Today I’m sharing something a little closer to my personal research interests (given that I’m getting my PhD in psychology/neuroscience): how your diet can affect your mood! In the video I quickly cover tryptophan, the amino acid that has antidepressant-like effects, and go over a study directly looking at how people’s symptoms of depression, anxiety, and overall mood are affected by being put on a high vs low tryptophan diet.
And the list of high-tryptophan foods from the study is below!
First, although there’s no definitive answer to this because of how many factors are involved, I’m answering this based on a few nutrients that are particularly important for vegans (and vegetarians).
Vegan diets, for example, tend to naturally have quite a lot of B vitamins, vitamin C, copper, fiber, etc., so although articles aimed at omnivores might focus on “healthiest” in terms of those types of nutrients, I’ll be looking at nutrients that 1) are most likely to make a difference on a vegan diet, and 2) vary significantly between different nut butters:
Zinc: One of the few nutrients that vegan diets typically provide substantially less of. It’s important for immune functioning, skin health & acne prevention, and digestion, to name just a few things.
Iron: The other main nutrient that vegan diets often get less of. It’s especially important for women to get enough, to avoid anemia.
Magnesium: 50% of the US population is actually magnesium deficient1. Having low magnesium can cause anxiety, poor sleep, muscle twitches, and more.
Calcium: Although not as pressing of an issue as the media and milk industry would have you believe, low calcium intakes have been linked to osteoporosis.
Vitamin E: Especially important for your brain and nerves! Studies show that people who eat more vitamin E have less damaged white matter in their brain as they age2.
I also included omega 3, fiber, and protein in the table below in case you’re curious!
I’ve bolded the nut/seed butter that wins in each nutrient category, and below I’ll go over which I think are the overall winners.
All of these values assume that each butter is made JUST out of the nut/seed, without any added oils or anything. The amounts below are per 300 calories.
Omega 3 (g)
Vitamin E (mg)
Per 300 calories; values are from the Cronometer.com database
Based on being consistently high across multiple of these nutrients, the winners are…
Tahini and Sunflower Seed Butter
And the runner ups are cashew butter (also high in a lot of things) and walnut butter (for the omega 3).
For a breakdown of how each one stacks up versus the others:
Cashew butter: High in zinc, iron, magnesium, and protein
Hazelnut: High in vitamin E and fiber
Sunflower seed: Very high in vitamin E, high in zinc, iron, magnesium, protein, and fiber
Tahini: Very high in iron and calcium, high in zinc and fiber
Walnut: Very high in omega 3; in fact it’s the only one that has a substantial amount
Almond: High in calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, protein and fiber
Peanut: High in magnesium and protein
If you already know you’re missing a certain nutrient (like iron for example) based on blood tests or diet tracking, then the healthiest nut butter for you is the one that fills in that need the most! And of course, the best nut butter is the one you enjoy the most, since they’re ALL a healthy part of any diet.
Are there any other nut/seed butters you’re curious about?