Tuesday, April 1, 2014

6 Things to Know About Nut Butters

Start spreading the nut butter news. This superfood is packed with health perks, from improving breast health to lowering bad cholesterol. Read on for six reasons why you should be having a scoop a day.

Almond butter is your weight-loss friend.

According to Keri Gans, RDN, and author ofThe Small Change Diet, almond butter is the variety that will give you the most bang for your buck. "Per serving it has one of the least amounts of calories, it's a good source of protein, and the most fiber of all of the nut butters," she says. Oh, and almonds can play a key role in weight loss. "According to research published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, a breakfast containing almonds may aid in stabilizing blood sugar levels for the rest of the day," says Gans. "When your blood sugar is steady you often have more energy and are less likely to be starved and give in to food cravings."

But walnut butter packs a weight-loss punch.

If you're looking for an almond butter alternative, Lori Shemek, PhD, and author of Fire-Up Your Fat Burn!, urges you to give walnut butter a go. "Walnuts are dense with omega-3 fats that help to trigger the hormone leptin that tells us we've had enough to eat," she says. "Omega-3 fats are particularly important, as the diets of most individuals are tipped in balance of omega-6 fats, and this leads to low inflammation -- the cause of most illness and weight gain."

Nut butters are like bad-cholesterol-fighting superheroes.

You might think that cholesterol worries are for the over-40 crowd, but it's never too early to start laying the foundation for healthy levels -- which equals a healthier heart. For example, just a tablespoon of almond butter a day promotes heart health by reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol, says Shemek. Stuck with an empty jar? Pistachios also help to keep your arteries flexible and reduce cholesterol, Shemek says.

They can satisfy a sweet tooth.

Just like Carrie Bradshaw had the perfect pair of Manolos to complement every outfit, there is a nut butter that works with other foods to satisfy your sweet tooth -- in a relatively healthy way. Nutritionist Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, and author of S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches suggests whipping macadamia nut butter, pineapple, and a little shaved coconut into a smoothie, or try drizzling warmed walnut butter over oven-baked or grilled apples and pears. Our go-to? Half a banana sliced lengthwise with a teaspoon of almond butter on each side with two teaspoons of shredded coconut. Freeze for at least an hour and enjoy.

And spruce up a sandwich.

Shemek suggests replacing the mayo in your standard sandwich with walnut butter. In fact, nut butter can be a healthy substitute to most of your meals. "Use hazelnut butter to thicken a lamb stew, or add peanut butter to any chicken or beef chili or stew recipe," says Shemek. Another option? Try mixing peanut butter, fresh grated ginger, and garlic to create a sauce for chicken or fish, says Sass.

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