Why nut butter options are better

Annica Rust, a registered dietitian, explains the benefits of nut butter options.

Benefits of nuts

Consuming more nuts, including peanuts (and nut butter options), may provide numerous benefits for a person with diabetes. These benefits include an improvement in inflammation, decreased cardiovascular risks and a favourable influence on your blood glucose levels. To keep a close eye on your fat intake is thus as important as controlling your carbohydrate intake.

Table 1: Nut butter comparison

Nut butter comparison
Nutritional analysis per 100g
Salted Butter Almond Butter Macadamia butter Peanut butter (no sugar added) Cashew butter
Energy (kJ) 3031 2662 3376 2602 2539
Protein (g) 0.6 24.4 7.7 26.1 20
Carbohydrates (g) 1 4 5 13 14
         of which total sugar(g) 0.6 3.3 3.3 5.9 4.1
Total fat (g) 81.1 58.9 85.4 50.9 51.8
          of which saturated fat (g) 57.3 4.8 14.8 6.3 9.8
       of which polyunsaturated fat (g) 2.4 13.6 3.6 5.2 10.4
of which monounsaturated fat (g) 14.4 40.5 67 39.4 31.2
Cholesterol (g) 160 0 1 0 0
Dietary fibre (g) 0.0 8.1 7.4 6.6 7.7
Total Sodium (mg) 809 28 34 15 34

Nuts, cardiovascular disease and cholesterol

Having diabetes increases your cardiovascular risk significantly, it is therefore important to make sure that the modifiable risk factors, such as your dietary intake, is well-controlled. 1

The latest scientific evidence found that the type of fat* (saturated fat, monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat) consumed, may be more important than the total fat intake to prevent cardiovascular disease2,3. It is therefore important to replace unhealthy fats (saturated-and trans fats) with healthy fats, such as monounsaturated-or polyunsaturated fats, in order to decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease2,3.

In the above nut butter comparison, salted butter was compared to nut butters, which is locally available in South Africa. The nut butters will have much less saturated fats when compared to salted butter. The monounsaturated fat in nut butter is also significantly higher than normal butter.

Nuts or nut butter can definitely replace an unhealthy fat portion or even a protein portion. 

Types of fats*

Saturated fat Trans-fatty acid Monounsaturated                     Polyunsaturated fats

Omega-3                         Omega-6

Visible fat on meat

Skin of the chicken





Cream cheese



Full cream milk products

Sour cream

Coconut, palm oil

Fried foods

Commercially baked foods (cakes, cookies)

Snack food (chips, crackers, microwave popcorn)

Margarine (hydrogenated)

Olive, canola, peanut oil


Nuts (cashews, almonds, peanuts, peanuts, macadamia, pistachios)

Peanut butter

Sesame seeds

Fatty fish (Tuna, salmon, herring, mackerel)



Pumpkin and sunflower seeds

Oils (corn, sunflower, cottonseed)


Margarine (nonhydrogenated)


Nuts and glycaemic index (GI)

The GI of food can be used to compare the effects of food that contains carbohydrates on blood glucose levels.3 Foods with a low-GI will be digested and absorbed at a lower rate and will keep your blood glucose levels constant. As such, nuts with a low-GI will therefore have a positive impact on your blood glucose as it will be slowly digested and absorbed. Monounsaturated fats (which includes nuts) are also associated with improved blood glucose control3.

Nuts and inflammation

Walnuts are high in omega 3 fatty acids which has anti-inflammatory properties. 


Nuts remain one of the better fat options when consumed in moderation and when used to replace an unhealthy fat. Controlling your fat intake in conjunction with a healthy balanced low-GI diet, remains important to all people with diabetes. Please contact a registered dietitian for individualised guidelines.

Note: People who have diabetes and have a nut allergy need to remember that nut butters are not an option for them.


  1. Lipid Management in Patients with Endocrine Disorders: An Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline
  2. Saturated Fat as Compared With Unsaturated Fats and Sources of Carbohydrates in Relation to Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: A Prospective Cohort Study


Annica Rust is a registered dietitian practicing at the Breast Care Unit in Netcare Milpark Hospital as well as in Bryanston, Gauteng. She strives to provide individualised and practical nutritional care to improve the lifestyle and health of all of her patients.