IN Sicily nut butters and creams are added to many dishes to pep them up.
Melt some almond butter gently and pour over ice-cream for the easiest dessert, or mix it directly into a homemade one. Add to a plain croissant and warm it up.
Scrape a little on toast, or add to a dressing for salads. It also works a treat in soups, stews and stir-fries.
Nut butters add depth and interest and help us to avoid added salt. And a spoonful doesn’t cost a fortune.
Chocolate combined with nuts in a butter is a gorgeous treat.
However, the bad news is that the sugar and fat content is high in the chocolate versions, even the expensive ones. This really has to be put in the treats section of the diet.
Expect about 600 calories per 100g, or 90 calories in a teaspoonful. If we are moderate in our consumption we can enjoy the less sugary ones with some health benefits.
We eat protein to keep us sustained. The more protein in a snack, the better, so we don’t feel hungry too soon. Some of the samples had pretty good levels of protein and most were gluten-free.
We didn’t include peanut butter here as so many brands warrant a survey of their own.
Almonds have the most protein and calcium, hazelnuts have lots of vitamin E, iron and zinc, cashews have potassium, folate and nicotinic acid.
More about this on my blog: www.rozcrowley.com
Venchi chocolate and hazelnut spread 350g €10.49 (€2.99/100g)
A rich flavour of 17% toasted hazelnuts gives a beautiful balance to the chocolate with smoothness provided by 17% olive oil.
However, sugar is top of the list with 47.1% sugars in total. There is 13% fat reduced cocoa powder and skimmed milk powder.
Protein at 8.7% is not bad to keep us satisfied for an hour or so. Easily the best taste, but the price is very high. At Marks & Spencer.
Meridian smooth almond butter 170g €3.49 (€2.05/100g)
It doesn’t come shorter than this list with 100% almonds ground to a creamy paste.
The simplicity shows in the taste which is bright and toasty, creamy and nutty.
As well as an obvious spread for toast, a spoonful is delicious in shakes, added to stir-fries, mixed into soups and on ice-cream.
At 4.4% saturated fats are low, as are natural sugars at 4.4%. A decent 11.8% fibre is the highest we found.
Lidl Choco chocolate hazelnut spread 400g 95c (23c/100g)
The cheapest of our selection, this spread has sugar at the top of the list, with natural sugars from the cocoa powder and skimmed milk powder amounting to a very high 51%.
There is no mention of sustainable sources of the palm oil, but rapeseed is also used, bringing saturated fats to a low enough 7.3%. Protein is a lowish 6%. Tasters liked it for the price, but the sugar content brought marks down.
Whole Earth 3 nut 227g €5.28 (€2.32/100g)
Another laudably short list of ingredients: a blend of 39% roasted cashew nuts, 39% roasted peanuts and 20% roasted hazelnuts.
The peanuts dominate the taste and provide a little crunch. There is also palm oil (responsibly sourced, they say) and sea salt.
Saturated fats at 8.8% is average and there are very low sugars at 3.2%, with fibre at 5.6%. A decently high protein content at 20% means a chunk on bread might sustain us for an hour or so.
Nutella Hazelnut spread with cocoa 200g €2.25 (€1.12/100g)
In a reusable glass jar with plastic lid, this tastes quite nutty and has a mild chocolate flavour liked by tasters who recognised it immediately.
Sugar is top of the list and amounts to the highest of the selection at 56.8%.
There is also palm oil with no mention of sustainable sources. Protein is lowish at 6%, saturated fats at a middling 11%. The sweetness overpowers the other flavours, but young tasters liked it.
Keen smooth cashew nut butter 170g €4.75
The label says the 100% roasted cashews are ‘smooshed’ in Bangor. There are no nutritional values on the jar, but with no additives we don’t have to worry about anything but the calories.
Cashews are high in heart-protective mono-unsaturated fats, but beware the salted variety as they can raise blood pressure. A nice, clean taste might benefit from just a little salt added by ourselves. See website www.keennutbutter.com
Biona organic cocobella 250g €7.75 (€3.10/100g)
A chocolate and coconut butter, this has a nicely strong flavour of coconut, perhaps helped by the concentrated coconut blossom syrup used to sweeten it.
This results in easily the lowest proportion of sugars at a commendable 2.2% and a lack of sickly sweetness to match. With 8% cocoa powder, the chocolate flavour is not rich, but subtle. Expensive from health food shops.
Marks & Spencer Cashew Butter 227g €2.99
65% cashew nuts are mixed with sunflower oil and 4.6% peanuts add crunch.
There is added sugar which generates a high enough 12.2% sugars, and there is palm oil with no mention of sustainability.
Sea salt at 0.9% gives it a lift, but it’s quite sweet with peanut pieces feeling a bit sugary. Fibre at 8.6% is good enough with saturated fats at 8.9%.
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