Give your PB & J a makeover

Give your PB & J a makeover

The average American eats 6.6 pounds of peanuts (in various forms) each year, according to the National Peanut Board.

Some of those peanuts are consumed through the childhood favorite sandwich, peanut butter and jelly. However, with a growing population of individuals having peanut allergies, various protein-packed nut butters are also good alternatives to traditional peanut butter.

“Nut and seed butters can be nutritious alternatives as they contain heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats,” says Lexie Weber,  registered dietitian at Advocate Eureka Hospital in Eureka, Ill. “Both of these fats are known to decrease LDL [bad] cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which in turn, lower the risk of metabolic syndrome, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.”

Weber recommends walnut butter, almond butter and sunflower butter as great alternatives given their nutrient rich profile. Walnut butter tops the list for heart healthy benefits. Just like peanut butter, serving sizes are important due to its high calorie and fat content. Weber says the serving size for nut and seed butters is 2 tablespoons per day.

Alternative butters may be too costly for some, so Weber encourages making your own at home.

“Walnut butter is easy to make, and offers a variety of convenient applications,” she says. “Spread on crostini and garnish with a slice of fruit or fresh herbs for an elegant appetizer, or use it as a dip for crisp vegetables for a quick snack.”

Recipe for Homemade Walnut Butter

Adapted from California Walnuts

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons walnut or vegetable oil (or as needed)

Optional, to taste:

  • A little honey and/or cinnamon

Directions
You can make walnut butter using raw, soaked or toasted walnuts. Here’s how to do all three, and why they’re different.

Raw walnuts: Use raw walnuts for a very creamy and smooth texture that tastes like a just-shelled walnut.

Soaked walnuts: This method will remove some of the tannin from the walnut skin, and offer a more textured walnut butter. Soak walnuts overnight, drain and discard the water. Then, toast the walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for up to 15 minutes to dry them out (don’t let them get dark). Cool the walnuts before making them into butter.

Toasted walnuts: To enhance the sweet, nutty flavor of walnuts, toast them before making them into butter. Walnut butter with toasted walnuts will provide a coarse textured finished product. Toast walnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet at 350 degrees for eight to 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Cool the walnuts before making them into butter.

To make the butter
Make walnut butter by putting the walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and grinding them until they become sticky or paste-like. Add the salt. Then add the oil, a little bit at a time until the walnut butter binds together. If you like, add small touches of honey and/or cinnamon to taste.

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About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.