|Spread the word: These smooth tastes offer health benefits for kids of all ages.
Think peanut butter is kids' stuff? Think again. Today everyone from picky youngsters to gourmands can choose from a variety of natural nut butters that will satisfy even sophisticated palates. What's more, these spreads - mashed versions of whole nuts - can fit into the latest guidelines for healthful eating.
"Nuts show up everywhere in cuisines of southern Italy, Greece, and other Mediterranean countries where people have traditionally had the lowest rates in the world of heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases," says Marissa Cloutier, nutrition professor at the University of Hartford and coauthor of The Mediterranean Diet (HarperCollins, 2004). "Nuts are one of the keys to the region's longevity rates."
Nuts and nut butters are chock-full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, and phytonutrients - substances that are thought to help protect against cancer, heart disease, and other chronic ills.
Whether you purchase nut butters for their health benefits, to add variety to your family's diet, or simply for great taste, you can find these spreads and more at your neighborhood Publix:
Almond butter. Almonds rank high in vitamin E and flavonoids, which are believed to play a role in heart health. In addition, flavonoids protect the body's cells from damage that can lead to cancer. A tablespoon of almond butter has about 100 calories, half a gram of fiber, and 9 grams of fat. Enjoy almond butter with assorted crackers or sliced apples. Or mix some into oatmeal or a banana smoothie for a nice change of taste.
|Soy nut butter. Made with ground, roasted soybeans, soy nut butter is a terrific alternative for people with nut allergies. (Just be sure the variety you choose is manufactured in a nut-free setting.) Ounce per ounce, the spread provides more protein than the other nonpeanut-based butters - 4 grams per tablespoon. Each tablespoonful also provides about 85 calories, 6 grams of fat, and half a gram of fiber. Try soy nut butter for little ones, who can safely enjoy it for lunch in nut-free schools.
Macadamia butter. Made of ground macadamia nuts, this spread has a sweet, buttery taste, which makes it a nice topping for ice cream and other desserts. A tablespoon contains about 115 calories, 12 grams of fat, and 1.5 grams of fiber.
Tahini. A butter made of ground sesame seeds, tahini is used in many Middle Eastern favorites, such as hummus (tahini mixed with mashed chickpeas, lemon juice, and garlic) and baba ghanoush (tahini pureed with eggplant, lemon juice, garlic, and oil). Both make great sandwich fillers when spread on pita bread. One tablespoon has about 90 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 1.5 grams of fiber.
Omega peanut butter. Unlike other peanut butters, Smart Balance Omega Peanut Butter is loaded with healthful omega-3 fatty acids, a type of fat associated with a lower risk of heart disease and possibly some types of cancer. The key to the spread's high omega-3 content is flaxseed oil. Like many other types of peanut butter, Smart Balance has about 100 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 1 gram of fiber per tablespoon. Use the spread for sandwiches, cookies, or anything you'd make with regular peanut butter.