Artisan nut butters made with high quality organic & raw ingredients with no added sugar, salt, palm oil or other oils … sounds perfect. Do they taste as good as they sound though?
You know, when you've been following a Paleo lifestyle for a while, you forget how many ‘new' foods you've tried that were unknown or a mystery for years. Nut butters is a case in point. Until recently, peanut butter was pretty much all you could get your hands on, from the supermarket. I liked it but wasn't a massive fan.
Then I learnt about the lectins (a toxin) and phytic acid (which in large amounts reduces absorption of essential nutrients like magnesium, calcium, zinc, iron and copper) and the aflatoxins (just the name speaks volumes!) which is a mould that grown on the peanut plant and contaminates it and can lead to cancer and Hepatitis B – eek!
I discussed this with Zoe to get her view (she makes peanut butter so I was intrigued to get her take on it). Tree nuts, drupes and dried fruits can also be affected by aflatoxins and comes down to storage and food safety systems the grower has in place. Suffice to say Zoe makes sure her suppliers have very high standards so any aflatoxins present are within acceptable boundaries - good to know!
Personally I don't usually eat peanuts anymore (they are a legume anyway, not a nut, so not Paleo) but good to know if you'e buying from reputable producers and suppliers, the aflatoxin risk is minimal.
Anyway, I digress. Nut butters are now becoming quite thetrendy staple in your cupboard, touted as great in Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids(but go careful on the level of Omega 6 as it's inflammatory) and a great protein hit.Great spread on toast - paleo toast, obv ;-) – or as a snack with chopped apple(my personal way of consuming them), add to green smoothies or to give yourbaking efforts a nutrient boost.
I met Zoe Harrison, owner of Butterbelle, a few years backat a tourism event, while she was studying a degree at Harper Adams Uni inFood, Nutrition in Wellbeing (which she smashed and got a First in!). I lovedthe idea of her business and the quality of the ingredients she used – nut buttersas nut butters should be – organic, raw, no added nasties, no sugar, no salt,no added oil. It's just taken me until now to review them!
I asked Zoe a few questions so you can get to know her alittle better …
How did Butterbelle begin?
Butterbelle began while I was studying at Harper Adams ... as a mature student I wanted to make the most of my uni experience. Also I lead an active lifestyle and ate a lot of nut butter as it's nutrient dense and of course an alternative source of protein. I'm not a vegetarian or vegan but I am a conscious consumer and I'm reducing meat consumption due to the burden on earth's resources.
I found it hard to find nut butters that don't contain palm oil, which is a disaster for the environment (deforestation, loss of habitat for wildlife). It's also been linked by some studies to increased appetite due to interference with leptin, the satiety hormone (it 'tells us' when we are full). It's attractive to food manufacturers because it's cheap and has a long shelf life ... and it's becoming harder and harder to avoid (even in bread now!).
How do your nut butters differ from supermarket ones?
I don't use salt or sugar ... consumers can add them if they want to but this makes them suitable for diabetics and those following a low sugar and/or salt diet. I have a customer who follows a strict ketogenic diet under her doctor's supervision (think a very low carb version of Paleo) to treat her epilepsy and my nut butters are great for her.
Also, I only use certified organic ingredients ... due to their high fat content nuts can absorb a large amount of the harmful pesticides used in conventional farming methods.
What can we make with your nut butters?
Lots of great things! Smoothies, shakes, energy balls, baked products (e.g. biscuits and cakes), satay sauce, walnut pesto - the options are endless.
Right, onto the main event, are her nut butters all they'recracked up to be?? I tried 3 (on their own and with apple slices) and theresults are in from me and my crack team of testers, including one who hatespeanut butter and had never heard you could get other nut butters!:
Ingredients: Roasted Organic Hazelnuts (yep that is it –compare that to a typical peanut butter of Roasted Peanuts, Peanut Oil, Palm Oil,Sugar, Salt )
Taste: WOWZERS, such an intense hazelnut taste in a really,really good way. Total hit with the team taste-wise.
Texture: We all agreed it tasted a bit grainy and we felt iteither needed to be totally smooth or a crunchy nut butter. It's pretty dryingin the mouth too so you probably wouldn't use too much of it.
Organic Almond Butter
Ingredients: Roasted Organic Almond Nuts (surprise, surprise,that's it)
Taste: YUM, has anice naturally sweet edge to it and is really pleasant straight out of the jaron its own and with apple.
Texture: Much smoother, definitely a hit with the team andthey said they'd find it easier to eat more of this one. Very slight graininessto it but not an issue.
Organic Cashew &Cacao Butter
Ingredients: Have a guess … Roasted Organic Cashews, RawOrganic Cacao powder
Taste: Think a really posh chocolate spread, but without allthe cr*p ingredients. Obviously less sweet but still enough to keep the teamhappy (especially the ones still addicted to sugar, which surprised me!). Thisone didn't go with apple but the team were more than happy getting bitsstraight out of the jar. I think a slice of sourdough bread would be a good compromisehere. The taste is strong from the cacao so you don't need to eat much.
Texture: Super smooth, easily the smoothest of the bunch.Very thick so use sparingly.
And the winner is….
Well, I'd have the Hazelnut Butter, just for the tastesensation that it is! The rest of the team said they'd eat relatively more ofthe Almond Butter but their go-to favourite would be the Cashew & CacaoButter – so, um, they're all winners?!?!
Omega 3 vs. Omega 6
It would be remiss of me not to point out that nuts docontain fairly high levels of Omega 6 fatty acids. As far as Omega 3 goes, allgood, get it in you! But as for the Omega 6, it is inflammatory so don't gooverboard with the volume that you consume (but don't be scared of them, Omega6 fatty acids found in say Vegetable Oil are far more damaging to your body).
In addition to the nut butters tested, Zoe also makes other nut butters, tahini and seed butters:
Coconut Peanut Butter
Cashew Butter with Cinnamon
Almond Butter with Manuka Honey
Walnut Butter with Maple Syrup
Hazelnut and Chocolate Spread
Pumpkin Seed Butter
Sunflower Seed Butter
You can order Butterbelle Nut Butters (priced from £2.99) via Zoe's Facebook Page, catch her at various Farmers Markets or email her firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.
Dive in and enjoy! :-)