Healthy Living with Jilisa Ghareeb: Nut and Seed Butter

Is there a food you eat that you know is not the best for you (hello Oreos)?  What about the food(s) that you believe are ok but then find out they are not as good as you thought?   That food for me…peanut butter.  I grew up on peanut butter.  Not the natural kind, but the super thick and full of sugar kind. I ate it all the time.  My Grandma used to give us a treat that she called “peanut butter in a bowl”.  It literally was just peanut butter in a bowl with syrup on it!  And I am not talking about good maple syrup, it was more along the lines of Aunt Jemima or Mrs. Butterworth.  Could you even imagine giving that to yours kids as a treat! Although this may be a reason why I can eat it by the spoonful!

Growing up and into my 20s, I ate that same kind of peanut butter. I am not going to say that I did not know any better because I did. My Dad ate natural peanut butter and I thought he was crazy.  That stuff was for crazy health nuts who also ate kale.  That was not me!  I cannot recall when I made the switch, it was in my 30s.  I hated it at first because it was not full of sugar. But after a bit that turned around and now, I cannot eat the other kind.  Funny how things work out.

A couple years ago I started having digestion issues. Honestly, I have had digestion issues for a long time but a couple years ago they started to get worse. To try and figure things out I began eliminating foods from my diet, but never my peanut butter until one incredibly sad day I decided to go a few weeks without it.  My issues lessened; they did not completely go away but there was a significant difference.

I really missed my peanut butter but not the digestion issues. I decided to seek out alternatives because somehow some way I was going to find a way to get that same kind of deliciousness in my life. First up was almond butter. I am quite sure that is what everyone tries first.  It was good but it was not what I was looking for.  The consistency was not the same. But I ate it anyway because I did not think there was anything else (that was relatively the same cost).  Then an acquaintance posted on social media about this butter made from sunflower seeds. It took me a while, but I finally decided to try it. It was good and it compares to natural peanut butter.  Obviously, it does not taste the same, but it has the same consistency (sticky and gooey), spreads nice on everything, and tastes great in smoothies! I became hooked.

I have never known much about peanuts.  I knew they grew underground but that is it.  I have learned over the last few years that the way peanuts are stored causes a lot of moisture which in turn causes aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a potent human carcinogen. It is a naturally occurring toxic metabolite produced by certain fungi (Aspergillus flavis), a mold found on certain foods like peanuts and corn.  This aflatoxin can cause digestive system issues such as diarrhea, vomiting, intestinal hemorrhage and more.   I believe that with the amount of peanut butter that I was eating daily, that this was part of the digestion issues I was having.

I am not saying to give up peanut butter. I do highly suggest getting away from the big brand peanut butters that we all know.  I would recommend making the switch to a natural peanut butter that contains only peanuts and salt.  If you do consume a lot of peanut butter then I suggest making the switch to almond butter, cashew butter or a seed butter.

Let us take a moment and compare these different types of butters.

“Regular” Peanut butter has peanuts in it, but it also has added sugar and hydrogenated vegetable oils.  These oils are known as trans fats and are particularly bad because they raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol. Too much hydrogenated oil and it upsets that balance between the bad (LDL) and the good (HDL) cholesterol in your body.  This peanut butter also holds it shape. If you take a spoonful from the jar, it will stay on the spoon (even if you hold it upside down).

Natural peanut butter only has peanuts and sea salt.  If you are wanting to make the switch look for these 2 ingredients anything else and you are taking away from the natural aspect of it. It is made from simply grinding the peanuts until they produce their own oil.  The salt is added to enhance the flavor.  This butter will not hold its shape. It will run off the spoon and if you hold it upside down it will drip onto your counter.

Almond butter is the butter that most people will switch to first.  I did! It is a great alternative.  It is a little pricier than peanut butter, but not by much.  Almonds are a great source of healthy fat, fiber, protein, magnesium, and vitamin E.  The butter is made the same way but grinding the almonds until they are creamy.  Watch out for added palm oil.  A natural almond butter will not have an added oil. Most brands I have tried hold their shape when spooned out.

Cashew butter is another alternative.  It can be a bit more expensive but if it is not something you eat everyday this could be a nice treat.   Cashews are low in sugar and rich in fiber, heart-healthy fats, and plant protein. They are also a good source of copper, magnesium, and manganese. All of which are good for you. Again, look for a brand that does not add oil.  This butter will run off the spoon.

The last alternative is seed butter. I am specifically speaking about sunflower seed butter.  This is the one that I have found that is closest to a peanut butter.  It is by far my favorite.  The brand that I eat makes a few versions.  They have one that has added sugar. Another that has no added sugar and then a crunchy version too.  There should be no added oils.  This butter will run off the spoon as well.

There are a few other alternatives out there as well…macadamia, walnut, pistachio, hazelnut.  So many choices.  Remember to do your research. In the minimum make sure there are no added oils of any kind.  Go for the natural with no added sugar (or very little).  If you have allergies to peanuts, make sure the alternative it is not processed in a facility that also processes peanuts.   If you need to you can always contact the manufacturer and ask them any questions about processing.

The butter world stretches far beyond peanuts. Go exploring and give one of the alternatives a try.  You may find a new favorite!

Jilisa Ghareeb has been a Beachbody coach for 5 years.  Her favorite part of being involved with fitness and nutrition is watching her clients change and open up a whole new world.  As a coach she, is able to help others by introducing them to a change that is often scary, intimidating, and full of “what ifs” to an encouraging and inspirational lifestyle full of “I cans”. She uses her own story to show others that everything is possible with hard work and determination.  If you’re interested in reaching out to Jilisa for more information you can contact her via email ([email protected]), on Instagram ( or Facebook (

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