Runners have long-fueled with peanut butter—but in the past few years, other nut butters have angled for the spotlight on our sandwiches and spoons. From almond to pistachio, any nut can be ground into a creamy or crunchy paste, so how do you choose? Here are our top picks for which nuts runners should go for (along with some great DIY tips).
Here’s a basic DIY recipe for your favorite nut butter.
The most common nut butter is a staple in many pantries, but most runners don’t realize just how healthy it is. Peanuts (officially legumes) are high in the complex B-vitamin biotin, which helps regulate blood sugar, as well as manganese, which is good for bones. Peanuts contain a number of antioxidants (including red wine’s resveratrol), which means these legumes are effective for fighting off cancer.
DIY TIP: If you like the taste of Skippy add a spoonful of sweetener to your mix. Get creative and try local honey, real maple syrup, brown sugar or coconut sugar.
This is one of the commercial nut butters that’s much more difficult to find. Good thing you can make your own (see page 67). The antioxidant levels in pecans are especially high and they also deliver a good dose of magnesium, which studies have shown reduces inflammation in the arteries and can help arthritis.
DIY TIP: Chocolate and nut butters are a combo you may not be able to resist. Try adding cacao nibs to your recipe for a little cocoa crunch.
Almond butter is available in most grocery stores, often right alongside peanut butter. Almonds are great for runners, since they are particularly high in vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects against toxins, and they deliver a punch of potassium, which encourages muscle recovery.
DIY TIP: Adding sea salt to homemade nut butter gives it a little extra zing. Start with less than you think you need and add to taste.
These nuts are a good fuel for athletes, thanks to their combo of protein and high potassium— both great for muscles. Pistachios are also linked to healthy cholesterol levels, immune systems, skin and eyes. There aren’t many products that include pistachios, but now that you can buy shelled pistachios more easily (thank you, Costco), you can make your own.
DIY TIP: Get fruity with dried cranberries, tart cherries, blueberries, goji berries or coconut. If you’re using larger dried fruits, chop them up before you press the power button.
Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help with inflammation and even prevent the breakdown of bone. This richly flavored nut means a little can go a long way, and its hearty taste is perfect for when temperatures are cooling down.
DIY TIP: Turn to your spice rack for this butter, and consider adding cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ground cloves, ginger and even cardamom for a chai tea flavor.
The delicate flavor of cashews makes a tasty versatile nut butter that you don’t want to overpower with other ingredients. Cashews have less fat than most other nuts and most of that fat is the heart-healthy kind found in olive oil. They are also high in copper, which aids your body in using iron and is good for the development of both bone and connective tissue.
DIY TIP: Up the nutrition quotient—and texture—of your spread, and toss in some chia seeds or flaxseed.