Your Ultimate Nut Butter Shopping Guide!

We all can agree that nut butters are just awesome! Whatever your nut of choice is, nothing beats a thick slice of toast slathered with a heaping dollop of creamy nut butter topped with fruit jelly? HECK! You’ve probably had them right off the spoon? Guilty here! (Sorry to those with nut allergies). A true blue go-to snack growing up.

Aside from tasting just so dang amazing, for those into the whole fitness & nutrition game, you would have learnt of its’ excellent nutritional benefits; Rich in heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, an amazing source of whole food plant based protein, and loaded with essential vitamins & minerals – making them the perfect source of fuel for lean-clean gains & maintaining a healthy waistline.

And hey, even the kids are in on it, giving them a great energy boost to get through an active school day!

With a plethora of benefits just waiting to be un-capped, won't you say getting the right jar's essential for both you and your family?

So, how have you been going about your nut butter shopping? Have you been picking up jars of whatever’s on “Promo”? Best value? Or scooping up those familiar brands you grew up with (You know which we’re talking about)?

Have you been lured by those “No Stir”, “Sugar Free”, Or “Fat Free” quick-captivating mumbo-jumbo marketers slap on those labels?

You see, it’s no secret (anymore), with the skyrocketing trend of “Healthy Eating”, we’re all getting a little pickier with our choices, joining the ranks of “Label Readers”. And here’s the kicker, marketers are in on it as well. They know what makes us tick.

Well, don’t be embarrassed if you’ve fallen victim, we’ve all been there. They’re professional marketers for a reason. Up-Selling, stretching the truth or in some cases Omitting Them Completely, are all part of their job!

Here are some of the common mistakes we base our decision upon;

Common Decision Making Mistakes

#1 Cost (Price)

Here’s one we’re ALL guilty of. When we’re looking to save a couple of bucks, the cheapest, or those which offers the best value, wins!

Who couldn't use a little more cash in their pockets?! Especially so, given the current rather volatile situation. There are many other aspect of our lives we can shave off a couple of bucks, but, on food? Maybe not sure a good idea.

"Cheap Price Tag, Huge Health Cost!"

So, back to shopping nut butters - why do we choose to go for cheaper brands? Here's the thing, to remain "cheap" these companies have to rely on some less than inferior ingredients to "dilute" the amount of actual nuts needed, therefore, reducing the overall cost on those products. That’s the only way they are able to sell at a cheap and still keep stay in business.

So, it goes without saying; your health and wellbeing, isn’t exactly on top of their list. You need to outweigh the “Cost-(Health) Benefit” in the long-run. Saving a little now, could put a dent on your overall health further along the line.

So that brings us to our next issue. Does a more expensive brand mean a product of higher quality? Well, yes and no. Such brands may use “some” ingredients of a better quality compared to the cheaper ones; such as; “Organic Oils”, “Organic additives” or other “Exotic” ingredients, justifying their prices.

However, look a little closer at the ingredients, and you might be surprised at how much other processed fats and fillers go into their product to make them taste, well, "better". Which isn't anything you need in a good quality jar of nut butter.

But we’ll get into that a little later.

In other words, price alone shouldn’t be your main decision maker.

#2 It’s All In The Label! (NOT)

Think of this as YouTube’s Click Bate on a jar label. A title filled with attention getting jargons, enticing you to take the bait. Yet, it never is as exciting or suspense filled as “advertised” yes? Well, same story here. Marketers are at liberty to spill anything and everything their hearts desire to get you to jump in and scoop up their “Top-Of-The-Line” product. Trust us, they know what you want, they know what you want to see, they know what gets you going! Yet, those labels couldn’t be further from the truth (for most brands at least). 

Healthy buzz words like “No Added Sugars”, “No Added Preservatives”, “No Stir” “Zero Fat” are all the rage now. And so, they pepper those labels with them, luring you into their “trap”! One thing these Marketers can’t “stretch the truth” on, is the INGREDIENT list.

So, remember, labels are just a canvas for the artist, what matters is the true meaning being the art. READ THAT INGREDIENTS LIST

Clues To Look Out For

Now, pick up that jar you have sitting in your pantry and have a look at that label. Is it slammed with any of the following;

  1. “NO STIR”
  2. “EXTRA CREAMY”
  3. “SUGAR FREE”
  4. “NO ADDED SUGAR” 

If so, you might have just gotten a little more than you've bargained for. 

Lets’ have a closer look at the first 2.

Whenever a label screams “NO STIR” or “EXTRA CREAMY”, you might want to reconsider. The thing is, natural nut butters, will have an oil separation when left on the shelves. It’s normal. Thus, you are required to stir it up before using it, allowing the oils to emulsify and come to a spreadable consistency.

And, marketers know that some consumers might find this somewhat of an inconvenience.

Low and behold, companies have "answered" that call by introducing “NO STIR” or “EXTRA CREAMY” nut butters. Which, to achieve this, companies rely extensively on the use of Hydrogenated Oils into their products.

Let’s dive a little deeper into what Hydrogenated Oils are.

HYDROGENATED OILS

What Is it?

Hydrogenated oils, to simply put, are plant based oils which have gone through a hydrogenation process i.e. synthetically introducing hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils which are achieved in labs.

As these oils are generally liquid at room temperature, it's harder to make use of them in their products, as such, the hydrogenation process gives it a more stable consistency, making it easier to incorporate into their products.

Why Companies Use it?

First of all, IT’S REALLY REALLY CHEAP! Also, it helps improve the texture as well as taste of the products. Hence, when mixed together into nut butters; it makes them “permanently” emulsified – i.e. NO STIR! / EXTRA CREAMY. Plus, with the addition of synthetic oils, it also significantly increase the shelf stability of the nut butters, allowing them to last longer on grocery aisles. 

Sure, these are all great for companies, which is why they love using them. But, not so great for you, and for your health.

Health Impacts (What This All Means For Your Healthy?) 

Plant based oils are generally safe to consume, in moderation of course. However, what happens during the hydrogenation process actually causes the formation of what’s known as Trans Fatty Acids or better known as “Trans Fats”, a type of saturated fat which wreaks havoc on your overall health.

Side Effects of Trans Fats 

Having Trans Fats in your diet can pose some significant risks; 

Impairs Blood Sugar Control

Which causes spikes in insulin resistance (impaired ability to regulate blood sugar levels) which leads to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Increased Inflammation

Leading to higher risks of certain forms of cancers as well as heart disease. A recent study found that those who regularly consume foods with levels of trans fats stand a 73% higher risk of developing heart disease. Why? Trans Fat encourages the development of LDL (bad) cholesterol in our body i.e. the stuff that causes plaque build-up in arteries, leading to possible heart attacks and stroke.

No Stir may be great for that added convenience, but, that extra seconds you save on mixing up your nut butter, may have significant health consequences in the long-run. Why not burn some extra calories to mix it up good yourself!

ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS

Next contender, “SUGAR FREE” and “NO SUGAR ADDED!”.

There’s no debate, refined sugars are just bad news. And, thanks to social media, we’re getting better informed of the detrimental effects sugar has on our overall health and wellbeing. So, yes, brands know this as well, heck, they’re probably better informed than most of us are. 

Thus, to say ahead of the game, they’re resorting to the use of “Fake Sugars”. Also known as synthetic sweeteners. In order to be marketed as "Healthier".

What Is it? 

So what are synthetic sweeteners? Simply put; they’re just a bunch of chemicals, formulated in labs, developed specifically for those who are unable to consume any form of refined sugars i.e. those who are diabetic. These artificial sweeteners tend to be thousands of times sweeter than regular sugars, hence, companies wouldn’t require very much of it to sweeten things up. 

Why Companies Use Them? 

Calorie free synthetic sweeteners aren’t anything new. But, in recent times, especially with the sky-rocketing trend of more consumers keeping a look-out for “Healthier” food options, an increasing number of companies are finding ways to jump on the bandwagon, using any means necessary to get their products marketed as a “Healthier” option, while saving a couple of bucks all at the same time. And, with more advocacy groups vocalising the ill side-effects of refine sugars, companies are more motivated than ever to redevelop their recipes just to stay competitive.

They may claim it’s “SUGAR FREE / NO ADDED SUGAR” on those colourful labels, but, they can’t hide them on their ingredient labels. Keep your eyes peeled for these culprits! Namely; 1. Maltitol, 2. Sucralose or 3. Maltodextrin.

Health Impacts (What This All Means For Your Healthy?)

Consuming these artificial sweeteners too frequently WILL throw your healthy gut bacteria out of balance. This is definitely not something you want happen.

You see, having a good, healthy gut not only allows us to properly digest food, but, it also plays an important role in maintaining a strong immune system, protect us against germs, and contributes to the production of molecules which affects many other aspects of our health.

In other words, your gut function as the main “Operations Centre” to your entire body.

So, destroying it through the consumption of these harmful chemicals, isn’t going to do you any good, especially in the long-run. As they say “A Healthy Gut, A Healthy You!” 

Side Effects of Synthetic Sweeteners 

When you throw your gut out of sync, there are going to be consequences;

Weakened Immune System

Introducing your gut to such chemicals will impede its’ ability to produce the good bacteria essential towards fighting off viruses and infections - resulting in your body's inability to ward off common illnesses.

Disrupted Sleep

Artificial sweeteners may promote hyperactivity, thus, leading to an increased risk of insomnia. 

Weight Gain

Due to the potency of the level of sweetness found in chemical sweeteners, this causes your brain to crave more sweet treats throughout the day, thus, leading to increased binging! And we all know, that’s never good news for your waistline! 

Sweetness is not in itself unhealthy, we simply eat only the most unhealthy kind of sweetness” – Giulia Enders

In a Nutshell

Whichever nut base tickles your tastebuds, picking out a good jar of nut butter isn't rocket science, as the name suggests, it should just contain the nut of choice, and maybe a touch of salt - NOTHING ELSE!

And, of course - though the physical cost of getting a good jar may be relatively greater, the health benefits you, and your family stand to reap, are priceless!