Nutrition

Which Nut/Seed Butter is the Healthiest? (for Vegan Diets)

There are a LOT of different types of nut & seed butters out there. Peanut, almond, cashew, hazelnut, walnut, sunflower seed, tahini… all with their unique uses.

I got a question on my Instagram asking:

Which nut butter is the healthiest?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Iron: The other main nutrient that vegan diets often get less of. It’s especially important for women to get enough, to avoid anemia.
  3. Magnesium: 50% of the US population is actually magnesium deficient1. Having low magnesium can cause anxiety, poor sleep, muscle twitches, and more. 
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Nut/seed butterZinc (mg)Iron (mg)Calcium (mg)Magnesium (mg)Omega 3 (g)Vitamin E (mg)Protein (g)Fiber (g)
Cashew33.52015900.5102
Hazelnut1.22.2557807.274.5
Sunflower2.62.740167018114.5
Tahini2.34.5215480.208.54.7
Walnut1.51.345734.20.373
Almond1.61.7170136012105
Peanut1.40.8309102.512.54.3
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?

Recipes

Beefy Vegan Gravy Recipe (for Biscuits)

Over the summer, I moved to the South after living in California all my life. To celebrate in the months before moving, I had fun experimenting with vegan Southern food–and my husband’s and my favorite dish that came out of that was this gravy with biscuits.

This gravy was a labor of love, but we sacrificed and ate about 4 test batches of it over the months as I developed the recipe. 😉 Through experimentation I’ve found that it should work with any type of vegan beef, but our favorite version is with Impossible, or a mix of Beyond and Impossible meat.

I use Minimalist Baker’s vegan biscuit recipe to serve this with, and they went perfectly!

Makes enough to generously cover ~15 biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 5 tbsp vegan butter
  • 7 tbsp flour
  • 3/4lb vegan beef (= 3 Beyond burger patties, or 1 Impossible pack)
  • 1 large yellow or white onion 
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1.5 tsp vegan chick’n bouillon (I use Better than Bouillon’s)
  • 4 cups unsweetened cashew milk or other neutral non-dairy milk*
  • 3 tsp mushroom umami seasoning**
  • 1/3 tsp pepper
  • Salt & pepper to taste
*This definitely tastes best with cashew milk, but soy or almond would likely work as well. I don’t recommend coconut milk.
**OR powdered mushroom OR 1/2c finely chopped or puréed mushrooms

Directions:

  1. Make a roux: add the butter and flour to a pan over medium heat, and stir together as the butter melts. When the mixture starts to turn golden brown, add the milk and whisk well.
  2. Simmer 10-15 minutes over low-medium heat, whisking occasionally, until milk has thickened substantially.
  3. While the milk mixture is simmering, sauté the vegan beef and onions (and diced mushrooms, if using) together until the beef is about 70% of the way cooked–it will be slightly pink still.
  4. Add the beef and onions to the pot with the milk. Add seasonings, and simmer until it reaches your desired consistency.
  5. Serve over your favorite biscuit recipe, mashed potatoes, or even noodles for a stroganoff feel. It keeps great in the fridge too!

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Videos, Weight loss advice

Video: 10 Ways to Lose Weight WITHOUT Diets, Calorie Restriction, or Rules | Psychological Strategies

In my last video, I used scientific studies to explain why going on a diet or having a strict exercise routine usually backfires and causes binge eating + weight gain. In today’s follow-up video, I give 10 cognitive strategies to reach your weight loss and fitness goals in a way that works WITH your body and psychology, not against them.

Weight loss and fitness CAN be enjoyable and pretty effortless, rather than a chore you have to force yourself to do or a set of rules you have to stick to. You just need the right mindset and strategies.

Here’s a link to the video page, or you can watch it below:

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Links mentioned in the video:

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Videos, Weight loss advice

Video: Why Diets and Exercise Routines Don’t Work: Weight gain + Binge eating

Most weight loss and fitness bloggers/influencers–and the media–will tell you that THE way to lose weight is to stick to an eating and exercise plan.

But contrary to popular opinion, science suggests that diet and exercise routines not only aren’t very helpful for weight loss, but actually often cause weight gain and binge eating in the long term.

In today’s video, I use studies to show you WHY trying to have strict food and exercise rules so often backfires.

Here’s a link to the video page, or you can watch it below:

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Study links & links mentioned in the video:

  • Study links: Why negative feelings cause overeating/not exercising 1 2 3
  • Study links: Dieting causes binge eating: 4 5 6
  • Rest of the study links: 7 8 9
  • Patreon

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Recipes

My 2020 Vegan Thanksgiving Feast Menu: 8 Dishes Omnivores will Love too

My big vegan Thanksgiving feast last year was SUCH a hit with my vegan and omnivore family members alike, that I just have to share the dishes I made with you all! I posted my menu from 2 years ago here, but I’ve updated and swapped out some recipes to make it even better.

Usually my goal with my Thanksgiving cooking is to impress omnivores, so I make decadent, food-coma-inducing dishes rather than healthy ones.. which has worked, at least based on the fact that omnivores were fighting over the leftovers!

But this year it’ll just be my vegan husband and I, so I might do healthier versions of some dishes (but I’m including the classic recipes below)! So for this post I’m also including healthy swap options for some of the more decadent dishes.

1. Sweet Potato Casserole

This is my first time sharing this recipe–I’ve made a lot of different vegan sweet potato casseroles, and this one is the most authentic tasting. This recipe was actually passed down from my husband’s mom, and I just had to veganize it because it’s his favorite Thanksgiving dish ever.

For a healthy version, reduce the sugar or take it out of the casserole part altogether (just putting it in the topping). I actually find this recipe to be sweeter than I’d prefer it, but people who eat sugar more often than I do thought it was perfect!

Casserole ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups mashed sweet potato
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup nondairy milk
  • 2 vegan eggs (we’ve had success with Follow your heart’s and Just egg)
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Pecan topping ingredients:

  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2-2/3 cup vegan butter (less for healthier, more for impressing omnivores)
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the casserole ingredients and put in a casserole dish. Stir together pecan topping and sprinkle evenly on top of the casserole. Bake for 30 mins, until the topping is golden brown and beginning to crisp up.

2. Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

I have my two potato recipes first, because, well, everyone knows potatoes are the best! (And I’m Irish 😉 ) These cheesy scalloped potatoes have, for three years in a row, been the most universally coveted dish on the table. It’s truly a sad day in the house when the leftovers run out.

For a healthy swap, try using my favorite cashew-potato cheese sauce on the potatoes instead of the vegan cheese and cream sauce.

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • ¼ cup vegan butter (we use Miyoko’s)
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups vegan half & half
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups vegan cheese shreds, we used a mix with cheddar & white cheese
  • Paprika
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F
  2. Peel the potatoes and boil them whole until they’re starting to get tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Now make the cheese sauce. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the flour, whisking constantly for about 2 minutes, or until the flour turns golden brown. Stir in half & half and cook until thickened, stirring often, for about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 cups of shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Slice the potatoes into 1/8 inch rounds–I recommend using a mandolin to get the slices even. Place 1/3 of the potatoes overlapping in a single layer in the baking dish, seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon about 1/3 of the cheese sauce on top of the potatoes.
  5. Repeat for two more layers. Pour all of the remaining cheese sauce over the top layer of potatoes. Spread to ensure all of the potatoes are covered.
  6. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded cheese and a dash of paprika for color.
  7. Bake in the 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly.

My plate of leftovers!

3. Roast

And now for a quick intermission from recipes: we usually go with a store-bought roast (rather than lentil loaf, etc) for a meatier vibe, and so I can focus on the other dishes. In past years we’ve loved Trader Joe’s vegan roasts, but since we moved to northwest Arkansas, we no longer have a TJs near us! This year we’re planning on going with the new Whole Foods roast I’ve been hearing rave reviews about (if we can get it). Otherwise, we’re thinking of doing Gardein turkey cutlets for a more classic feel.

We also like the Field Roast roasts–I especially like the hazelnut cranberry. We do NOT like Tofurkey’s roast unfortunately.

Whole Foods Launches its Own Vegan Holiday Roast

4. Stuffing

Simple vegan stuffing recipe by the Minimalist Baker

This is always a nice healthy counterpart to the rest of my feast. It’s refreshing to load up on lentils, veggies and starches in between digging into the rich scalloped potatoes and roast. You can also do prep for this the day before by chopping up all the veggies. Or, you could even make the whole thing the day before–it was great leftover!

5. Balsamic Roasted Veggies

In the past we’ve done bacon brussels sprouts, but this year I’m doing an old classic side I love: winter veggies tossed in balsamic vinegar and roasted. It’s healthy and so simple to make, and like the stuffing, it’s nice to have something light in between the other dishes. I don’t ever measure amounts, but here’s what I go off of:

  • Equal parts carrots, red onion or pearl onions, and brussels sprouts
  • Splash of balsamic
  • Olive oil, if desired

Chop your veggies, add them to a bowl, and toss with a big splash of balsamic (and oil if desired) until they’re all lightly coated. Roast in a 400 degree oven until they’re fork tender, 20-30 mins.

6. Healthy Pumpkin Soup with Pepita Cream

This is actually a new one I’m adding in this year–I plan to make it on Tuesday or Wednesday and have it around to tide us over if we start getting hungry before the feast is ready. (Anyone else struggle to juggle getting a bunch of dishes out right on time?) It’s hearty and high protein because it’s actually sneakily based on chickpeas, so if you’re trying to avoid overeating this Thanksgiving, it’s a great dish to start with because it’s very satiating.

Get the recipe in my full post on it here.

7. Dutch Apple Pie

Move over, pumpkin desserts. This ridiculously addictive dutch apple pie is our new dessert centerpiece. I have a full post devoted to the recipe, so check that out to see how to make it.

Warning: if you don’t make enough, it could cause drama over who gets the last slice. It’s that good.

8. Pecan Pie Bars

If you want a decoy dessert to prevent apple-pie-induced family feuds, these pecan pie bars are a nice classic option. These were my go-to dish to bring to nonvegan Friendsgiving potlucks in the past, and they ALWAYS disappear really quickly.

For the crust:

  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil

For the filling:

  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup coconut cream (or coconut milk for a lighter version)
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 350, and line a 9″ pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the crust ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, and coconut oil) and stir until they combine into a dough. Press into the bottom of the pan and bake for 15 minutes or until the crust is slightly firm to the touch.
  3. Now for the filling: stir the coconut oil, maple syrup, and sugar in a sauce pan until combined, then boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add in the coconut cream and the pecans.
  4. Pour the filling onto the crust and spread it evenly.
  5. Bake until the filling is bubbling and set (no longer runny), 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

9. Bonus: Healthy Pumpkin Risotto

I’m calling this a bonus recipe because I don’t think I’ll actually make it this year–we had it for the last few days and LOVE it, but now we’re up for some variety. But if you’re looking for something a little different to include in your Thanksgiving spread that’s healthy, oil-free, and yet decadent-tasting, this is a great option. See the full post on it for the recipe.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, either virtually or safely spent with the ones you love. ❤

 

Recipes

Healthy Vegan Pumpkin Risotto (Oil-free + Instant Pot Friendly)

I’ve used the same 7-dish Thanksgiving menu for the last two years (because it has gone over SO WELL with vegans and omnivores alike), but this year I decided I wanted to come up with something new and unique to add.

Enter this healthy pumpkin risotto: it’s savory, it’s slightly sweet, it’s simple to make, it’s creamy. It’s a nice healthy contrast to some of the more oil-laden Thanksgiving classics, but still goes over well with more classic palates. And as a bonus, it’s easy to have it cooking in the background while you make the more complicated dishes, since it doesn’t need more than ~15 mins of really active prep time.

And as a bonus bonus, it’s Instant Pot friendly too. (That’ll help free up my limited supply of pots.)

If you want to make it completely whole-food-plant-based friendly, you can also try subbing brown rice in for the arborio. You will want to add more water and cook longer to achieve a risotto-y texture, though. You can also easily sub in other types of squash instead of pumpkin!

Serves 4 as a full meal; serves 8 as a side

Ingredients:

Blender:

  • 3 – 15oz cans pure pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 apples, quartered
  • 2 tsp yellow or white miso paste
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1.5 tsp dried sage
  • Dash red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth

Saute:

  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 3.5 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups arborio rice*
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

Directions:

  1. Put all the “Blender” section ingredients into a blender or food processer, and blend until pureed. Set aside until step 5-6.
  2. Add the chopped onions to a pot over medium heat–or your IP’s saute function–adding splashes of broth (from your 3.5c of broth) as needed to saute them until translucent.
  3. Add the rice, and saute for 3-4 minutes. Then add the white wine, and saute another 2 minutes.
  4. Add in the remaining broth, and push all the onion and rice grains down the sides of the pot so they are submerged.
  5. If using a pressure cooker: cook on low pressure for 6 mins, and release pressure immediately after. Add the blended pumpkin mixture, and turn on the saute setting. Saute, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and the risotto is creamy but not runny.
  6. If using a pot on the stove: cover pot and bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 15 mins. Add the blended pumpkin mixture, then simmer uncovered, stirring regularly, until the rice is tender and the risotto is creamy but not runny.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with more sage or fried sage leaves and cashew cream, if desired.

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Videos, Weight loss advice

Video: Why the Raw Til 4 Diet Causes Weight Gain (aka High Carb Low Fat + Raw Vegan)

Scientific studies show that high carb low fat diets are generally really good for weight loss–but for some reason, the Raw til 4 diet, which was popular among vegans several years ago, caused a LOT of people to gain weight. In today’s video I go over studies to explain why the Raw til 4 diet so often causes weight gain.

Here’s a link to the video page, or you can watch it below:

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Study links & links mentioned in the video:

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Videos, Weight loss advice

Video: Eating with a straw vs spoon changes how much you eat | Study on liquids vs solids and weight loss

Today I’m going over a study looking at how eating with a spoon versus a straw actually affects how much you eat–of the same food–in a meal! I also talk about how eating liquids vs solids cause overeating, and whether you should be concerned about liquid calories.

Here’s a link to the video page, or you can watch it below:

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Study links & links mentioned in the video:

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Videos, Weight loss advice

Video: Smoothies vs Juice vs Whole Fruit for Weight Loss: Scientific Studies | WFPB diet

If you like to eat unprocessed foods (like I do!), then you might be wondering (like I did :P) whether blending/juicing “counts” as processing in how it affects your weight loss and satiety. In today’s video, I go over 2 studies looking at whether having whole fruit, smoothies, or juice is better for satiety and weight loss.

Here’s a link to the video page, or you can watch it below:

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Study links & links mentioned in the video:

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Recipes

Apple Pie Amaranth Porridge Recipe (Vegan)


Move over oats: there’s a new porridge grain in town.

I learned last year that my stomach can’t handle oats, and I never thought I’d find something I like as much for fall and winter breakfasts as oats. But I’ve kept experimenting, and discovered amaranth!

Amaranth has a delicious nutty taste, a really nice texture, and is so versatile. And, as a big bonus, it’s more nutritious than oats: calorie for calorie, compared to oats, amaranth has twice the iron, magnesium, and B vitamins–not to mention more protein and potassium.

This apple pie amaranth porridge holds up really well in the fridge, so I’ve started making 3 days’ worth of porridge at a time. It’s my current favorite Fall breakfast!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry amaranth
  • 3 cups water
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp cloves (optional)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar (more to taste; you can also use maple syrup or dates)
  • 2 apples, diced
  • Topping ideas: pecans, walnuts, nut butter, non-dairy milk, dates, fresh apples

Directions

  1. Add the amaranth to a pot over high heat to toast it. Stir constantly. Once it starts popping (you’ll notice little white puffs), reduce heat to medium-high and cook for 2-3 more minutes or until about half of it has become a darker brown (or popped), then remove from heat. (If it starts smelling like popcorn, remove from heat right away!) It’s better to under-toast than to over-toast.
  2. Add 3 cups of water to the pot with the amaranth, bring it to a boil, then simmer. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. I find I have to keep the stove at medium-low heat to keep it at a lightly bubbling simmer.
  3. Add the diced apples, spices, and sugar. Keep simmering, occasionally, until the apples are tender and amaranth has absorbed all the water, and/or it has your desired consistency. If the amaranth absorbs the water before the apples are tender, add non-dairy milk or more water as needed to finish cooking the apples.
  4. Serve, add your toppings, and enjoy!

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