Blended in a smoothie or spread on toast, nut butters are a great way to add protein to meals. Toast with peanut butter keeps you full a whole lot longer than toast with regular butter, anyway.
Nuts contain unsaturated fatty acids, which can help lower the form of cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, in your blood, according to the Mayo Clinic. In general, higher LDL is associated with increased risk for heart disease because it contributes to plaque in your blood. Plaque is also known as the junk that blocks arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes, according to the American Heart Association.
Nuts are mostly fat, so it’s probably best to eat them in moderation. Nut butters are high in calories even when they are made exclusively with nuts — no sugar or added fats are necessary. So brands that are really only made from nuts are what you should be looking for in your grocery store.
Some nut butter brands add fat or oil to prevent separation of oils. This is especially true for major peanut butter brands like Skippy and Jif: both contain hydrogenated vegetable oil.
But smaller organic almond butter brands rely on added fats as well. Brands like Justin’s, Barney Butter and Maranatha’s No-Stir almond butter all contain palm oil.
Justin’s explains the palm oil by saying it helps prevent oil separation. But here’s the thing: A 2006 study showed that diets rich in palm oil contribute to an increase in LDL — the very cholesterol that nut fats are supposed to combat.
As trans fats went out of style, palm oil took their place in the American food supply, according to NPR. But perceptions surrounding saturated fats are changing — some studies have shown that eating full-fat dairy is linked to lower overall body fat, though moderation is still very important.
So be aware of where you’re getting your saturated fat, and look for ways to skip it when possible.