carbohydrate-packed meal. This makes it an ideal part of the meal if you are suffering from diabetes.
4. Rich in Antioxidants
Oxidative stress is a common problem in today’s society. Free radicals that do cellular damage to your body are present everywhere. This is why it is important to have proper intake of antioxidants, such as vitamin E and flavonoids, which fortunately can be found in almond butter. Almond butter, thus helps protect cells from oxidative stress and reduces the risk of heart disease and other ailments associated with it.
5. Help With Weight Control
There is a common misconception about nuts and weight gain. Since nuts, such as almonds, are high in calories, many people who are on a weight loss program tend to avoid eating them. However, you should know that almonds are high in protein, fiber, and monounsaturated fats. They’re also incredibly delicious! People who eat nuts are less likely to become overweight than those who avoid them.
6. Calcium and Copper content
Some of almond butter’s health benefits come from its calcium and copper content. Both minerals play a role in brain cell communication and keep your nervous system functional, while calcium also aids in muscle function and keeps your skeleton strong. Copper enables you to make melanin, which is a pigment that helps protects your skin from the sun. Each 2-tablespoon serving of almond butter contains 111 milligrams of calcium, or 11 percent of the recommended daily intake, as well as 299 micrograms of copper, or one-third of the daily requirement.
7. Vitamin E and Magnesium content
Almond butter also contains beneficial magnesium and vitamin E. Like calcium, magnesium contributes to the health of your bones. It also helps you produce energy, as well as synthesize fatty acids needed for energy storage. A serving of almond butter offers 89 milligrams of magnesium, which is 28 percent of the daily recommended intake for women and 21 percent for men. Vitamin E supports health communication between your cells, and prevents blood lipid oxidation, which is a process linked to cardiovascular disease. Consuming 2 tablespoons of almond butter boosts your vitamin E intake by 7.8 milligrams and provides 52 percent of your recommended daily intake.
8. Healthy Fats and Fiber content
Almond butter offers cardiovascular benefits because of its fiber and fat content. Each serving of almond butter contains 18 grams of fat, made up primarily of unsaturated fatty acids. These fats improve your blood cholesterol levels to combat cardiovascular disease, and also provide energy. Fiber also benefits your cholesterol levels, and following a diet rich in fiber can reduce your coronary heart disease risk by up to one-third, notes the Linus Pauling Institute. A 2-tablespoon serving of almond butter offers 3.3 grams of fiber, which is 9 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 13 percent for women.
Almonds are high in monounsaturated fats, the same type of health-promoting fats as are found in olive oil, which have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease. Five large human epidemiological studies, including the Nurses Health Study, the Iowa Health Study, the Adventist Health Study and the Physicians Health Study, all found that nut consumption is linked to a lower risk for heart disease. Researchers who studied data from the Nurses Health Study estimated that substituting nuts for an equivalent amount of carbohydrate in an average diet resulted in a 30% reduction in heart disease risk. Researchers calculated even more impressive risk reduction—45%—when fat from nuts was substituted for saturated fats (found primarily found in meat and dairy products).
A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition indicates that when foods independently known to lower cholesterol, such as almonds, are combined in a healthy way of eating, the beneficial effects are additive. In this study of 12 patients with elevated LDL cholesterol levels, a diet containing almonds and other nuts, plant sterols (also found in nuts), soy protein, and soluble fiber (in high amounts in beans, oats, pears) reduced blood levels of all LDL fractions including small dense LDL (the type that most increases risk for cardiovascular disease) with near maximal reductions seen after only 2 weeks.
In addition to their cholesterol-lowering effects, almonds’ ability to reduce heart disease risk may also be partly due to the antioxidant action of the vitamin E found in the almonds, as well as to the LDL-lowering effect of almonds’ monounsaturated fats. (LDL is the form of cholesterol that has been linked to atherosclerosis and heart disease). When almonds are substituted for more traditional fats in human feeding trials, LDL cholesterol can be reduced from 8 to 12%.
In addition to healthy fats and vitamin E, a quarter-cup of almonds contains almost 99 mg of magnesium (that’s 24.7% of the daily value for this important mineral), 257 mg of potassium.
Magnesium is Nature’s own calcium channel blocker. When there is enough magnesium around, veins and arteries breathe a sigh of relief and relax, which lessens resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Studies show that a deficiency of magnesium is not only associated with heart attack but that immediately following a heart attack, lack of sufficient magnesium promotes free radical injury to the heart.
Potassium, an important electrolyte involved in nerve transmission and the contraction of all muscles including the heart, is another mineral that is essential for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function. Almonds promote your cardiovascular health by providing 257 mg of potassium and only 0.3 mg of sodium, making almonds an especially good choice to in protecting against high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
Lessening after-meal surges in blood sugar helps protect against diabetes and cardiovascular disease, most likely by lessening the increase in cholesterol-damaging free radicals that accompanies large elevations in blood sugar. This is one reason why low- glycemic index diets result in lower risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Almonds appear to not only decrease after-meal rises in blood sugar, but also provide antioxidants to mop up the smaller amounts of free radicals that still result. (Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Journal of Nutrition)
Researchers fed 15 healthy subjects 5 meals providing a comparable amount of carbohydrate, fat and protein: 3 test meals (almonds and bread, parboiled rice, and instant mashed potatoes) and 2 bread control meals. Blood samples, taken before each meal and 4 hours afterwards, showed levels of protective antioxidants increased after the almond meal, but decreased after the other meals. And not only did the almond meal increase antioxidant levels, but unlike the other foods, almonds also lowered the rise in blood sugar and insulin seen after eating.
Further research shows that eating almonds along with a high glycemic index food significantly lowers the glycemic index of the meal and lessens the rise in blood sugar after eating. (Jones AR, Kendall CW, Metabolism)
In this study, after an overnight 10-12 hour fast, 9 healthy volunteers were randomly fed 3 test meals and 2 white bread (high glycemic) control meals on separate days. Each meal contained 50 grams of carbohydrate from white bread eaten either alone or in combination with 1, 2, or 3 ounces of almonds. To check subjects’ rise in blood sugar, blood samples were taken for glucose analysis immediately after eating, and at 15, 30, 45, 60, 90 and 120 minutes.
Eating almonds reduced the glycemic index (GI) of the meal and subjects’ rise in blood sugar in a dose-dependent manner—the more almonds consumed, the lower the meal’s GI and the less the rise in subjects’ blood sugar after eating.
When one-ounce of almonds was eaten along with white bread, the GI of the meal (105.8) was comparable to eating white bread alone, but when two ounces of almonds were consumed with the white bread, the GI dropped to 63, and when 3 ounces of almonds were eaten, the GI was only 45.2—less than half the GI of the white bread only meal.
Subjects’ blood sugar rose 2.8 mmol/L after eating only white bread. When one ounce of almonds was eaten with the bread, blood sugar rose 2.2 mmol/L. Eating two ounces of almonds with the bread resulted in a rise in blood sugar of 2.0 mmol/L, and eating three ounces of almonds caused blood sugar to rise only 1.6 mmol/L—less than half the rise seen after eating white bread alone.
Research published in the British Journal of Nutrition (Blomhoff R, Carlsen MH), which identified several nuts among plant foods with the highest total antioxidant content, suggests nut’s high antioxidant content may be key.
Walnuts, pecans and chestnuts have the highest antioxidant content of the tree nuts, with walnuts delivering more than 20 mmol antioxidants per 3 ounces (100 grams). Peanuts (although technically, a legume) also contribute significantly to our dietary intake of antioxidants.
Nuts’ high antioxidant content helps explain results seen in the Iowa Women’s Health Study in which risk of death from cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases showed strong and consistent reductions with increasing nut/peanut butter consumption. Total death rates decreased 11% and 19% for nut/peanut butter intake once per week and 1-4 times per week, respectively.
Even more impressive were the results of a review study of the evidence linking nuts and lower risk of coronary heart disease, also published in the British Journal of Nutrition. (Kelly JH, Sabate J.) In this study, researchers looked at four large prospective epidemiological studies—the Adventist Health Study, Iowa Women’s Study, Nurses’ Health Study and the Physician’s Health Study. When evidence from all four studies was combined, subjects consuming nuts at least 4 times a week showed a 37% reduced risk of coronary heart disease compared to those who never or seldom ate nuts. Each additional serving of nuts per week was associated with an average 8.3% reduced risk of coronary heart disease.
Researchers at the University of Toronto, Canada have shown that a 2.5 ounce snack of almonds each day can do a better job in lowering blood LDL and raising blood HDL than a whole wheat muffin having the same amount of fat and fiber as almonds. They also found that markers of antioxidant status in the body could be improved with the incorporation of almond snacks. It was the many phytonutrients (especially flavonoids) found in almonds that were believed to account for some of these special almond benefits.
Whole Almonds (with Skins) Provide Most Heart Healthy Benefits
New research on almonds adds to the growing evidence that eating whole foods is the best way to promote optimal health.
The flavonoids found in almond skins team up with the vitamin E found in their meat to more than double the antioxidant punch either delivers when administered separately, shows a study published in the Journal of Nutrition.
Twenty potent antioxidant flavonoids were identified in almond skins in this study, some of which are well known as major contributors to the health benefits derived from other foods, such as the catechins found in green tea, and naringenin, which is found in grapefruit.
“We have identified a unique combination of flavonoids in almonds,” said Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., senior scientist and director of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University. “Further blood tests demonstrated that eating almonds with their skins significantly increases both flavonoids and vitamin E in the body. This could have significant health implications, especially as people age.”
Blumberg’s team tested the effects of almond skin’s flavonoids alone and then in combination with the vitamin E found in almond meat on blood samples containing LDL cholesterol. While almond skin flavonoids alone enhanced LDL’s resistance to oxidation by 18%, when almond meat’s vitamin E was added, LDL’s resistance to oxidation was extended by 52.5%!
“The synergy between the flavonoids and vitamin E in almonds demonstrates how the nutrients in whole foods such as almonds can impact health,” says Dr. Blumberg.
Two other studies have recently confirmed the heart-healthy benefits offered by whole almonds:
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which found that, as part of a diet rich in heart healthy foods such as soy, viscous fiber and plant sterols, almonds can reduce cholesterol levels as much as first generation statin drugs.
And a second study by the same research team, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and found that, as part of the same heart healthy eating plan, almonds can reduce C-reactive protein, a marker of artery-damaging inflammation, as much as statin drugs. Need more reasons to make almonds a staple in your healthy way of eating? Ounce for ounce, almonds are the one of the most nutritionally dense nuts. As well as providing an array of powerful flavonoids, almonds are among the richest sources of vitamin E in the diet. A one-ounce, 164-calorie serving of almonds, about a handful, is also a very good source of vitamin E and manganese, a good source of magnesium, copper, vitamin B2 and phosphorus, and delivers heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and other nutrients as well.
A study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders that included 65 overweight and obese adults suggests that an almond-enriched low calorie diet (which is high in monounsaturated fats) can help overweight individuals shed pounds more effectively than a low calorie diet high in complex carbohydrates. Those on the almond-enriched low calorie diet consumed 39% of their calories in the form of fat, 25% of which was monounsaturated fat. In contrast, those on the low calorie diet high in complex carbohydrates consumed only 18% of their calories as fat, of which 5% was monounsaturated fat, while 53% of their calories were derived from carbohydrate. Both diets supplied the same number of calories and equivalent amounts of protein. After 6 months, those on the almond-enriched diet had greater reductions in weight (-18 vs. -11%), their waistlines (-14 vs. -9%), body fat (-30 vs. -20%), total body water (-8 vs. -1%), and systolic blood pressure (-11 vs. 0%). Those eating almonds experienced a 62% greater reduction in their weight/BMI (body mass index), 50% greater reduction in waist circumference, and 56% greater reduction in body fat compared to those on the low calorie high carbohydrate diet! Among those subjects who had type 1 diabetes, diabetes medication reductions were sustained or further reduced in 96% of those on the almond-enriched diet versus in 50% of those on the complex carbohydrate diet.
Although nuts are known to provide a variety of cardio-protective benefits, many avoid them for fear of weight gain. A prospective study published in the journal Obesity shows such fears are groundless. In fact, people who ate nuts at least twice a week were much less likely to gain weight than those who almost never ate nuts.
The 28-month study involving 8,865 adult men and women in Spain, found that participants who ate nuts at least two times per week were 31% less likely to gain weight than were participants who never or almost never ate nuts. And, among the study participants who gained weight, those who never or almost never ate nuts gained more (an average of 424 g more) than those who ate nuts at least twice weekly.
Study authors concluded, “Frequent nut consumption was associated with a reduced risk of weight gain (5 kg or more). These results support the recommendation of nut consumption as an important component of a cardioprotective diet and also allay fears of possible weight gain.”
Twenty years of dietary data collected on over 80,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study shows that women who eat least 1 ounce of nuts, peanuts or peanut butter each week have a 25% lower risk of developing gallstones. Since 1 ounce is only 28.6 nuts or about 2 tablespoons of nut butter, preventing gallbladder disease may be as easy as having a handful of almonds as an afternoon pick me up, tossing some almonds on your oatmeal or salad or packing one almond butter and jelly sandwich (be sure to use whole wheat bread for its fiber, vitamins and minerals) for lunch each week.
Almonds are concentrated in protein. A quarter-cup contains 7.62 grams—more protein than is provided by the typical egg, which contains 5.54 grams.
Almond butter is a smooth paste made from ground almonds. Despite its name, it does not typically contain any dairy products and is not a true butter; it is soft and spreadable, though, and is very similar to peanut butter, a paste made from peanuts that is familiar to many people. It comes in several variations, including crunchy, smooth, roasted, and raw. It can be higher in fat than other nut butters, but also tends to have a lot of helpful vitamins and minerals. The butter is widely available in most places as a prepared food, and many people also find that it is relatively simple to make at home.
How to make almond butter.
The simplest butters are made from but one ingredient: almonds. Commercial manufacturers often use an industrial-grade nut grinder to blend the nuts into a smooth paste, but home cooks can usually get similar results with a food processor or heavy-duty blender. The important thing is that there is enough pressure to completely pulverize the nuts, which leaves behind a combination of powder and natural oil. Some cooks soak the almonds before grinding them in order to soften them up, but this isn’t usually required to get a coherent paste. Most of the time, the sheer force of the grinding will expel the nuts’ oils and will bind the fragments into a creamy whole. Cooks can add a bit of extra oil to help improve consistency or texture, but grinding alone is usually all it takes.
Different Styles of almond butter.
There are many different ways to vary the basic recipe. The creamiest butters are usually made from almonds that have been blanched, or boiled, which usually removes their fibrous skin. Though the skin has a number of nutrients, it is also somewhat tough and can lead to a grainier texture. Roasting or seasoning the nuts before grinding can also be an interesting way of adding flavor to the end result. The mildest tasting butters are usually made with raw, unprocessed almonds.
Most of the almond butters sold commercially are labeled “smooth,” which means that they don’t contain any large pieces and have a more or less uniform consistency. “Crunchy” or “textured” butters, on the other hand, tend to have chunks of nut, or at least more identifiable particles. The biggest difference between the two is the amount of time spent grinding. The more finely the nuts are processed, the smoother the end result in most cases.
The butter can also be emulsified or non-emulsified, a characterization that has to do with the way the oils in the final product are treated. The most natural versions, including the majority of those that are homemade, are non-emulsified. This means that the oils will separate from the nut particles over time. While not a problem, this does mean that consumers will have to stir the butter before it can be used if it has been sitting for a while. Emulsification is a process that binds the butter together more permanently, usually with the help of a chemical stabilizer. These sorts of butters don’t normally need to be stirred, as they will stay more or less blended no matter how long they sit still.
Common Uses of almond butter.
People often use almond butter as a spread for bread or rolls, and it can also be used in baking. It is a popular addition to sandwiches, baked desserts, and blended drinks like smoothies. Some people also eat it on its own as a high-energy snack, or serve it as a thick dip for fruit. Those who are allergic to peanuts will sometimes substitute almond butter for peanut butter, and the two can be used almost interchangeably.
Where to find almond butter.
Many mainstream grocers sell almond butter, and it can be found near other nut spreads, jams, and jellies in most large supermarkets. Health food and specialty shops frequently also stock it, and it can sometimes be found direct from almond growers, too. Farmers in many places blend their own to sell either out of their individual shops or at farmer’s or community markets. Making it at home is also an option, and has the added benefit of letting the consumer control the composition, texture, and ingredients.
Nutritional Information of almond butter.
In most cases, almond butter has the same nutritional profile as the almonds that go into it, which makes it a good source of protein, fiber, and many different vitamins and minerals. This also means that it can be relatively high in saturated fat, though. Health food experts often describe almonds and other tree nuts as containing so-called “good” fats that can help improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels, but this does not automatically mean that it’s a good idea to eat them in excess. Almond butter usually contains more calories and fat then other comparable products like peanut butter or cashew butter.
In general, butter made from raw almonds and little else is the healthiest. Any seasonings, extra oils, or chemical preservatives can alter not only the taste but also the nutritional profile. Adding a lot of salt, for instance, can make almond butter particularly flavorful, but also adds a lot of sodium to something that was almost completely salt-free at the start. Consumers who are worried about extra ingredients or additives should take the time to read all labels carefully.
Storage suggestions for almond butter.
Products that have not been emulsified usually need to be refrigerated, and even then tend to spoil relatively quickly. Most food experts recommend using fresh or homemade almond butter within about a week. It will typically need to be stirred before use to mix the oils back into the solids; cooks often find that this goes faster if the jar is stored upside-down, which many say helps things stay blended. Versions that have been emulsified, particularly those with chemical preservatives, usually have a longer shelf life and can often be stored at room temperature quite successfully. It is still usually a good idea to use them somewhat quickly after opening them, but this is more to prevent the growth of bacteria introduced by spoons and spreaders than to prevent the product from spoiling.