Battle of the Butter

Peanut, almond, cashew or sunflower seed: Which butter has superior nutritional value?

Nut butter and nut butter alternatives are popular among most people thanks to their nutritional value and adaptability in different dishes, from using them as a classic spread to mixing them into smoothies, sauces, dips and dressings. 

What started with the classic peanut butter has moved on to include many other nuts and nut alternatives over the years. It can be hard to decide on just one, so here's a quick breakdown of some popular choices: peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter and sunflower seed butter.

Peanut butter 

A household staple, peanut butter is part of the beloved peanut butter and jam sandwich. It may be a classic, but is it still the best spread option?

When it comes to protein, the answer is yes. Compared with its counterparts, peanut butter is energy-dense, with the highest protein amount per 100g.1 In addition, peanut butter is beneficial for fighting diabetes and heart disease because it contains plenty of good (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) fats and is low on bad (saturated) fats.234 According to the American Heart Association, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help by reducing bad cholesterol levels in your body.56 Of course, peanut butter also contains various other nutrients, but its strength lies in protein and good fats.

Almond butter

A common peanut butter alternative among those with severe peanut allergies, almond butter has become another staple household butter, and for a good reason. 

While peanut butter packs a higher protein punch, almond butter generally contains more micronutrients, including higher fiber, calcium and potassium. Almond butter is another heart-healthy option, as it has even less saturated fats and sodium than peanut butter and contains more vitamin E.7 Vitamin E is an antioxidant thought to bolster cardiovascular health.8

Cashew butter

Cashew butter, considered one of the creamiest kinds of nut butter, is newer to the mainstream scene. 

Compared with the three others, cashew butter is high in iron and carbohydrates but low in nutrients like protein and vitamin E.10 Unfortunately, this butter also contains higher levels of saturated fats and sodium.9

Sunflower seed butter

An alternative for anyone who cannot eat nuts, sunflower seed butter, is a newer non-nut butter option.

With similar nutritional strengths as almond butter, this option is high in nutrients and low in saturated fats. Sunflower seed butter is particularly high in magnesium, iron and vitamin E. It has less protein and fiber than peanut or almond butter, but it is still an excellent alternative for anyone who has an allergy or sensitivity to nuts.

The verdict

Overall, almond butter is generally superior in nutritional value, though peanut is a close second with its high protein amount. Sunflower seed butter is in third as a comparable non-nut alternative, leaving cashew butter in fourth place but still an acceptable option. 

Consumption amount and butter preparation style are things to remember regardless of which butter you prefer. Just because they can be beneficial in certain areas, like cardiovascular health and diabetes management, does not mean these kinds of butter are entirely healthy.11 They can be an excellent addition to your meals, but only if you consume a reasonable amount.

The nutritional value will also vary depending on the specific butter brand you purchase. Be aware of the types with more additives, as they tend to be higher in sugar, bad fat and salt.12 Look for "natural" or "real" on the butter labels — according to the Peanut Institute, it must contain at least 90% peanuts and no artificial sweeteners, colors or preservatives to be classified as real peanut butter.13 When in doubt, compare the nutrition label on a few jars to separate the natural versions from the more processed ones.


  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central: Peanut butter, creamy. Accessed March 22, 2023.
  2. The Journal of Nutrition. Regular Consumption of Nuts is Associated with a Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Women with Type 2 Diabetes. Accessed March 22, 2023.
  3. Peanut Bureau of Canada. Nutrition News: The scoop on trans fat in peanut butter. Accessed March 22, 2023.
  4. The Peanut Institute. Peanut Protein, Fats & Carbs: Peanut Macronutrients. Accessed March 22, 2023.
  5. American Heart Association. Monounsaturated Fat. Accessed March 23, 2023.
  6. American Heart Association. Polyunsaturated Fat. Accessed March 23, 2023. 
  7. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central: Almond butter, creamy. Accessed March 22, 2023.
  8. Journal of Lipid Research. Vitamin E in the prevention of cardiovascular disease: the importance of proper patient selection. Accessed March 22, 2023.
  9. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central: Cashew butter. Accessed March 22, 2023.
  10. U.S. Department of Agriculture. FoodData Central: Seeds, sunflower seed butter, without salt. Accessed March 22, 2023.
  11. Heart Attack and Stroke Symptoms. Nut butters are a healthy way to spread nutrients. Accessed March 22, 2023. 
  12. Cleveland Clinic. What You Should Know About Peanut Butter and Cholesterol. Accessed March 22, 2023.
  13. The Peanut Institute. Peanut Butter Benefits & Health Facts. Accessed March 22, 2023.