While the much celebrated peanut butter has been a staple on American tables for decades, it has been playing catch up in India in recent times. However, amidst all this, we somehow tend to forget about the other variants of nut butters that are available in the market.
Rashi Chowdhary, Founder and Chief Nutritionist at Protein Bake Shop, India’s first grain-free bakery, says, “Other nut butters are a bit higher on the price scale, which could be one reason that they are not as well-known as peanut butters.”
However, nut butters are slowly gaining popularity in India. What with people becoming more and more aware of the health benefits of nuts, due to which they are looking for innovative ways to include them in their diet.
Ankita Kukreja, Founder at The Butternut Co, says, “Almond butter is surely catching up, though it will still take a few years to gain the popularity that peanut butter has.”
With the advent of nut butters, comes a string of health benefits. Rashi says, “Nut butters have nutritional benefits which are important for regulating your energy, improving nerve function, mood, digestion and even your weight. However, some nut butters are also great for your bones.”
Ankita says, “Nut butters are high in protein, fibre, heart, healthy fats and vitamin E. They are a perfect option for vegetarian protein and apart from a breakfast staple, make for a super easy snack option. The natural varieties (like what we offer at The Butternut Co) without refined sugar and other additives are much healthier to consume as compared to the ones that contain sugar.”
The shelf life of nut butters depends on a range of factors like whether it is homemade, the preparation method, how it is stored, etc. According to Rashi, while homemade nut butters last for a month or two, nut butters otherwise can last anywhere between 3-18 months, says Ankita. Nut butters at The Butternut Co have a shelf life of 6 months.
While the standard procedure to produce nut butters could be by grinding nuts into a fine paste using custom nut grinding equipment, Rashi explains.
“For homemade nut butters, nuts are often soaked in filtered water first and then dehydrated with the use of a dehydrator or an oven. Soaking time depends on the type of nuts used. However, for dehydration using an oven, temperature must not be more than 150 degrees. Nuts are then baked for 12-24 hours until they are dry and crisp. They are then cooled, and blended in a food processor until they are creamy in consistency”. Nut butters should be stored in a refrigerator and occasionally, should be stirred as the oil tends to separate overtime, she adds.
While there is no specific way to consume nut butter, there are definitely some in which one can savour it the most. “I love to just dunk into it when I’m having a day where my consumption of good fats has been low,” says Rashi.
Talking about fats, she also says, “People tend to avoid nuts or nut butters because they are fattening. That is definitely not true. Nuts provide ‘good’ and unsaturated fats. Nut butter is packed with fibres, it is low in calories and helps keep you fuller for longer periods, which definitely makes it a great option for people who want to lose weight”, hence breaking a prolonged myth. Rashi, who is also a diabetic educator practicing in Mumbai and Dubai, says, “There is more awareness here in Dubai. Its fitness community is more familiar with the concept of ‘eating fat to lose fat’ which is why nut butter consumption is higher here.”
There is another widely held false belief regarding nut butters that Ankita brings to our attention. “Nut butters do not contain butter,” she voices. Many people think that nut butter contains some or the other dairy produce and is from the butter family, but it is not. It’s made purely with nuts, she explains further.
When it comes to the various recipes and dishes nut butter can be used in, the amount of scope is undeniably umpteen.
“Nut butters can be incorporated into a lot of dishes. Like for Paleo Pancakes, you can skip flour; and instead, use your favourite nut butter, eggs, bananas, and cinnamon to make these gluten-free, protein-rich pancakes. One can also try chewy maple date oat bars, peanut butter protein muffins and peanut butter and jam cups,” says Rashi.
Ankita says that they can be easily used in meals, or can be had as a snack by themselves. They make for the perfect pre/post workout snack. Nut butters can also be subsumed in a sandwich or on toast, smoothies, breakfast bowls, Greek yogurt parfaits, salads or salad dressings, gravies, sauces and in baking cookies, cupcakes and cakes.
Today, cafes and restaurants are also warming up to nut butter. Most are using them in their breakfast menu, dessert menu and as ice cream toppings, she adds.
Ankita and Rashi agree that a tablespoon or two of nut butter a day is a healthy amount to consume, and is in fact, recommended as a part of a healthy diet. The one reason nut butters should be chosen over other alternatives is because they naturally contain healthy fats that benefit heart health, reduce the risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, says Rashi.
Classic almond, flaxseed almond, cocoa almond and bare cashews are among the several nut butter variants available at The Butternut Co. It has associated with 150 stockists in all, till date.
Protein infused cookies, truffles, paleo biscottis and cupcakes are a few healthy commodities other than nut butters that are available at Protein Bake Shop. The bakery supplies its products to Swiggy, Scootzy, over 15 organic stores and gyms in Dubai and Yasmin Karachiwala’s Bodyimage, Mumbai.
At the end of our conversation, Ankita says, “Try and stick to natural nut butters and foods in general. Read your labels – the lesser the ingredients, the better it is. Incorporate nut butter in your daily diet and swap it for the other unhealthy snacks in your diet.”
Pondering upon the nut butter scene in the country a few years down the line, she says, “This is just the beginning – India is yet to see the nut butter revolution! And we’re excited to be a part of it.”
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