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Which butter is better for you: almond or peanut?

The question: What's better for you – almond butter or peanut butter?

The answer: Almond and peanut butter are both healthy choices and have a similar nutrition profile. Both offer fibre, carbohydrate, fat and protein. One tablespoon of either nut butter contains about 95 calories, 1.5 grams of fibre, 3 grams of carbohydrate, 8 grams of fat and 4 grams of protein.

The fat in almond and peanut butters is mainly unsaturated, the so-called good type that doesn't raise blood cholesterol. Both are good sources of heart healthy monounsaturated fat – the same kind found in olive oil – but almond butter has slightly more (5.2 g per tablespoon versus 3.8 grams).

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When it comes to certain vitamins and minerals however, almond butter has the nutritional edge. Per serving, it provides more than double the vitamin E than peanut butter with 4 milligrams per tablespoon versus 1.5. (Adults need 15 mg daily.) Vitamin E helps promote a healthy immune system and acts as an antioxidant to protect cells, especially brain cells, from free radical damage. In fact, research suggests that consuming more vitamin E from foods helps guard against Alzheimer's disease.

Almond butter contains more calcium and magnesium, minerals important for bone health, blood pressure control and muscle contraction. A tablespoon of almond butter delivers 55 mg of calcium and more than 10 per cent of your daily magnesium (45 mg).

While almond butter delivers more of a few key vitamins and minerals, peanut butter is still a healthy choice. In fact, it's a little higher in some B vitamins (niacin, B6, folate) and selenium than almond butter.

No matter which nut butter you choose, read the ingredient list before you buy. Look for one that's minimally processed without added sugars, hydrogenated oil and preservatives. Ideally, choose a natural nut butter that contains only crushed nuts and maybe some salt.

I also advise my clients to pass on "light" peanut butter, which has 25 per cent less fat than the regular version. Sounds like a lot, but the difference in fat grams and calories is minimal. One tablespoon of Kraft Light Smooth peanut butter, for example, has 80 calories and 6 grams of fat. Kraft's regular smooth peanut butter has 90 calories and 8 grams of fat, hardly much of a savings. And thanks to the addition of a filler called corn maltodextrin (a.k.a. corn starch), the light version has two extra grams of carbohydrate.

Health Canada considers two tablespoons of nut butter as one serving from the meat and alternative food group, the equivalent of 2.5 ounces of meat, chicken or fish. (I'm not quite sure how that computes since 2.5 ounces of meat delivers 20 grams of protein, more than twice as much as two tablespoons of nut butter.) Nevertheless, nut butters do provide a source of plant protein. However, if you're spreading only one or two teaspoons on your toast, treat nut butter as an added fat (a healthy one) rather than a protein food.

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