Monday Medical: Going nuts for nut butter
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For a food packed with protein, fiber, heart-healthy fats, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins, look no further than nut butter.
“Nut butters are excellent plant sources of protein, and at the same time, high in fiber and healthy fats,” said Cara Marrs, a registered dietitian nutritionist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “They’re a great package.”
That protein helps build muscle, the fiber feeds beneficial gut bacteria and promotes good digestion, and the monounsaturated fats help you feel satiated longer and benefit your heart.
“These fats are good for maintaining overall cholesterol levels and decreasing your risk of heart disease,” Marrs said.
Nut butters also have a range of antioxidants, which do everything from helping fight cancer to boosting brain health, while minerals and vitamins, such as magnesium, zinc, calcium, and vitamins E, B and D, round out the nutritional benefits.
Plus, nut butters taste good. Below, Marrs outlines what to know about the various types of nut butters.
While peanuts are the most popular nuts eaten in the U.S., they’re actually legumes. In addition to protein, fiber and healthy fats, they’re good sources of copper, folate, biotin, phosphorus and vitamin E.
To incorporate more nut butter into your diet, try out the following recipes.
Peanut Butter Balls
Vigorously mix 1 cup natural peanut butter with 4 tablespoons of pure maple syrup, then stir in 1 to 3 tablespoons coconut flour. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 6 tablespoons rice crisp cereal. Shape into small balls. Heat 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips and 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil over low heat until melted, then remove from heat and stir until smooth. Dip the balls into the melted chocolate and dry on parchment paper. Freeze until firm.
Add 3/4 cup hot water, 1 cup raw cashews, 1 clove garlic (chopped), 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon harissa or hot sauce to a blender. Blend until creamy, adding more water as needed. Taste and adjust flavor as needed. Serve with chips, tacos, nachos and more.
Peanut butter steals the show in a range of recipes, from peanut sauce to peanut butter cookies. Just be sure your peanut butter doesn’t have added sugar or hydrogenated fats and try to buy organic.
“Peanuts are a ground crop, so they’re moist and susceptible to mold and mycotoxins, which can cause depression, allergies, permeable gut syndrome and other health issues,” Marrs said. “And since they grow on the ground, they’re sprayed with a lot of chemicals. If you buy organic, you won’t get those chemicals.”
With its slight, natural sweetness, almond butter pairs well with smoothies, breads, desserts and fruit.
“Almond butter is really high in riboflavin and L-carnitine, both of which are good for your brain,” Marrs said. “And research shows it has high concentrations of antioxidants and flavanols, which can help fight cancer and lessen oxidative stress from bad diet, pollution, sun exposure and more.”
High in heart-friendly fats, this creamy nut butter is a great source of essential minerals and soluble fiber. With a mild flavor, it’s easy to add to a range of dishes. “Cashews are a really good base for dairy substitutes,” Marrs said. “Soak the cashews in water, then blend them to make a buttery base you can use in vegan cheesecakes, salad dressings and more.”
These nuts are especially high in folate, along with vitamin D, the B vitamins, potassium, copper, magnesium and zinc. “We need those electrolytes when exercising, so this is a good one to add into sports foods, such as energy balls,” Marrs said.
Sunflower seed butter
Made with seeds, sunflower seed butter can be a great option for people with nut allergies. It also provides lots of heart healthy fats and various natural antioxidants to pack an extra nutritional punch.
The next time you’re in the kitchen, consider working a nut butter into your meal.
“You can literally incorporate nuts and nut butters into every single meal, and all of a sudden, you’ve elevated the nutrient density,” Marrs said.
Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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