Beverley has a degree in science and additional certifications in nutrition and aromatherapy. She's published on and offline.
Nut Butters vs. Seed Butters
Health experts have advised us to include nuts and seeds in our diets. Some of us worry about their high-fat content. However, their exceptional nutritional value far outweighs that one drawback. These beneficial nutrients still exist in nut and seed butter. Additionally, the spreadable forms are convenient, versatile, and less messy.
We know nuts and seeds are physically different. Are they also different in nutritional content and health benefits? If so, could one group of butter be healthier than the other?
There Are So Many Varieties!
When you search the Internet for nut and seed butter, results tend to focus on the top or popular types, brands, those with high protein content, those suitable for weight loss, allergen loads, those suitable for specific diets such as keto, and cost.
In terms of popularity, people seem to favor almond, cashew, hazelnut, coconut, and of course peanut butter. For seed spreads, they lean toward pumpkin, sesame, poppy, and sunflower.
People also enjoy macadamia, pistachio, walnut, and soy nut butter as well as hemp, watermelon, and flaxseed butter.
How Are Nut Butters and Seed Butters Made?
It’s quite easy to make your own nut and/ or seed butter. The first consideration is the qualities you want in it.
Where the preference is raw ingredients, seeds and nuts are blanched or soaked for a while to remove their thin skins and create a creamier texture. If the desire is nutrition density, they are sprouted.
In cooked butter, nuts and seeds are roasted. This process exposes their natural oils, which heighten flavor potency and make the next steps in production easier.
Nuts or seeds are then blended to a texture of choice. Other ingredients such as preservatives, sweeteners, and emulsifiers, especially if manufactured commercially, are added at this point.
The butters are now ready to be packaged and stored/ refrigerated or transported.
Want to try making your own nut and seed butter? This article has some great recipes!
Plant-Based Butter Tastes and Textures
If you’ve eaten peanut butter, especially various types, you have some idea about the taste and texture of nut and seed butter. However, characteristics really depend on the individual nut, seed, and the type of spread you consume: regular, reduced fat, sugar-free, natural, or organic. Examples of the taste and texture of regular or plain nut and seed butters are in the table below.
Nut Butter Flavors and Textures
Slightly sweet, slightly salty, nutty, earthy
Slightly sweet, slightly salty, earthier than peanut butter
Thicker, richer, and grainier than peanut butter
Slightly sweet, slightly salty, slightly nutty
Not as thick, creamy, grainy if skins were left intact
Subtle sweetness, similar to an Almond Joy candy bar
The warmer the temperature, the creamier the butter
Very mild, very subtle nuttiness
Slightly sweet, herbal-like
Intense nuttiness and earthiness
Smooth but runny
Seed Butter Flavors and Textures
Sweet, slightly earthy, nutty
Thick, rich, creamy
Grainy, thick or liquidy, depending on processing
Poppy Seed Butter
Sunflower Seed Butter
Mild, nutty, earthy
Smooth, thicker than peanut butter
Slightly sweet, earthy like sunflower, nutty like cashew
Not as thick as peanut butter, akin to tahini
Which Has the Longer Shelf-Life: Nut Butters or Seed Butters?
The average shelf life of plain, non-preservative nut and seed butters is one month at room temperature and two to three months refrigerated. With preservatives and additives, you may get 12 months, especially if stored in a cool, dry place.
Plant-based butters longevity depends on a number of variables, including moisture content, oil content, particle size, and added ingredients. The more moisture and fat content for example, the higher the probability of rancidity.
Refrigeration can extend the life of these plant-based spreads, but it can also harden them as in the case of almond butter.
Nut and seed butters sitting on the shelves for a while may also undergo oil separation. I have opened jars of peanut and almond butter to find a layer of oil sitting on top of the solids.
Commercial manufacturers do try to ensure foodborne bacterial pathogens such as Salmonella are kept at the lowest possible levels.
Nutritional Profile of Plant-Based Nut Butters and Seed Butters
Does nut butter and seed butter have different nutrients? A nut is defined as a dry fruit with one seed enclosed in a hard shell. A seed is an “embryonic plant” enclosed in a protective sheath. Since nuts and seeds are both parts of a plant’s reproductive process, their nutritional components are similar.
Generally, nut and seed butter have rich supplies of protein, dietary fiber, monounsaturated fats, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (polyunsaturated fats), vitamins B and E, minerals such as magnesium, potassium, iron, selenium, and zinc, and antioxidant polyphenols. Differences depend on the individual nut and seed. Examples are in the table below.
Nutritional Profile of Nut Butters
protein (highest value), dietary fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, lots of essential amino acids, vitamins B-3, B-5, B-6, and folate (high), vitamins B-1 and B-2, vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, zinc
protein, dietary fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acid (high), amino acids lutein and zeaxanthin, B vitamins (high in B-2, B-3, folate), vitamin E (high), calcium, copper, iron, magnesium (high), phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, zinc
protein, dietary fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, lots of essential amino acids, vitamins B-1 and folate (high), B-2, B-3, B-5, B-6, calcium (high), copper, iron (high), magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sodium, zinc
protein, dietary fiber, omega-3 fatty acids (high), Vitamin B-1, vitamin C, vitamin E (very high), calcium, copper (high), iron, magnesium, manganese (high), phosphorus, potassium, sodium
protein, dietary fiber, monounsaturated oleic fatty acid, polyunsaturated linoleic acid, lots of saturated fatty acids, amino acids (high in trans-zeatin), vitamin C, calcium, iron, sodium
Macadamia Nut Butter*
protein (lowest), dietary fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids (high), polyunsaturated fatty acids, saturated fats (high), vitamin E (high), calcium, iron (high), magnesium (high), potassium sodium
protein, dietary fiber (high), vitamins B-1 and B-6, copper, manganese, phosphorus, potassium (high)
protein (low), dietary fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids (highest in alpha-linoleic), vitamin C, calcium, iron, potassium, sodium
Nutritional Profile of Seed Butters
protein, dietary fiber (high), monounsaturated fatty acids (high), omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (high), copper, magnesium (high), phosphorus, zinc
Sesame Seed/ Tahini Butter*
protein, dietary fiber (high), vitamins B-1, B-3, B-6, and folate, calcium, copper (high), iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc
Poppy Seed Butter**
protein, dietary fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids (high), vitamins B-1, B-6, and folate (high), B-2, B-3, B-5, vitamin E (high), calcium (high), copper (high), iron (high), magnesium (high), manganese (high), magnesium (high), potassium, phosphorus (high), selenium (high), sodium, zinc (high)
Sunflower Seed Butter*
protein, dietary fiber, vitamin B-6, vitamin E (high), copper, iron, magnesium, selenium (high), zinc
Hemp Seed Butter***
protein, dietary fiber, monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids (high in omega-5 and omega-3), vitamin B-1, vitamin E, calcium, copper, iron (high), magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc
Watermelon Seed Butter*
protein, monounsaturated fatty acids (high), polyunsaturated fatty acids (high), lots of essential amino acids, folate (high), copper, iron (high), magnesium (high), manganese, phosphorus, potassium, zinc
Health Benefits: Nut Butters vs. Seed Butters
Research is giving us more and more evidence of the potential health benefits of plant-based nutrients and diets. Consuming plant protein, for instance, may not create the risk of cardiovascular issues as consuming animal protein. Nut and seed butter are part of this healthier-eating alternative.
But which group of butters delivers more benefits, nuts or seeds?
Overall, research indicates that consuming nuts and seeds and their spreadable counterparts may lower the risk of illnesses such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity, and gallstones by reducing oxidative stress, inflammation, blood pressure, and bad LDL cholesterol. As to which group provides more benefits, that again depends on the specific nut or seed. You can find more researched information on nuts and seeds here.
The boatload of polyphenol compounds and omega-3 fatty acid in walnut butter, for instance, may help reduce inflammation, and oxidative stress, while also providing vegetarians and vegans these heart-healthy nutrients. While the high quantity of phytosterols and vitamin E in sunflower seed butter may be better for lowering cholesterol in the blood.
Please note there’s no medical evidence to support nut butter or seed butter curing, treating, or preventing any disease. Consult your healthcare provider before consuming any product for health purposes.
Nut Butter Versus Seed Butter
Side Effects & Safety Concerns of Nut and Seed Butters
Although nut and seed butters are healthy choices, if you’re inclined to purchase rather than make your own, there are a few things to consider:
- How processed is the nut butter or seed butter? Does it contain lots of preservatives and additives such as sugar, corn syrup, artificial flavorings, or colorings?
- Is the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids ratio balanced? Having a 1:1 ratio is important. Read here for more information.
- Are you or any family member allergic to tree nuts such as almond or walnuts, legumes such as peanuts or soybean, and seeds such as sesame or poppy?
So, which class of plant-based butter wins, nuts or seeds? Some folks lean toward seed butter. Personally, I think we humans are the winners. Whether we consume nut butters or seed butters, we get loads of important and essential nutrients to support our cardiovascular system, weight loss, and prevent diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
Also, we can purchase nut and seed butters tailored to our specific needs. If you want plant-based spreads with high protein content, for example, there is peanut, almond, cashew, sunflower seed, or sesame seed/ tahini. If you prefer organic, raw, low carb, or paleo butter, you can find those in both categories as well.
4 Easy Nut Butter Recipes by Simply Quinoa
Matcha Bread Pudding with Pumpkinseed Butter by ANRIV Foodie
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2022 Beverley Byer