Q:Are some nut butters more nutritious than others? What about Nutella?
A:All nut butters—from almond and cashew to macadamia and walnut—have something healthful to offer. But go easy on Nutella.
Nut butters provide healthful fats, protein, a little fiber, and an array of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Their specific nutrients vary somewhat, though, depending on the type of nut. Walnut butter, for instance, is richest in alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fat, while almond butter provides a small amount of calcium (60 milligrams per tablespoon) and the most fiber, with 2 grams.
Studies have shown that all kinds of nuts help improve cholesterol levels and have other heart-healthy effects. There’s no reason to think that plain nut butters wouldn’t have the same benefits. One study linked consumption of a tablespoon of peanut butters most days of the week in women to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Many nut butters contain just ground-up nuts. But some have added salt and sugar. Some also contain small amounts of partially hydrogenated oil, a source of unhealthful trans fats, to keep them from separating; others use palm oil, whose health effects are unclear. All nut butters have about 100 calories per tablespoon.
Soy nut butter is another option. It tastes somewhat like peanut butter but is lower in fat and calories and higher in protein.
Nutella, a chocolate-hazelnut spread, is a different story. The original recipe was developed in Italy during World War II when cocoa supplies were low and hazelnuts were plentiful. But its main ingredients today are sugar (11 grams per tablespoon, providing about 40 percent of the calories) and palm oil, followed by hazelnuts, cocoa solids and skim milk.