Part of living a Paleo lifestyle means getting rid of the legumes, and that includes a favorite for most people: peanut butter. As a substitute, many people use almond butter. No, it’s not the same, but it’s close, and it’s still creamy and delicious.
Almond butter is a great fat source for those who are looking to increase the fat content of their diet, and it contains about the same amount of carbohydrates as peanut butter. Although Paleo generally favors saturated, over unsaturated fat, almond butter is high in monounsaturated fats which are Paleo friendly.
Saturated Fats vs. Unsaturated Fats
Saturated fat is preferable because it doesn’t have any double bonds in its fatty acid chain. Monounsaturated fats have a single double bond, while polyunsaturated fats have multiple double bonds (hence their names). The double bonds make the fatty acid chains less stable when exposed to heat or light. Unsaturated fats are more likely to oxidize when exposed, and when we consume oxidized fat, it can lead to oxidized cholesterol in our blood, which puts us in danger of inflammation, plaque, and atherosclerosis.
As you can probably guess, monounsaturated fats are more stable than polyunsaturated fats, but not as stable as saturated fats. Consumption of some monounsaturated fats is fine, just be sure not to overdo it.
Omega-3 vs. Omega-6
The biggest concern when it comes to almond butter is the polyunsaturated fat content. Generally speaking, there are two different kinds of polyunsaturated fats that we worry about: Omega-6 and Omega-3. Omega-6 fats are inflammatory, whereas Omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, so it is best to consume a good ratio between the two so that you have enough Omega-3s to counteract the inflammatory effects of the Omega-6s. Almond butter has a fairly high Omega-6 content and no Omega-3s, so if you do eat it, be sure to get plenty of Omega-3s elsewhere in your diet.
As with anything, almond butter should be treated as an N=1 experiment: avoid it for awhile, come back to it, and take note of how it makes you feel. If you don’t have any negative effects, go for it. If you notice that it prevents you from feeling your best, you may want to strike it from your grocery list. Better yet, make your own. To avoid the problems that can come with buying packaged products (added sugar, rancid vegetable oils, etc.) you can make your own almond butter in a blender or food processor.
Caitlin Weeks lists almond butter among her favorite Paleo foods and provides information on where she prefers to buy it.